Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bargaining at yard sales

A rare, Sunday-night post.  (It's after 6 p.m., so my internet sabbath is over).  My friend Kristie says I should tell some "bargaining" stories about yard sales.

My basic yard-sale bargaining strategy is to be both extremely cheap and extremely polite.   Here are three stories that illustrate my approach.

Story 1.  My son had only three quarters in his pocket, but he spotted a huge (and highly alluring) bag of silly bands for $1.  His first instinct was to beg me for more money, which really just goes to show that in spite of all his experience with me he doesn't know me very well.  After the obligatory lecture on saving up for future expenses, I suggested he ask the seller if she'd be willing to take 75¢.

We walked over to the table and he pointed out the silly bands to me.  The girl behind the table asked, "Do you want these silly bands?".  My son looked at the ground and said, "Mom, can you ask her?".
      "Honey," I said, "Ask her if she'll take 75¢."   He stared at the ground some more.
      "Do you want these?" the girl asked again.  She picked them up and held them out to my son.  He stared at the ground some more.
      "Sweetie, tell her you'd like them, and ask if she'd take 75¢."
      " . . . Would you take 75¢?" my son finally mumbled.
      "Sure!" the girl chirped, and handed over the bag.  My son is one tough negotiator!
About half of the silly bands from the alluring bag that my son bought.
Story 2.  As the first story shows, many people at yard sales are willing to lower their stated price.  But they're not always wiling to go as low as I ask.  In this case, I try to blame myself rather than the seller.  That doesn't mean I'll buy the thing--rather, I bow out gracefully.

At another yard sale, I saw a wig that would be a great addition to a play we'll be doing in May.
     "How much would you like for that?" I asked the seller.
     "$3" she replied.  When I hesitated, she added, "Name a price."
     "I'd pay $1," I countered.
     "I don't think I can do it," she said.  "I bought it originally for $30."
At this point, I could have pointed to the spots where the wig was coming a bit un-done, or I could have pointed out that, however much she'd paid for it, she didn't want it now,  or I could have told her about similar things I'd seen at yard sales for much less.  I've heard other yard sale buyers do this often.  But to me that just seems antagonistic.  I'd rather blame myself.  Instead, I just said,
     "That makes sense.  I'm just really, really cheap.  Don't mind me."
I bought a calculator and apple-corer for less than $1, and we parted with no hard feelings.

Story 3:  At one sale, there was a table I knew I didn't want surrounded by five wooden chairs I knew we could really use (they are a decent match for our dining room set).  I began with the usual how-much-are-you-asking question, and the seller responded with the usual name-a-price answer.  I told her I'd pay $20 for these chairs.  She immediately blanched -- that was clearly less than she wanted to accept.  But that really was all I wanted to pay.

So I did my "I know, I'm really cheap" routine.  I asked her for a piece of paper, and I wrote down my name and phone number and "$20 for the chairs" on it.  I told her that she could probably sell them for more during the day, but if she didn't, and if she was willing to accept my price, she could call me when her sale was over.  Otherwise, no hard feelings.  Later in the day I got a call from her; the chairs are now mine.
3 of the 5 chairs I bought for $20 (the mirror makes it look like 6 chairs).

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