Contrary to popular belief, I believe 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 to be polite.
Being avid yard sale shoppers, my husband Michael and I often run across examples of bad manners by both shoppers and sellers. Here are a few faux pas we’ve seen that could easily be 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 5:30 am. Or don’t drive by the night before in hopes of beating the other shoppers to the bargains. Yard sale shoppers who do this give the rest of us shoppers a bad name.
Not Respecting the Seller’s Property. Walking unnecessarily through the yard, wreaking havoc on the seller’s merchandise displays, and blocking neighbors’ driveways are no-nos.
Carrying Only Large Bills. Producing a $20 bill for a 25¢ purchase is highly 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 for the yard sale 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.
Disrespecting 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 a thing as “yours” if you haven’t made any effort to let the proprietor or other shoppers know you intend to purchase it.
Not Pricing Items. Or worse yet (in my opinion), not pricing items at all. Buyers shouldn’t have to work at figuring out the prices. Some shoppers will get frustrated and leave without making purchases if it’s too confusing.
Accommodating Early Birds. Allowing early shoppers to get the bargains is unfair to those who are careful to respect the start time you stated in your ad or on your sign. Accommodating early birds provides positive reinforcement for this inconsiderate behavior.
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 won’t pay prices barely below what you’d find in a discount store. If you are in doubt about pricing, ask for the advice or help of a friend who frequents garage sales.
Being Careless in 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, communicate well so items don’t get out that aren’t supposed to be sold.
Not Taking Down Old Signs. After the yard sale is over, the signs you posted are litter that should be discarded. Carelessly leaving old signs up is extremely inconsiderate to both future shoppers who will inevitably drive down your street looking for the sale, and the neighbors who must look at your weather-beaten signs for months to come.
If you have ever violated any of these social graces (as either a seller or buyer), take heart. Yard salers are a forgiving bunch. Make a silent vow right now that in the future, you will always be on your best bargain-shopping and bargain-selling behavior.
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Nancy Twigg writes from Tennessee.
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