The season has arrived when people tend to clean out closets and attics and sell off their treasures to those interested in buying.
Yard sales, thrift stores, consignment shops and auctions can be great ways to buy what you need at an affordable price. No social stigma is attached to buying previously used merchandise; in fact, it has become quite the “thing” and can be smart.
Just keep some tips in mind:
• Buy only merchandise you need. Buying because the “price is low” is no bargain.
• Shop carefully. Inspect all merchandise before you buy. Make sure it is in usable condition. When buying electronic equipment, it’s important to make sure it works. Usually the person holding the sale will have an outlet available to test electric items, but sometimes they won’t have batteries for battery-operated items. If you carry your own batteries, you’ll never have to wonder if something works. You can test it yourself.
• Don’t pick up a hitchhiker. Look at all furniture and bedding; you are looking for bedbugs. Telltale signs are fecal stains, which look like small reddish-brown (blood) spots. Look in crevices and deep in wicker furniture or baskets. Some bargain shoppers leave items in the hot trunk of their car overnight to kill bedbugs.
• Avoid impulse buying by making a list. A list will keep you focused on what you’re looking for, whether it’s furniture or books.
• Have a plan and map out a route. The night before you head out, take a look at the local newspaper. Find one or two garage sales that you feel you want to hit first because the ad says they are offering what you are looking for. From there, map out a route, taking into account the garage sale start times. You’ll save time and gas if you know where you’re going next.
If you are planning a sale, be aware of local ordinances. Do you need a permit from your town? Are you limited to the number of garage sales you can have in a year? Where can you place signs? Do not sell homemade food items unless they are produced in a commercial kitchen and you have appropriate certification from the public health department. Prepackaged items (soda, Nabs, bottled water) are fine if they are packaged accordingly. If it is a hot day, you might find that these items are your biggest moneymaker.
The appearance of items offered for sale is important. Things should be very clean, whether a tool or an appliance or anything else. Clothes should be clean, free of spots and hung on hangers or carefully folded. You should arrange the merchandise according to categories. For example, one table might be devoted to children’s clothing, another to books and another to tools. Make it easy for your customers to see and inspect the merchandise.
Stickers, slips of paper or tape can be used to individually price all items to avoid confusion and help shoppers know whether they are interested in an item. Consider grouping clothing by price – for example, jeans $4, long sleeved shirts $2 and T-shirts $1. You can make a poster of the prices and place it in an easily viewed spot.
Arrange your physical setup so that shoppers must exit by your cashier. To avoid losses, never leave the sale unattended. If possible, have more than one person help with the sale. One person should serve as cashier. The other can circulate, answer questions and provide other help to customers. Have $15 to $20 in change (nickels, dimes, quarters) and about $20 in $1 bills. You might have a special box for your cash, or use an apron with pockets. Keep about half of your change and dollar bills in a safe location and bring it out only if and when needed.
If you are selling an appliance or device that has a warranty, provide the buyer with a copy. Some warranties are transferable to a second owner. If you still have the owner’s manual, place it with the item in case a buyer needs to replace parts or fix it.
With careful planning, selling and buying can be enjoyable. For more information about financial matters, call Jayne McBurney of the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service at 919-989-5380.