Zen and the Art of Flea Markets and Garage Sales

Depending on where you live, a flea market might also be called a swapmeet or a car boot sale, but the concept is the same. A bunch of peopleget together in one place and sell their stuff. If you don’t feel likegoing some place to sell your stuff, you can do it from your yard orgarage. Or go to someone else’s. 🙂

McCormick Woods, theneighborhood where I live, has an annual neighborhood garage sale. Itused to be supported by the Homeowners Association, but some stuffhappened that caused the Homeowners Association to not want to beinvolved and no longer wants anything to do with it. However, thehomeowners themselves still organize the yearly “purging of the houses”every first Saturday in June. There are plenty of individual garagesales throughout the year, but this is the one weekend where everyonewho can, does it.

As a buyer at a flea market or garage sale,you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. However, everyonelikes to find a bargain. My favorite bargain I found growing up was the$1 Intellivision, which lasted several years.

Asa seller, there’s two basic goals: getting rid of stuff and makingmoney. These goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but if youtry and make too much money (i.e. charge too much for your stuff), youwon’t get rid of as much stuff. A good garage sale or flea marketexperience is really a confluence of the right people showing up at theplace where you’re selling stuff at the right price.

There’s alarge chunk of the selling process you can’t control, namely peopleshowing up. Oh sure you can put up signs and advertise in the paper,which increases your odds of people showing up, but you can’t make them show up. However, you can control what you charge for things, which increases the likelihood of someone actually buying stuff when they doshow up. Maximumizing the profit for any given item while making itcheap enough that someone will choose to buy it is an artform.

Mywife has a hard time accepting the fact that people aren’t going togive you what she thinks something is worth. Our stuff is in generallygood condition compared to the junk I’ve seen over the years–and trustme, I grew up going to garage sales and flea markets nearly everyweekend with my mon–but the fact is people that shop at flea marketand garage sales are always looking for a deal. The fact that an itemis in good condition is certainly a selling point, but it doesn’t meanyou can charge a premium for it.

As a buyer, it’s like atreasure hunt except you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for.The emergence of Antiques Roadshow in the US has probably done a lot tofoster the idea that you might find a treasure at your local fleamarket or garage sale. As a seller, I enjoy giving people stuff theyneed at a good price, and it just seems like it’s the right thing todo. I can remember many items I acquired as a kid at a garage sale orflea market eventually making their way back out to a garage sale orflea market to be sold to someone else. It’s recycling at its finest.

I miss going to garage sales and flea markets. It’s a pity my wife doesn’t share my feelings about it,

tags: flea market, garage sale






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