I’ve always been a bargain hunter but at the same time I’ve never felt that just because something is on sale does that mean it’s a great deal. A lot of times people like to say it was half off but if the original price was a rip-off then you may still be getting ripped off. Today, PF Pro contributor Kali Hawlk takes a look at what motivates yard sale buyers and whether they’re more interested in finding that deal or the actual item itself.
Last weekend, we took part in our neighborhood’s annual, community-wide yard sale. We’ve never done a yard sale before. We usually donate things or try to give them away. But this year, we had a few big items that we thought might be worth putting out, and figured we’d scour the house for anything we were ready to replace or throw out to add to the big stuff.
On a scale that runs from “extreme minimalist” to “super consumer,” we definitely lean more minimalist. There wasn’t too much to ad to the big ticket items. We had to scrounge around my parents’ house to find a few more items to put out in the driveway — and even then, our yard sale was pretty easy to drive by and miss. While we took up a parking spot with our stuff, other neighbors somehow managed to completely fill their driveways with stuff they were selling.
Even so, we ended up making over $200 from the things we put out. Not too bad for what we considered junk and clutter. My experience in sitting out in the driveway and trying to get rid of everything out there so we wouldn’t have to carry anything back in was pretty enlightening, too, about the way people think about stuff and money.
Here are a few lessons learned from my first experience with a yard sale:
People Want a Deal…
Of all the stuff we sold, only one thing got us the “asking price.” It was a Breyer model horse, still in its packaging, that I priced at $5. A mom and her daughter came by and the little girl picked out the horse. Her mom asked how much it was, I said five bucks, and she promptly handed over five one dollar bills.
Everyone else, however, always asked, “how much will you take for this?” Or, if I said something was $40 they wanted to know if I’d accept $30. Of course, I happily did, as it was all worthless to me and even a buck would be a win.
And even though people wanted to haggle, that seemed to be the only thing they were really after. Early in the morning someone asked about an old GPS we priced at $10. They asked if I’d take $8 instead, and I said no thanks. A short while later, someone else came by and asked about the GPS. My spouse, forgetting the price we agreed on, said it was $20 and they offered $15!
Of course, this person may have just wanted the GPS and valued it at that price while the other person did not want to pay $10. But over the course of the day I noticed that it really didn’t matter what I said for the initial price. If I accepted a lower offer from the person interested, they bought the item. If I didn’t accept the lower price, they walked.
People seemed much more interested in scoring what they perceived as a deal than actually getting a deal.
…and They Want to Feel Like Savvy Shoppers
Something similar I noticed was that people who walked away from the sale with items that originally came with bigger price tags when sold new — technology, like that old GPS, or nice cookware — tended to be excited and made comments to us about how lucky they were to stumble upon our stuff.
This was the strangest thing. Person after person was positively gleeful that they scored some Pampered Chef kitchen tools for $5, or a set of fancy champagne flutes for $5.
Sure, they didn’t have to pay much for it and this stuff retailed for a much higher price… but there was a reason we were trying to get rid of it. Most of this stuff was specialized; it had a single use. Like a garlic shaver. Or the fancy champagne flutes.
How hard is it to peel garlic without a gadget? If you want champagne for New Years, is it going to kill you to drink it out of the wine glasses you already have?
The point is, it was stuff that we had never used or used once because it had no real purpose. It was just more junk cluttering up our space. But it seemed like our yard sale patrons were buying up things simply because they felt like they were being savvy shoppers for doing so — not because they actually needed any of this stuff.
I think the best example from the day was the man who was interested in the Keurig we had for sale (we recently bought a French press and actually preferred it to the coffee maker). He walked up and started asking questions about it, because “I have one just like this and I’d love to have a spare.”
He literally wanted to spend money to have a duplicate of an item he already owned, just to own another one.
People Have Very Difference Concepts of Value
While most yard salers seemed intent on scoring lots of little (and to me, useless) things for a few bucks a piece, almost no one was interested in the La-Z-Boy recliner that we set out for sale. I thought this was somehow the crown jewel of our yard sale, and figured it would be snatched up in a heartbeat.
Sure, it’s 18 years old and an unfashionable shade of vibrant hunter green, but it’s an incredibly comfortable recliner and in excellent shape for being around and used for so long. I figured surely someone would be thrilled to find this diamond in the rough.
Nope. No takers. Even priced at $40, no one was even interested. (For the record, we sold that Keurig for $30.) But no one wanted a fully functional, very comfortable, clean and well cared for piece of furniture that would cost them $900 if they bought it from a store. (That’s not too much of an exaggeration; I found an almost identical recliner on the La-Z-Boy website for that price. Granted, it’s not nearly 20 years old… but still. $40 people!)
It was weird to me that we cleared out every last bit of crap that I thought we’d be tossing in the garbage or trying to convince a thrift store to take — and yet the most valuable item we had to offer is currently sitting in our garage, waiting for us to figure out where to rehome it to.
It’s a good reminder that everyone values things differently, and that what I might find important — or unimportant — is far different than what other people prioritize and prize.
And with that being said, if there’s anyone in the Atlanta area that needs a decent recliner for thirty bucks, you know where to find it.
Readers, what’s your yard sale experience been like and what type of household items do you value the most? Do you tend to lean minimalist or are you happy to splurge on the things that make you happy?
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-Kali @ PF Pro