Until this past weekend, I only went to other people’s yard sales to browse, bargain, and occasionally buy. My neighborhood moms group held its annual spring yard sale and I gladly signed up to sell various items collecting dust in my home. I also thought the sale would be a great way to meet other moms and interact with the people in my neighborhood. There’s something about having a baby that makes me want to settle in one place. I’ve lived in a lot of beautiful cities conducive for settling,but I didn’t seem to fit in or they didn’t fit me.
I brought Poco with me to the yard sale. She tends to be observant and quiet in noisy public spaces where there are a lot of new faces for her to smile at. For the first 30 minutes, I set up “shop” and put prices on items, cleaned an old vase, and made my allotted yard sale table look as pleasing as I could with index cards, sharpie markers, tape, and strategically placed items. For example, I put the baby stuff together in one corner so that perhaps people would buy more than one baby item at a time. While I was doing this, I didn’t even notice Poco was there. She was quiet but alert in her stroller. A couple of buyers asked me jokingly—I think—“How much for the baby?” Our assigned table sat at the entrance of the church basement where the yard sale was taking place, so everyone saw us as they entered and exited.
My first buyer was a pleasant and very pregnant young womanwho said she needed an infant carrier. She told me her story about finding the right carrier and how many carriers she already owned. We talked babycarriers like old pros, but I wondered if she was trying toengage me to lower the price on the carrier or if shejust wanted talk. I felt guilty for thinking the latter, especially when she boughtthe carrier in the end and didn’t negotiate.
The baby items sold quickly, leaving the more grown-up items on the table. My shoes, skirts, scarves, gloves, and a random towel rack from IKEA were keeping each other company at the end. An older mother and her adult son bought my jewelry box, vase, and a 12 piece set of china in one swoop. No boxes or bags needed. They hauled those items out like it was moving day. It was interesting the way her son bought the items. He saw his mother eye-ing the vase, and without asking me or looking at me, he said, “Hey, Ma, I just bought you that vase.” I wasn’t offended; it was sort of funny. He later paid for it.
Another lady looked at an unopened cat litter box wicker cover (retail: I have no idea) with a price tag clearly marked “$20” and then asked me how much I really wanted for it. I really wanted $20, but I also really really wanted it out of my basement, so I said $15. She hesitated. I mentioned that I never used it and that the box top was still glued together. She bought the cover in the end, which was unexpected. I underestimated people’s love for their pets. I was even able to sell my cat’s old hair brushes to a nice lady after we talked about our cats.
Cat lady: “See, my cat has very long hair. Will this work?”
Me: “I’m almost certain it will. It’s called the Furminator.It uses static cling, I think, to get the loose hair out.”
Cat lady: “Why are you selling it, then?”
Me: “Well, my cat died. She was very old.”
(Four strangers looking at my table stop, look up at me, and gasp. For real.)
Nice stranger who loves cats: “Oh, I’m so sorry. That is so hard, losing a pet.”
Me: “Yeah, it was really hard. Much harder than I thought it would be, you know? I got really attached to her.”
Nice stranger #2 who loves cats: “How old was she?”
Me: “She was 14 and a half. It was time.”
(The group seemed to sigh collectively.)
Cat lady: “So, how much for the 2 brushes?”
Me: “5 dollars.”
Cat lady: “I’ll take them.”
I was never a fan of bargaining until I decided to buy a car about 6 years ago. My sister and I read an online “How-To” book on negotiating for your first car. Our mother loves negotiating when she shops for a car, and we didn’t know how she did it with such confidence. I used to be so uncomfortable when having to confront a salesperson and calmly ask them if they wanted to sell me something for less than it was marked. My face would flush and my heart would beat rapidly. But it made me upset to read a study that showed minorities and women tend to pay the most for cars, whereas white males pay the least. This is not because minorities and women don’t like to bargain. Car dealers simply tend to quote them the higher mark-up price. This is from a study written by Ian Ayres and Peter Siegelman, “Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car,” published in The American Economic Review in June1995.
I used to hate bargaining, but I wanted a car for a fair and decent price, which I did end up getting. At the yard sale, I felt completely comfortable negotiating a fair price with interested buyers. And it didn’t hurt that I was wearing my cute, smiling daughter while meeting new people in our neighborhood. I felt at home.