There is a certain unspoken moral and ethical code governing the sacred act of selling one’s stuff. Contrary to popular belief, a yard sale is not an-anything-goes, no-etiquette-needed free-for-all. As in any social situation, there are certain things you do or don’t do in order to be polite.
Here are a few faux pas that could be easily avoided by the simple practice of good yard sale etiquette.
Being an “Early Bird” -
If the paper says the sale starts at 7 am, don’t show up at 6 am or don’t drive by the night before in hopes of beating the other shoppers to the bargains. Yard sale shoppers who peer in garage windows with flashlights or knock on doors at 6:30 am give the rest of us shoppers a bad name.
Not Respecting the Seller’s Property -
Walking unnecessarily through the yard, stepping in flowerbeds, and blocking neighbors’ driveways are definitely no-no’s. If children accompany you, see to it that they respect the seller’s property as well.
Carrying Only Large Bills -
While it is the seller’s responsibility to have adequate change, producing a $20 bill for a 25¢ purchase is extremely inconsiderate. Save small bills and change throughout the week for your Saturday yard sale trip.
Loud or Obnoxious Behavior -
Just because the seller is up early doesn’t mean his neighbors are. Driving a noisy vehicle or speaking and laughing loudly will not endear you to the seller. Aggressive haggling or obnoxious negotiating tactics aren’t welcome, either.
Not Respecting Other Buyers -
If you want to buy a large item or more items than you can carry, ask the proprietor to mark the item or start a ‘pile’ for you in an out-of-the-way place. It is rude to claim items as ‘yours’ while you continue shopping if you haven’t made any effort to let the proprietor and other shoppers know you intend to purchase them.
Leave the dog at home -
Even though you are a dog lover, there are many who are not. Even on a leash, they can be difficult to maneuver around. Bringing the kids is fine, especially if you are shopping for them. If you do bring the kids, however, keep and eye on what they are doing.
To Haggle or Not to Haggle -
If you see an item that you want and it's listed for $1 or less, don't haggle over the price. How would you like to have an item marked for 50 cents and have someone offer you a quarter?
Picking Up -
If you purchase a large item and need to pick it up later, make sure that you pay for the item so it doesn’t get sold to someone else and that you get the name, address and phone number of the person hosting the yard sale. Also, set an approximate time to pick the item up. If you’re delayed, call and reschedule a time to pick up your merchandise.
Not Pricing Items Clearly -
Or worse yet, not pricing items at all. Buyers shouldn’t have to work at figuring out the prices. If it’s too confusing, some shoppers will get frustrated and leave without making purchases.
Accommodating Early Birds -
Allowing early shoppers to get the bargains is unfair to the shoppers who are careful to respect your wishes. Remember that accommodating early birds provides positive reinforcement to this inconsiderate behavior.
Cash or Checks -
Most Sellers prefer cash, so know where the closest ATM machine is located. If a shopper offers to write you a check, you can politely offer to hold the item for 30-minutes while they run to the closest ATM machine.
Trying to Sell Used Stuff at ‘New’ Prices -
If your stuff means that much to you, take it to a consignment store or sell it through a classified ad. Yard sale shoppers are looking for bargains, not prices barely below what you’d find at a discount store.
Being Careless in Yard Sale Preparations -
There’s nothing worse for a buyer than hearing, ‘How did that get out here? That’s not for sale!’ If you are working with someone else in preparing for the sale, make sure there’s good communication so that things don’t get out that aren’t supposed to.
Not Taking Down Old Signs -
After the yard sale is over, the signs you posted are litter that should be disposed of just like any other garbage. Carelessly leaving old signs up is extremely inconsiderate to both shoppers and neighbors who must look at your weather-beaten signs for months to come.
Closing time -
If there are customers still lingering, don’t be in a hurry to usher them out. A few minutes’ patience will be rewarded, if not by a late sale, then at least with good will that will serve you well when your next sale comes around.
Manners Count -
Whether they’ve bought something or not, before they leave your sale, try to thank as many people as you can for attending. This will make them feel more comfortable if they wish to return later in the day to purchase that item they were wavering on. It will also increase the likelihood they’ll recommend your sale to their friends.
If you have ever violated any of these social graces (as either a seller or buyer), take heart. Yardsalers are a forgiving bunch. Just make a silent vow that in the future, you will always be on your best bargain-shopping behavior.