Our adventures with the dishwasher and the propane fireplace are part of a collection of spice-of-life stories sponsored by a dedicated yard sale habit.
Another episode comes to mind, but a quick guide to basic thrift-seller categories is instructive before diving in. The categories into which sellers arrange themselves not only provide helpful background for the story but are also indispensable in any hunting and haggling.
Category One: Buy High, Sell Low
These buyers purchase expensive, high-quality items (usually new, possibly at creative discount) and, if the need to clean out the usually-predicatbly-tidy but at-times-suprisingly-messy spare closet arises, sell with the desire to “clean out” uppermost in mind. Selling price is often determined by “what seems like a good deal” to them or by the simple need to clear out quickly.
These are the sort of garage sales one makes a mental note of for next year.
In a set-your-alarm-early sort of way.
Category Two: Buy High, Sell High:
These buyers purchase expensive, high-quality items (usually new) and, if the need to pair down arises, sell with the original purchase price uppermost in mind, trying to recoup as much of the cost as possible. “Brand name items” or “NIB” listed in sale ads are often signal words for this category.
These are the garage sales one makes a mental note of for next year as well.
In a very different sort of way.
Category Three+: Buy Low, Sell ______:
These buyers search auction sites, Bookoo, and local garage sale ads or salvage for the bulk of their household, personal, and even grocery items. When the need to pass on any goods arises, they align themselves into a variety of levels which interplay with their common sense to determine their final category.
The entrepreneurial become the Buy Low, Sell High.
The unrealistic become the Buy Cheap, Sell High (“try to” often proceeding the latter). Have landed here at times myself.
The ultra-frugal become the Buy Low, Sell Low, the latter being necessitated by the fact that the item may have been bought and sold more than once by this point. (Incidentally, the financial returns for this somewhat-inauspicious category can, at times, be surprising. The robust resale market supports all levels of repurchasing.)
These are the sort of sales that require close study of the merchandise and accurate analysis of the seller.
Though few sellers stay exclusively within one category, predictable patterns emerge and accurate mental notes make future garage sale mapping and online browsing more efficient.
In outfitting a home and property roughly a hundred times bigger than our previous home, the Buy High, Sell Low-ers (BHSL for easy reference) have been my close friends.
In the summer of 2016, I had my heart set on a sleeper sofa for our new two-story play house. I had my BHSL radar fully engaged. “Wait till a good deal comes along” is our mantra, but the cousins were coming to visit and visions of sleep-outs in the playhouse, with beds in the lofts and movie nights with little ones snuggled on a pull-out couch weakened my resolve.
A perfect red-striped option (we had painted the playhouse walls red, determined, as was common, by what was available on the local Home Depot “oops” cart) popped up on Bookoo.com the week before the cousins arrived.
The picture looked hopeful.
The sofa, originally purchased for $750, was a year or so old and marked at an unimpressive $400.
Furniture that is factory-new and owned for a month or less can reasonably recoup a fairly good portion of the original price. Furniture that has been actually used in a home, however, even if, as this ad claimed, the bed had only been used once or twice, cannot exact the same return and, in my experience, will sell well under half of original price.
My subconscious warning light started an intermittant blinking. This could be a BHSH.
Swayed by the hopeful photo and summer-night visions, however, I made an appointment.
My husband and I pulled up to the house. It, along with the neighborhood, fit most-assuredly into the Buy High category. The all-telling second part of the category was yet to reveal itself.
Polite, if reserved, owners met us at the door. I tried to peg which was the negotiator as they led us downstairs past expensive furniture and a classy pool table, also listed on Bookoo, the husband informed me. Must be him, I thought.
“This is a great little couch,” the husband segued as we approached the side basement bedroom where the sleeper sofa was stored. “We hardly used it at all. I don’t think the bed has ever been used. The American-made mattress is fantastic quality, and we purchased it only a year or so ago.” Clues were dropping everywhere. My hopes for a BHSL went out to wait for us in the car.
The first glance of the couch, nonetheless, was promising. It was just what I was looking for.
A new hope surged the minute I started close-quarter examination. The whole left arm of the couch was faded from striped red to a washed-out pink, evident even in the dim basement light.
Limitless bargaining power.
“Is the arm faded,” I asked casually, “or is it just the lighting?”
“Yeah, we had the couch sitting by a window at our old house,” the husband explained. He clearly thought the explanation sufficient reason for the fading. And the price. Incredulous, I continued down the bargaining path. My confidence in success was slightly shaken, but, really, I reasoned, who wouldn’t take this glaring feature into consideration?
I shifted pillows, looked at it from all angles.
“It is pretty noticeable,” I finally concluded.
“You could put a blanket over that arm,” the wife offered.
It was then I knew we were not on the same page.
And never would be.
What does one say to that? I wondered if any sales reps at any furniture stores had ever tried that one on her with damaged goods. And what she had said if so.
Now we just had to decide if the summer night visions were strong enough to draw a sale, even with a less-than-ideal price. The summer night visions were winning.
I tired one last-ditch effort to try to make myself feel better about the price. We had already tried once unsuccessfully to see if they would come down on price. No go.
“What about $375?” I said. “Then, at least you’re getting half of your original price.” And we could maybe talk ourselves into not feeling quite so taken.
“We’d like to stick with $400,” the husband said. “Come on. It’s only $25.”
Goes both ways, buddy.
David and I exchanged glances. “I think we’ll pass,” I said. As I said to David in the car, I didn’t feel the couch warranted half price, let alone more. It fit what we were looking for, but purchases must be made on the matter of principle. We had gotten brand-new furniture on clearance for better deals.
So, safely away in the car, we rushed to the local ReStore, where I had been eyeing a slightly-less-perfect sleeper sofa with a slightly-more-reasonable price tag: $100. I had looked at it three times in the last weeks.
David was impressed. It was in good shape, maybe a bit bulky but comfortable and clean. We had ten minutes until closing time.
The only trouble came in the shape of a small green tag, the size of a resale store price tag, on the back of the couch.
I read it twice, maybe three times. Spelled the letters to make sure.
Man! What were the chances?
At least we’d had an instructive study in human interactions…and personalities. As we sat at a red light on the way home and laughed over the “just put a blanket over it” suggestion–actually, I may have been still too floored to laugh–David commented that his only reaction to the comment had been, “That’s true; not a bad idea.”
A car turned left in front of us.
“Hey,” David interrupted, “that car was parked in the neighborhood with the sleeper sofa.”
I looked at David. I had gone to the house to see a couch. I couldn’t have picked that vehicle out of a lineup if my life depended on it. I laughed. Evidently, we’re all on our own page at times. Even with the ones who share the most pages in common with us.
When we got home, it turned out someone else had decided to join our page for the time being: “If you’d like the couch, you can have it for $375,” my bookoo.com messages alerted me.
Drat! Should have tried for less!
But, no, not really; the package of provision had been perfect.
And we’ve got the couch to prove it.
Some arm covers sewn to match the pillows and curtains hide the fading and protect against little fingers sticky from movie-night popcorn.
And they’re removable so I can see the fading anytime I have a hankering to do so. A perfect reminder of the package of provision.
I guess the owner’s wife did have the best idea after all.