Yesterday, we yard saled to the limit. I know the season is almost over and I am giving it all while I still can. Josh had a show last night, so I got to bed at 4 AM. Yet my body knows when it’s Saturday, and I woke up at 8:05, immediately alert. Monday thru Friday, I hit the snooze button half a dozen times before I can drag myself out of bed. I don’t even set the alarm on Saturdays. If I could go to yard sales for a living, I would never go back to the cube farm.
I’m going to go in chronological order of our day, so you can see how the car got fuller and the wallets got emptier.
First, this puzzle. This is the second Peanuts item I’ve shown you this year, and I intend to address why a twenty-six-year-old has so much Snoopy. This reminded me of the puzzles in the nursery at my old church. I’m sure some small child has chewed on Charlie Brown’s head. I was thinking of just using the pieces to make something to hang on the wall. It was fifty cents.
We hit an estate sale downtown, which was very good, but made me sad. These people were selling lovely heirlooms. While I am happy to buy beautiful old things, I would hate the idea of selling my family heirlooms. If I had any, that is. All my heirlooms are from other people’s families. If I had a German grandmother who hand-made a huge tablecloth, I would probably hold on to it. But maybe these people didn’t have any use for it. I hope someone bought it and loves it. I seem to hope that a lot on Saturdays.
As it happens, I bought a trash container instead. It used to be a taters and onyuns container, but the people had been using it to keep their trash. They explained it to me, and I was completely sold on the idea of it. Now, it needs a little work. I could redo the paint job, though I’m sort of interested in what might be underneath the paint. This was $10, which is kind of on the high end, but the people were so nice that I didn’t mind it.
A place for my trash
Detail of the door – ducks!
The gaping maw of my new trash receptacle – I always wanted something with a gaping maw!
We pulled up to the next estate sale, and I saw a big metal cabinet from the 50s from the road. I went, “ooooooooh” and nearly hit their mailbox. Once we got in the driveway, we also saw a beautiful solid wood dresser that had already been sold. Again, I was sad that I didn’t get it, but okay with the idea that someone else got a really fantastic deal on an amazing piece of furniture. Based on the prices of the other things, it probably was very reasonable.
In fact, the oooooooooh-worth cabinet was only $5. Just when I thought I didn’t have any more room in my house for furniture, I go and bring home this. Since I anthropomorphize everything I own, I imagine my house heaving a big sigh everytime it sees me pull in the driveway on Saturday afternoons. Then it sort of girds its loins and prepares for my new treasure.
Like the trash container, the cabinet needs a good, thorough cleaning. I’ve left it outside until I can give it one. I sprayed some 409 on it and the grime just started running down the side in streams. I have yet to decide whether to put it in the pantry to store canned goods or perhaps in the living room to contain movies. Or maybe some yet un-thought of use. I just love those handles.
Once I decided to buy it, I started discussing with the seller how I might get it home. I was going to try my darnedest to put it in the car, but I recognized the possibility that it might not happen. After all, the cabinet was easily five and a half feet tall.
“It’s a small car, a Honda Fit.”
“Oh, I’ve got one of those. It’ll fit in there.” His confidence and status as a fellow Fit fan boosted my motivation. We were going to get this thing in my hatchback.
And by gum, we did. We had to push the front passenger seat up, so Josh would have to ride in the back, but it went in there, and we could close the hatch and everything. We still had the trash bin in the back, too. Once we got it in there, we joked that the Honda people could have been filming us and used the footage for a commercial. Assuming they weren’t actually doing that, here’s my official endorsement: People, if you want a great yard saling car, get a Honda Fit. This message has been approved by me, Josh, and that guy who sold me a cabinet.
Again, these people were terribly nice and helpful. They also had a pair of gorgeous and sweet-natured English pointers. I frequently see pets at yard sales, and I’m pretty good at resisting the urge to fawn all over them. In fact, depending on the animal, sometimes it’s more of an effort to resist kicking them. But I went ahead and gave each dog a good pat on the head and scratch on the ears. They were pretty, pretty dogs. I’m only guessing at the breed based on web pictures, since I didn’t actually see them point at anything, nor could I determine if they had British barks. I wonder if you could train a pointer to find good yard sale deals for you.
The next sale on my list was one I had been excited about for ages. The Korean Methodist church in Cary had been advertising their sale on CraigsList for six weeks. In fact, one time I went to it, after finding the ad but not verifying the date. I assume if you advertise during the week, then your sale is on the upcoming Saturday. And that’s how I end up in empty church parking lots, wondering where all the stuff is. I’ve been much better about checking dates after several of these incidents. Anyway, the long-awaited Korean yard sale was finally happening. I am always excited about church sales, but after our last Korean church sale, I didn’t even care about what stuff we might find. I was just looking forward to the food. We didn’t buy any of the clothes or mugs or whatever they were selling, but we did buy sushi and spring rolls. As we left, we wondered whether you could, I dunno, steal a little old Asian lady and have her cook for you. I could take out the shelves of my new metal cabinet and she could live inside there. That would be awesome. I am enamored of the idea of homemade exotic foreign food. It makes me wonder if the people who eat at the KFC in Seoul would like to try some Sunday dinner fried chicken.
Check it out, I brought my camera so I could show you why you should always go to a Korean church yard sale.
As we drove to the next sale on the list, Josh said, “I wish I had talked you out of buying this cabinet thing.”
“What?” This is not what I want to hear. Five dollars or not, I don’t need buyer’s remorse. He had seemed enthusiastic enough at the time.
“I just don’t like sitting back here. I wish we hadn’t bought it because it’s inconvenient for me right now.” Well, at least he’s honest. I like having him next to me so I can reach out and touch him, though he looked awfully cute in the rearview. I know you’re supposed to check your rearview every few seconds or so, but I think I was checking it more frequently than usual.
As it was, we only had one more sale on the list that was close. I had several more written down, but they were in Durham, and it was about 11:00. Most days, that wouldn’t stop us, but we had already bought quite a bit, and I could easily be talked into packing it in early. Plus, the Durham sales hadn’t sounded particularly interesting. They didn’t even have any sushi.
We went to the last sale. Josh reminded me that we could only buy very small things, because the car was absolutely full. It was a pretty standard church sale – big room full of tables covered in stuff, divided by sections. Josh immediately went over to the electronics table, while I headed for the tables. Here’s something I did not buy, because fake hair creeps me out. I’ve probably seen wigs at sales before, but it’s a fairly rare item.
I was examining some bags of mismatched greeting cards, when Josh came up behind me and mentioned the stereo. We see old stereo equipment all the time, some of which he has bought. He mentioned once that he wanted some huge honkin’ speakers. I made a face as I imagined my future home, being overtaken by speakers. I mean, they make really good tiny speakers now. Why can’t he use those little marvels of modernity?
“They sound the best.” <Insert long dreamy speech about how good unnecessarily large speakers sound.>
“But where will we put the baby?”
The conversation got sort of side-tracked after that. Anyway, my future with this man apparently will feature giant speakers, just like his future with me will be well-lit with many ridiculous lamps. Life is full of surprises, n’est-ce pas? He has a stereo, of course, but he’s been looking for a nice, new (to him) one, and had a very specific idea in his head of what he wanted, down to the color and kind of buttons. But the one in the corner was apparently what he’d been looking for. It had big, though maybe not quite honkin’, speakers. The problem was that it was marked $50.
“It’s worth that, too. Well, not to me.” I felt a little proud to hear him say that - a true yard saler, that one. I have trained him so well.
“Would you pay $25?”
“Well, they will probably mark things down or have a bag sale at some point.” We went to the cashier to inquire about the schedule. I don’t really like to do this, just because some people seem to find it rude. I assume these are people whose only yard sale experience is volunteering at the ones their church holds.
Church sales are my favorite of all yard sales. They draw from lots of different people, so there is a lot of stuff, with good variety. Their prices are generally cheap, because at least one of the volunteers knows what the market is like. They are often indoors, and therefore can happen even in inclement weather. Church people are generally pretty friendly. And usually, there is a giant slashing of prices towards the end of the day. Sometimes they simply do half off, and sometimes they give you a bag and tell you to stuff it (the bag, I mean) for a dollar. Maybe I miss out on the good stuff by not waiting in line for the doors to open, but I love to hit a church sale just when they’re starting to hand out bags. Sometimes if we hit a church sale early in the day and decide that it’s a good one, we’ll come back later just for the mad rush of the bag sale.
The cashiers told me that starting at noon, we could fill a paper grocery bag for $3. Honestly, I would prefer $1 to fill a plastic grocery bag, but you take what you can get. They seemed a bit put-off to be asked and I felt like they were looking down on me for even trying to get a better deal. Ah. One of those kind of sales.
Once, we went to a gigantic church sale in Chapel Hill. It was afternoon, so it was prime bag-stuffing time. This sale was divided up into sections in the education building – women’s clothes in one classroom, toys in another, and so on. Each individual room had its own volunteers and cashiers, which made the pricing inconsistent. The electronics might have been marked down by half at 9:30, while next door in children’s clothes, a bag sale starting at 11. One room was labeled “boutique,” which meant nice women’s clothes and accessories. This room was run by a pair of uptight old ladies. I was browsing the racks, when a woman came in and asked if there was any special pricing. The cashier said yes, priced as marked. I immediately stopped looking so I could listen. After all, I wasn’t going to pay a full $5 for a dress, even a really nice one, when in every other room around me, people were stuffing bags to their heart’s content. The customer left, and the lady sniffed to her co-cashier, “I think the prices are plenty low already.”
That made me mad, and I walked out of the room without buying anything. I wanted to report the incident to someone, as if there was a Yard Sale Council that regulated everything (I would love to be on the Yard Sale Council). I went to the “White Elephant” room instead, where I was handed a paper grocery bag. I could see to the other side of the room, where Josh was carrying a giant (no, really, GIANT) box full of books. As I stuffed any item that looked even vaguely interesting in my bag, I thought about all the things I’d like to tell that old woman, but since I’m not that confrontational, I’ll tell you instead.
Look, lady, this sale is going to be over in an hour. It’s been going on for two days now and you still have 50 feet of racks stuffed with clothes, some of which are very nice, but most are nothing special. In an hour, when you have to close the doors to your swarming public, you are going to have to take all these clothes, pack them up, and drive them all down to the thrift store. Not only will you not get $5 apiece for them, you won’t get anything at all but a tax write-off and a smile. The more you sell, the less work you have to do later, and the more money your church gets.
So yeah, I tend to get a little miffed by workers who don’t understand the yard sale scene. Back to yesterday and the stereo dilemma: Josh and I discussed our options. It was still 55 minutes until the bag sale began. The stereo was not going to fit in a bag anyway, so it was possible there would be special pricing for large items. I didn’t think he was going to be able to negotiate for it, not after the cashiers had been semi-snippy. As we talked, I continued to poke through bags full of cards. Unless the price per card is very low, I like to look through each card to decide if buying the bag is worth it. These bags were marked $2 apiece and each contained 10 to 15 cards. Most of them were ho-hum, though there were a couple featuring Norman Rockwell paintings and some with drawings of fruit on thick card-stock. I didn’t necessarily want to wait an hour to get the cards for cheap, though if Josh wanted the stereo, we might be hanging out anyway. He was nervous, as various other interested men examined the stereo, pushing buttons, checking out the speakers, standing back and scratching their chins.
A volunteer, a fluffy-looking lady with black bushy hair, walked up and offered to mark the bags of cards down. I hadn’t sought her out or even looked at her, she just knew what was up and was looking to make some deals. Ding! This was the lady we needed to be talking to. As she remarked the bags, I gave Josh a meaningful glance, then asked her how pricing would work on items that were too large for bags. She said she didn’t know, but mentioned that they probably would not mark down the antique sewing machine (priced at $300). I pointed out the stereo.
“It’s marked $50 right now,” Josh said.
“Really? I thought it was more like $30,” she replied.
“I’ll give you $25,” he answered, my sweet yard sale champ. Men who can negotiate are hot.
“I’ll have to ask.” She went and talked to someone else and then came back to say our deal had been accepted. Score.* This goes to show that the cashier is not always the only person you can talk to. Pick a volunteer, ask them. If they aren’t willing to make you a deal, try again with a different one. Look around to see if anyone is randomly marking down prices for greeting card enthusiasts. Thus ends your yard sale lesson of the day.
Our total, with the stereo, three bags of cards, and three books, was $29.75. After emptying our wallets, dumping out all our change, and raiding my car for my secret cash stash, we had exactly enough. If we had stopped for a soda earlier, which we sometimes do, we wouldn’t have had enough. Then, we went outside and somehow managed to fit the receiver and two giant speakers into the Fit. Empty wallets, full car, we called it a day. Went home, ate sushi and spring rolls, took a snuggly nap. Perfect Saturday.
* I priced the stereo online when I got home. People have been able to sell the speakers for $150 - $200, while the stereo receiver seems to be going for $100 - $170. Maybe big speakers aren’t so bad after all.