by Matt Benoit
As we all know, spring means cleaning, and spring cleaning means coming to the terrible realization that, several months ago, you accidently locked your neighbor’s “lost” cat in your storage shed.
However, spring cleaning also means yard sales.
“Yard sales,” of course, are how people get rid of things they don’t want anymore but can’t bear to simply throw away. These sales often go by different names depending on where you’re from, including “rummage sales,” “garage sales,” and “junk sales.” On the East Coast, they’re known as “tag sales,” because all the items for sale often get covered in the graffiti of neighborhood street gangs.
I love yard sales for two reasons: 1) these are the places where incredible treasures can be found for cheap and 2) other things nobody in their right mind would ever buy are usually sold there to people who probably don’t need them or have any practical use for them whatsoever, but buy them anyway because hey, it’s a great deal (“Hell, honey, I know we don’t have any use for that automatic raccoon scrubber/oven mitt, but it’s only 45 cents!”).
You can find anything at a yard sale—old Barbie dolls, tools, lighting fixtures, paintings and wall hangings; remotes to TVs that only work on the TVs they came with (which aren’t included with the remotes); CDs featuring the musical stylings of artists you’ve never heard of (and usually for a good reason), such as “Big Rude Jake.” I actually saw that CD at a county yard sale.
This was the kind of yard sale where you could buy a used comb that somebody’s Aunt Sheila had briefly used during the Kennedy administration, where—if you were to take some of the stuff you found there to Goodwill in an attempt to donate it—the Goodwill attendants would take one look at the stuff before smiling at you and saying, “Nah, you keep that.”
People hosting yard sales usually also have “free” boxes, which is where they put stuff that is in worse shape than the Seattle Mariners’ playoff chances. While they (the boxes) are usually not worth examining, sometimes they yield amazing finds. Just ask Charlie Sheen, who recently tweeted “@ a yard sale. Found vintage tiger blood for FREE. Winning!”
One time when I was a child and we were having a garage sale, our pet cat climbed into the free box (he, after all, couldn’t read, and it probably looked cozy, so I can’t really blame him). A Middle Eastern-looking man saw this and asked my mother if the cat was for sale, at which point we had to work very hard to convince him that this was not the case. I think at one point he even offered to buy our cat for between $5 and $20.
That’s another great thing about yard sales—no, not the possible purchasing of domesticated animals, but the fact that whatever is being sold there usually doesn’t have a fixed price.
As a result, the savvy buyer can engage in the act of “haggling,” in order to convince the seller to lower the price. A lower price can be achieved many ways. Here are just a few of the many successful methods:
- Tell the seller you have a contagious disease such as swine flu, and then cough and/or sneeze all over the item you’re haggling over
- Tell them you know about the “secret stash.”
- Attempt to pay the original price in pennies
- Say that if you don’t get the price you so desire, a “trusted business associate” would be likely to “pay them a visit.”
- Promise to give the buyer a positive review on their profile on the website “YardSale.com.”
Haggling at yard sales is something I have enjoyed since childhood.
One time, when I was about 6 or 7, the condominium complex where I lived held a neighborhood garage sale, with every homeowner opening their hearts and garages to complete strangers.
As a shrewd businesschild, I cleaned up, going from garage to garage, whipping out my neon-orange wallet filled with a few quarters and dollar bills, letting all the condo tenants know the intensity of my “here to buy” attitude.
I think that sometime soon, on an upcoming spring afternoon, I will again venture out into the neighborhoods of Bellingham (minus the neon-orange wallet) to seek another bounty of outgoing treasures from the yards and garages of the community.
After all, as Charlie Sheen once so adequately put it, “One man’s trash is another man’s tiger blood.”