Monday, July 30, 2012

Seller's Market

As I've mentioned before, I used to be a huge record collector. Years of accumulating and living in a small apartment with a wife whose fabric and bead collection seemed to multiply weekly made me think more and more about selling stuff off. Actually, as much as I liked finding and buying, I also liked letting stuff go, culling my collection of stuff I hadn't listened to in a while, releasing my treats into the world in hopes that my efforts would result in treats coming back to me.

Ebay was helpful with this - I sold records for awhile when I was getting rid of my vinyl and would make at least $100 each time I posted stuff. Through the luck of good timing, I was occasionally able to 'buy low and sell high,' unloading Sub Pop singles I bought for 3 or 4 bucks in college for $30 or so. Just like the housing bubble, those days are long gone. Also like the housing bubble, I have a nagging suspicion that I had something to do with causing it.

I felt I earned whatever money I got, after dealing with nit-picky questions, annoying cheapskates, and buyers who would flake out after winning, as well as standing in line at the post office and buying mailers and whatnot. And inevitably, even though it was posted over and over that I only shipped to North America, at least once each auction I'd get an email from the high bidder saying "How much to be shipping to Turkey."

Sure, I could stick to my guns, but money was money, and if selling to Balki could clear some stuff out of my house and make me some cabbage, then I was shipping to Turkey. Plus, I felt justified gouging him a bit for shipping to compensate for my pain and suffering.

As annoying as ebay buyers could be, however, they were nowhere near as aggravating, confusing and downright crazy as yard sale people, if only for the fact that yard sale people were actually yammering ridiculous questions at you in 3 dimensions, and you couldn't turn the computer off to make them disappear.

My ex-wife and I had a couple yard sales when we lived in Riverside. I think our apartment was near the center of prime yard sale happy hunting grounds or something, because we never did half as well once we moved to Murray Hill, where you'd think there would be more poor people looking to sift through our refuse.

We never put an ad in the paper, we'd just put up signs, which is where potential customers would first start harassing me. As I'd try to tape a sign to a cement post with a roll of wrapping tape, looking like Pee Wee taping up the reward flyer for his bike, people would yell questions at me from their cars. "Where is that?" What time do you open?" "What are you gonna have there?" I could understand their excitement, though. I mean, just look at me struggling with this sign. Why, anyone could see from my clothing and demeanor I was a man of wealth and taste. What valuables would I have waiting the next day? Used gold bars? Cursed antiques? Rare spices from the Orient?

Once crazy yard sale people see a sign and a starting time, they memorize that stuff, driving by an hour early, hoping we were setting up the gold dubloons extra early just for them. Actually, at that point, we were trying to figure out how to set up the card table and still putting price tags on everything. They'd still circle around in their old Cadillacs jammed full of treasures, just watching us. It was like being in a shark tank at feeding time.

If you want to see the strangest people in your community without visiting your local nut house or the public library, just set up a table and start selling your used stuff. Here's a conversation I had with a guy:

"You got any bookshelves for sale?"

"Nope. Had some earlier, though."

"Oh yeah? How tall were they?"

"I dunno...about 6 feet, I guess."

"How many shelves?"

"Like, five, I think."

"Were they wood or metal?"

"They were wood. But they're gone. Somebody bought them hours ago. Sorry."

"Hmmm...was it a dark wood or a light wood?"

Later that afternoon I had a guy haggle with me over a 26" TV/VCR I was selling for fifteen bucks. He wouldn't take my word that it worked, so I had to lug it upstairs and plug it in to demonstrate.

The whole time I'm thinking, "It's a TV for fifteen bucks. If it doesn't work, just turn it into a fishtank or drop it off a building or pretend you're Elvis and shoot the screen out. Hell, that's worth fifteen bucks in entertainment right there."

But I didn't say anything and let him take it away for ten bucks, since it kept me from lugging it back upstairs.

I don't have as much stuff to sell anymore, although if someone from like Africa or Haiti were to look at my treasures I'm sure they'd have a different opinion. Every once in a while I think about getting rid of some of it, either online or in person, but then my laziness and hermit-ish-ness kicks in, and I kick that thought out of my mind and drive it down to the Goodwill. Actually, I found that the Vietnam Vets will take the stuff right off your porch, and you don't have to even have to talk to another human being! What a wonderful time to be a lazy hermit with too much stuff!

1 comment:

The She-Creature said...

Awesome! I grew up with my parents constantly selling off our stuff in annual garage sales. So much so, I began to think the questions were normal. My favorite: I was manning the cashbox at maybe 11-yrs-old and a man approached asking, "Would you mind putting out a sign to help me sell my parrot?" As I looked up, I see the large beak-shaped holes on either side of his nose. Apparently, the thing got a taste for human flesh. The garage sales still never beat the summer they sold stuff in a booth at the local flea market. Hooray for nuts on parade! Oh, and thanks for reminding me why I don't want to deal with Ebay to sell my crap now, too.