Rain, Rain Stay Away; Time For Garage Sale Days

So last week was fun — if you are a fan of umbrellas or were contemplating building an ark. Man, I never thought the sun would return. So far (knock on wood) the weather seems to have finally gotten its act together just in time for an impromptu trip to Brandon, S.D., for one of my favorite summer pastimes: rummage sales.

If you are a connoisseur of yard and garage sales, I highly recommend making the trek to Brandon in either the spring or fall. It is well worth the trip, and I have to tip my hat to the organizers and participants.

If you look on the city’s website, you can print a list of every sale — grouped by what area of town the sale is in so you don’t criss-cross across town, wasting time and gasoline. Simple concept, but absolutely brilliant.

Now, the idea of a citywide garage sale isn’t new — such sales are probably countless across the United States. A few weeks ago before northwest Iowa picked up its weather patterns from Seattle, Wash., or London, England, Hubby and I ventured out to another citywide sale in the area.  

The trip was almost a complete bust. I don’t mean that I’m upset by how few things we found to bring home — the hunt for that elusive item is the majority of the fun. No, I was disappointed in a few things I figured would be standard garage sale protocol. Apparently, I was wrong.

After living here for going on 8 years, I’ve gotten used to sales running almost exclusively on Thursdays and Fridays, with the rare Saturday date thrown in. I can’t say I fully understand it.

It makes sense to open sales after banking hours to catch people who work during the day — I just don’t understand why so many sales closed by Saturday. Back home, Friday and Saturday are the typical yard sale days, with an optional Sunday thrown in. This lack of understanding isn’t the frustration I encountered — I’ve gotten used to it.

The lack of signage is what really put a bee in my bonnet. I understand that the local newspaper lists the sales taking place during the citywide sales. That’s excellent, awesome even; the map can be a great resource. But I also know some sales aren’t advertised beyond a sign in the yard.

Let me offer some advice as a consumer: I need to be able to read the sign. That doesn’t sound like any major epiphany, but you wouldn’t believe how many signs we encountered that were the size of a standard sheet of paper. In a moving vehicle, you miss them in a blink.

It doesn’t have to be a billboard or a bedsheet with a shoe polish letters reading, “I assure you we’re open.” A normal-sized poster board, preferably in a bright color with clear black lettering, will suffice. I promise.

For the number of small signs we saw, the magnitude of no signs dwarfed them. I get that you advertised in the paper. Again, I applaud that — support local business. But it’s not always easy or safe to balance said paper while driving and trying to track down an address, particularly in a town you aren’t 100 percent familiar with. That sign in the yard, at the appropriate size, is a lifesaver and will get me to stop more often than not.

Without a sign, I can’t be sure you are even having a sale. Now, you are probably thinking, “Robin, it isn’t that difficult to tell if someone is having a garage sale.” It is harder than you’d think. Some people, including yours truly, often leave their garage doors open. It doesn’t mean it’s an invitation to shop. Furthermore — maybe because I am from the South and have seen some interesting “lawn furniture and decorations” over the years — a couch outside next to kids’ toys can go either way. Also, it’s funny how many people decide citywide day is a great day to clean out their garage. Is it a sale or not? If I don’t see a sign, I lean toward the latter — but as our trip proved, it wasn’t a guarantee.

Just so people don’t think I am picking on those having the sale, I have a few tips for garage-sale hunters, based on pet peeves I discovered the few times I hosted a sale.

First, my posted time is just that — the time I expect to start and end. Don’t show up early. I don’t need you pilfering through things when I am still trying to get them set up. You can’t get into a store before it opens; same rule applies.

Second, there is no need to tromp through someone’s yard. Have some respect. Similarly, don’t pull your car up in the driveway. It’s my driveway, not yours. Again, you aren’t going to give a store a brand new drive-thru window — same rule applies.

Finally, haggle respectfully. I personally try not to haggle if the price is reasonable. I am not against it, though. But if you wouldn’t want someone to make the same offer to you, it’s probably best to pay up or let it go.

With those guidelines in mind, good luck with the sales and happy hunting! See you out and about this summer.

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