Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tales from the Moving Sale

Today is Sunday and we are taking the day off. Yesterday's Moving Sale was a smashing success. I would have been happy if all I got out of it was the experience; some good stories and something to blog about. We got that, 95% of our unwanted stuff was taken away by willing participants, and we made a wad of cash, to boot. Win/win/win/win! I am a convert to the whole notion. Here are some highlights:

The Early Birds

The ads (CraigsList, the newspaper, and an angelic friend/neighbor who made beautifully eye-catching signs and even got pink helium balloons to draw people in) indicated that we'd be starting at 8 am, as local custom prescribed. We got started hauling stuff outside a bit after 6 am and we expected "early birds" but I didn't really expect how aggressive they'd be, nor that we'd have a gaggle of them (all men, for some reason) lined up by 7:30 am. Some people would pull up and ask questions to assess our offerings: "You got any archery or hunting?" asked one man. "Any vintage Christmas?" asked another. "Jewelry?" "Buttons?" "Fragrances?" (that last one sort of grossed me out- who sells used perfume? or old perfume? more to the point, who buys it?)

Shoo! Bird, Shoo!
We tried to tell people politely, but firmly, that we were not open for business until 8 am. One lady came a bit after 7 am, was shooed off, and came back with some old-lady friends a few minutes later. Her unwanted return coincided with John and me trying to lug out a heavy piece of furniture and she and her buddies were totally in our way. My super-nice husband surprised with a stern, "Ladies, please, move aside!" The response? "Come on, mom, let's go." Hilarious. Game on.

We had a friend of John's on-hand starting at 7 am and thank God we did because we needed the help. We must have had 20 people there by 8:30 am. At one point, baby strapped to me, I looked at my watch, convinced it was 10:30 am. Ugh. Only 9:05!

I didn't do much of the money-transacting, actually. It seemed like they sought out the men for this activity. Or maybe I wasn't making myself available. I have to admit, I got confused, and it probably showed, every time someone handed me money to take my unwanted stuff away. I realized that, although I'm in "sales" as a lawyer, people don't buy my services of their own volition. It's a necessity. So it just felt so odd for people to be excited about handing me cash for what I had to offer. A lawyer's lesson in capitalism, to be sure.

(Please note, in the above photo, the two men who appear to be racing each other up the steps to check out our "electronics section." I recognized the guy in the jeans shorts on the left: he is a neighbor from whom I acquired my most-prized garage sale haul: a stack of about 20 vintage Playboy Magazines!)

John's First "Art Show"
John's photography is quite good, and I had about 30 of his photos, mostly from our travels to Europe, that I had framed and up in my office at one point or another. They were in cheap frames, and it's easy to re-order the photos, so I decided to see if we could sell any of them at the sale, at the same time fulfilling John's long-standing goal of organizing a show of his work. A two-fer! We laid them out on the sloped, grassy front lawn and sold 2/3 of them ($9 each, 2 for $16, 3 for $20!) People loved them. Not the Early Birds, though. Interestingly, all the art photos sold to the afternoon crowd, the people not so on-a-mission that their radar was not up for the really good stuff, like this.

That's not totally true. We did sell one of John's artsy photos to a woman in the 8 am hour. It was a dramatic, black and white photo that I had not intended to even put out for sale. She had her pick of any of the 30 photos at that point, but she said she really liked this one because of the movie star in it. Guess what the photo was of? ME. Better yet, me in Berlin, standing in the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. As I stood there, sweaty and draped in a baby, wearing maternity-capris from Target, I confessed that the "movie star" in the photo was me. Sensing I was queering the sale, I did not mention the "murdered Jews" part.

Moving the Product

The above photo was taken at the end of the day, after we consolidated all the tables and the porch. We were left with about 5% of what we started out with. I was shocked. I thought we'd have half of it left. Instead, people would practically have bought the paint off the house. Recession-busters, we are!

My favorite customer was the Mayor. He and his fiance apparently just moved in a block down our street. In addition to one of John's ski jackets and a stereo system (for his campaign headquarters, he said), he bought an air mattress. I don't know why I find this so funny, but I do. He also tried to pay with a check, which so confused me that I actually accepted it. Clearly he does not understand the "buy now, pay now" nature of these things. When he returned to pick up his substantial purchases, I gave him a hard enough time ("I'm good for it," he protested. I know, I don't care. I don't want another errand to have to do next week!) that he handed me 3 twenties. Thank you!

At the end of the day, the experience exceeded our wildest expectations. We moved 95% of our unwanted stuff, made tons of people happy with their found-treasures, and made a wad of cash (probably 4 times more money than either of us estimated, in fact), a happy bonus.

We'd do it again, but it would take years to accumulate that much stuff again. As I sit here typing this, someone just wrapped on our door. NO LATE BIRDS!!!

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