This year Americans will again set up garage sales and their close cousins, stoop sales, yard sales and tag sales. Gretchen Herrmann, an economic anthropologist who has studied garage sales for decades, estimates that $4 billion is exchanged in nine to 10 million garage sales each year.
But in many parts of the country, what was once a casual affair has been replaced by the frenzy of a free-market economy. Aggressive shoppers are arming themselves with global positioning devices to quickly zoom from sale to sale and special scanners and cellphone services that let them do a quick price check on items such as used books and CDs that have bar codes printed on them.
For people planning a sale of their own, there are ways to use some of the new tricks to your advantage. Indeed, it is even possible to turn around and, Jujitsu-like, use the buyers’ tricks against them by reading up on sites like yardsalequeen.com, a popular online gathering place for professional shoppers, to understand their methods. For instance, one shopper on yardsalequeen advises fellow buyers to bargain with men for things like purses, shoes and clothing, since “they don’t seem to care, and don’t know the value of the items.”
At the center of the turmoil in the once-gentlemanly business of selling your stuff is eBay, which has spawned a rapidly growing industry of people who trawl garage sales for bargains.
Photo by Mirandala.