7 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Yard Sale
Warm weather invariably means spring cleaning, and spring cleaning means yard sales. There's nothing like declaring open season on clutter and taming those closets, attics, and garages (if only to fill them again next season). If you find yourself hosting a yard sale this year, here are a few common mistakes to steer clear of in order to increase sales and pave the way for a smooth de-cluttering.
1. Under-advertised Sales
The three most important rules to hosting a successful sale are Advertise, Advertise, and Advertise. Use Craigslist, your local paper, or popular community bulletin boards to get the word out. In your ad, clearly state hours of the sale and give readers a flavor of the items you have to offer. Remember, some hardcore yardies will be knocking on your door at 6:00 a.m. if you don't explicitly state "no early sales."
2. Lack of Critical Mass
Avoid throwing a yard sale if you only have a few things to purge. Try eBay instead or piggy-back on a friend's larger sale. Serious yardies don't break for a single card table set up in the driveway with a smattering of items. If you can't avoid a smaller sale, work with your neighbors to coordinate a block-wide event that's more likely to attract customers en masse.
3. Sign Design
Some potential customers will be impulse shoppers, pulled in from the main roads while dropping the kids off at soccer practice or getting an oil change. Appeal to these folks by having clear, easy-to-spot signs that direct them (safely) from main routes. Opt for white signs with bold black print that direct drivers well in advance. No one appreciates a last-minute sign that demands a white-knuckle, Towanda driving moment on an otherwise peaceful Saturday morning. Opt for big arrows rather than a lot of text to direct your drivers. They can usually figure out where the sale is by following a series of well-placed arrows, rather than braking to read and remember the address. A bunch of balloons prominently displayed at the final destination is a cheap but effective way of letting drivers know they've arrived at the right spot. Check local ordinances before posting signs of any sort. Municipal laws vary on what types can be posted. Oh, and as courtesy to everyone, remove the signs promptly after your sale to avoid litter and frustrated late-comers.
4. Stratospheric Prices
Remember, this is a yard sale, not a Sotheby's auction. If it was truly a treasure you'd either be keeping it or bequeathing it to your kids. Price your items to move your items and realize you may not get rich off this enterprise. Being open to negotiation is another way to welcome interaction with your customers and make the day a bit more interesting. Where else in our daily lives can we haggle in a low-pressure environment and maybe teach our kids something in the process?
5. Free-Range Pets
I love dogs, cats, ferrets, and parrots as much as the next guy, but animals at sales only distract me. All the activity can stress your pet, and your pet, in turn, can stress your customers. Curb Spot for the day and realize that your customers are coming to a yard sale, not a petting zoo.
Organization is the key to moving merchandise. Shoppers expect to dig a little, but not with a backhoe, so find the golden mean. Separate men's and women's clothing, mark sizes if they're not apparent, and price your items clearly. If you're hosting a large sale, keep the toys and kids' clothes in a distinct area. This can help families navigate larger sales and help parents keep track of the kids with less stress.
7. No Change
A buyer with exact change is a fantasy that ranks right up there with Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy. Your customers will come from all walks of life. Many will have just gotten paid and be shopping for their kids' school wardrobe or for toys for the holidays. Have enough small bills and change ready to deal with the 20's and 50's that will inevitably come your way.
Yard sales are a uniquely American phenomenon — our way of processing and passing along all the goods we have at our disposal. Enjoy the process: the spring weather, the time with your kids and neighbors, the friendly haggling. Making a few bucks in the process is just icing on the cake.
This is a guest post by Kentin Waits. Kentin has written 4 guest blogs for Wise Bread and been published in Backwoods Home magazine. His writings have been featured in other top blogs such as Consumerist and Lifehacker. He's currently preparing to launch his own blog; look for it soon.
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