Bag it, Tag it: Tale of a Rookie Tag Saler

Yard sale, tag sale, garage sale… whatever you like to call it in your neck of the woods, we had one.  (In the city, incidentally, it was simply called a “stoop sale”… and people pretty much left their crap on the sidewalk for someone to take away.)

DISCLAIMER: If you see anything in these pictures that you gave us, PLEASE don’t take it personally.  We’re in clutter triage mode over here.  And, we have lots of duplicates.

Was it worth it?  Probably… but like anything, there is WAY more prep and build up than the 8 hours you run it.  I learned a few things and made a little money and cleared out some stuff.  All good.  (Not quite the addition to our nest egg or the de-cluttering than I’d envisioned, but now I know what to expect from these things!)

As with everything new to me, I started by googling “tag sale” just to make sure I was covering all my resale bases.  In general, everyone said the same things: advertise (I chose Craigslist, signs and a couple free online places that may or may not have done anything for us), be organized with your ‘merchandise’, put an actual price tag on as many things as you can (thus making it a “tag” sale vs. garage/ yard/ estate sale), have plenty of change, and… expect the unexpected.

I had to tell the kids that I had lots of their toys outside just so people could see them.

#1 (advertise): I tasked Mark with putting up the signs, and I’m not sure you could have driven 2 blocks in our town without seeing one.  Right man for the job.  I made the signs bright, clear and direct…. if people are driving, they don’t have any time to slow down and read much more than the address and the time.  We’ll take all our signs down after the sale so I didn’t bother with the date… but maybe that was a mistake, who knows.

#2 (merchandise): I THOUGHT I was organized as I had everything in boxes by category: kitchen, baby stuff, toys, linens, etc.  And I kinda was.  But I definitely spent a lot of time during the sale wandering around and moving things/ putting things back, so that the cooler, more exciting items (in my opinion) were right out front to lure people in.  The 50¢ junk boxes were a little more hidden.

#3 (price tags): Pricing was really hard.  I changed my mind on some things and held my ground on others.  I wasn’t sure about my pricing as it’s SO hard to mark down things to $2 that you know cost $50.  I would say this is personal as obviously the lower you price things the faster they sell, but I also had a bottom line.  In some situations, I held my ground, and for others I started madly remarking things almost immediately because I was so desperate to get rid of it all!

The bigger the item, the bigger the price tag.

#4 (have plenty of change): We started with $140 in $10s, $5s, and $1s.  I had a bowl of change that I brought out, but honestly most things were priced in dollar increments and I only had to bust out my change a few times.

Another tip? Wear an apron or something with easy pockets in front. It makes a gal feel pretty great to have a frilly apron full of cash.

#5 (expect the unexpected):  So here are some ‘unexpected’ moments from our tag sale: thieves, talkers, jerks, negotiators, early birds, and salesmen.

– Our thief was an older woman who spent a lot of time trying things on that seemed crazy for her… a fitted black leather jacket, a flouncy skirt, a child’s Patagonia; she drove away without buying anything, but I noticed a small (hideous!) necklace was missing once she left.  Poor ethics AND poor taste…

– Jim was my talker as he spent almost an hour telling me about his daughter who teachers art history in NYC and spent a year in Luca, his wife’s steadfast Catholicism (“Do you know what the Vatican roulette is, Charlotte?”) and his stuffed meatloaf that he made from Mario Batali’s recipe (it sounded delicious).  He came both days and brought his wife “Sister Mary Margaret” with him the second time; she didn’t buy anything…

– My jerk was also my early bird.  Our tag sale was Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.  At about 10:00 a.m. on THURSDAY, our doorbell rings and a kindly old gentleman asks whether we’re having a tag sale.  Given the condition of the driveway two cars and nothing else- I wasn’t sure why he’d bothered to knock, but I told him we were having it the following day.  He laughed and shook his head that he mixed up the day, and I figured that was that.  Cut to Friday.  Day of the sale and I pull in after picking up our babysitter from the train and he’s parked out front.  It’s 9:40.  Tag sale starts at noon.  I mention this to him as we’re unloading kids from the car and he asks whether he can take a peak.  STILL nothing set up in the empty driveway.  I say no and the man explodes!  “Thanks… thanks a LOT…. real nice…. god bless you… no-no THANKS!”  I know an older woman with an awesome new necklace who he might enjoy.

Eleanor is practicing her ‘jerk’ face here. And Oliver is saying ‘cheese’ as usual.

– My negotiator was a woman who came with her husband, her daughter, and her father who didn’t speak any English.  He would notice something he needed and ask her to request the price.  In most situations the price was somewhere on the item, but I’m a sucker and would usually give a lower number.  For every price I gave her, she would look at me with horror and disbelief and she wouldn’t even deign to translate for her dad.  She showed me a skirt (brand new with tags still on) that I’d marked as $5.  I told her I could come down to $3… and she looked at me like I’d just asked her to take off her own clothes for the tag sale.  After she left (having spent $18) I frantically ran around double checking my prices as she made me feel like I’d asked $100 for a popsicle stick box covered in macaroni and glitter.

It was crazy hot on Friday, so I had bottled water out if people wanted.

– The salesmen just refer to all the folks who spent a couple of minutes pretending to peruse the tag sale and then wandered over to casually hand me their business card.  After today, I have a new cleaning lady, babysitter, hairdresser, and gutter cleaner if I’d like.

Lessons Learned:

I had one table and borrowed a couple of others… but I could have used more.  It just makes it easier to display things.  Without enough tables, I ultimately used a few blankets for the ‘kids’ side of the sale.

Rather than price everything, I ended up with a few 50¢ boxes just because the items were so dinky that I didn’t know where else to put them.  People seemed to be happy to rifle through these boxes.

I completely underestimated how long it would take to get everything out and displayed (although I was MUCH more organized on day #2), I was fussing over things throughout much of the sale too. The clothing was a disaster;  I had it in boxes for lack of a better solution, and that just got trampled.  But onto Goodwill after the sale for whatever doesn’t get snagged.

Some people aren’t happy with anything more expensive than “free”.

All in all, it cost us a couple hundred dollars for babysitting, $10 at Office Depot for the fluorescent signs, and I almost sold some $400 china for $20.  But we met a few neighbors, cleared out some stuff and made $436… I still have a couple of boxes ready for the next sale and some of these items might just show up on Craigslist sometime this week.  I’m just sayin’.

Not bad for a weekend in the suburbs!



p.s. Again for anyone who happened to see something they recognized on these tables, I apologize again, but take a peek back at this post to see where we’re coming from.


2 thoughts on “Bag it, Tag it: Tale of a Rookie Tag Saler

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