Garage Sale Business School

Who knew the best school was right in their grandparents’ driveway? The World’s Largest Garage Sale is in my hometown and has been going on for decades. We still sell stuff from the driveway where my parents lived for 40 years. Mom set up a card table to keep the kids busy. They sold brownies that she baked although, they ate a big chunk of the merchandise. But it was worth it so the grownups could concentrate and get rid of old treasures.

Kay was the only one who stayed at the brownie table year after year. It wasn’t only because she’s a chocolate lover. The other kids were distracted by the circus atmosphere of riding their bikes around town and shopping. My budding business owner noticed that other booths sold brownies for $1. She kept her price at 75 cents figuring she would sell more brownies at a lower price and still end up with plenty of money at the end of the day. She also told me that a lot of people gave her a dollar anyway and told her to keep the change. Why did they do this? In her words, she put it, “Because I’m just adorable.”

One part garage sale, one part business, one part school.

While Kay was becoming a dessert tycoon, the boys were at the other end of the supply and demand chain. They wanted to buy a ping pong table and asked me to negotiate the price for them. The owner and I bantered a bit and agreed on a price after I looked over the table and saw it was in good shape. It folded up in the middle and had sturdy wheels so it could be pushed to one side of a room when it wasn’t in use.

The boys pulled dollar bills out of their pockets that were so wrinkly they looked like green caterpillars. After paying the man, they grabbed one end of the table and started rolling it down the driveway. Startled by their actions, the man earnestly offered, “You can leave it here until you’re ready to pick it up.”

“That’s ok,” I told him, tossing my head back to make the words carry farther. “We’re staying just down the street.”

I enjoyed the startled looks from people we passed on the short walk to my parent’s house. Tell me, have you ever seen a mom and some kids pushing a ping pong table down the street? Neither did they. My smug smile fell away after we tucked the table in the garage. I didn’t think the plan out all the way. Our car wasn’t big enough to carry the table to our home a half hour down the highway. It took a couple of weeks and a favor to get a pickup truck, but we made it happen finally.

Years later, I gave my old Honda SUV to my son, Garry. It was still running after 17 years, but he wanted a more reliable car since he had a new job with good pay. My husband and I gave him advice on how to bargain with a buyer. However, he must have also learned something from the garage sale business school. He negotiated like a pro, poker face and all, and made the perfect sale. Both he and the buyer walked away feeling like they got the better end of the deal.

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