I will set up the tables first, in any desirable configuration that will work for you. I like to leave room enough for people to be able to move freely between and around the tables.
I have a few commercial grade clothing racks, and I hang any clothing items on these. If you don’t happen to have anything like that, you can either leave things in a tote, or spread them out on a tarp on the ground. If you have table space, you can set clothing on tables, folded neatly. Last sale, I hung most clothes on a rack and made a larger sign on construction paper stating, “All clothing on this rack, $1 each”. However I also tell people as I see them looking, as they don’t necessarily always see the sign. Separately, I put tshirts in a tote, with another construction paper sign stating, “Tshirts, 25 cents each”.
A note: Make sure you check the pockets of any pants, shorts, jackets, or purses you put out. I once took a pair of pants to a local clothing consignment shop in town, and they called me to tell me they found “some money” in the pocket. It was $35!
Depending on how your yard or driveway is set up, your table configuration may vary. At the very least, I try to keep like items on the same table. Kitchen items on one table, holiday items on another (keep in mind that with little exception, people aren’t shopping for Christmas items in the summer time, so I try to keep them cheap or they probably won’t sell). Books could either go on a table, or in a book shelf, if you have one.
A reminder: As with the clothing pockets, flip through the pages of your books if you get a chance. I was at a sale where someone had left their social security card in a book! Oops!
Make sure if you do have a book shelf, and you aren’t prepared to sell it, you may want to put a “Not For Sale” sign on it, or you will be fielding questions all day, “How much for the book shelf?” If you aren’t partial to it, and would sell it for the right price, decide what the “right price” is, and then don’t take any less than that for it. At my last sale, I put a mirror out so that people could try clothes on and look at themselves in the mirror. All day long, people kept asking me how much. At the end of the day, I sold the mirror, at the “right price”. Otherwise I would have just kept it.
A good table to have separately is the “guy table” - tools, tackle, golf items, etc. This can give the guys an opportunity to browse, too! Another idea is the “specialty table”, with nicer items, collectibles, DVDs, or any jewelry or other valuables. This is the table we keep closest to where we are sitting, so we can keep an eye on it.
Personally, I use a cash box, but I know others who prefer an apron with pockets or a fanny pack. Either is fine. As long as you keep the cash box away from customers but accessible to you, or stash it when you have to step away, I have never had a problem. I make a habit of taking any excess amount of big bills into the house directly, just in case.
I make sure to say, “Out of $20?” when someone hands me a $20 or whatever, that way there is no confusion as to the denomination of the bill. It may be a good idea to keep the bill out until the transaction is done, so no one can say they have you a bigger bill than they did. I also count the change back to them starting from what their total was, counting up to what they have me. “So that was $6.75, and here is $7 (hand them the quarter), $8, 9, 10 and 10 is 20.” (You get the idea).
Additionally, I strongly advise against taking personal checks. I have had people bounce checks at a yard sale, and it is a total hassle to try to track them down. Direct someone to the closest ATM if you have to. I myself will take personal checks if they are local, because I know to take the proper information. It takes an aggressive person to be a debt collector, and if you don’t have that, you have essentially just given away your property for free.
I have read recommendations to keep a cordless phone or cell phone handy. Probably a good idea…I also keep a pen and paper handy, in case someone wants to call about an item at a later time, or if they want to leave you their information to do the same. I generally keep my business cards handy for the same reason.
Cash box, specialty table items, and valuables go out last. I don’t even generally get the cash box out until the start of the sale, as I don’t encourage early birds. It is difficult enough to get the amount of stuff that I have out, without having to field questions and I absolutely do NOT haggle prices before the start of a sale. That’s just me.
Oh! MUSIC! I always have a CD player boom box at my sales! I wouldn’t miss Friday mornings with Ricky Milton, or the Saturday morning blues show! Otherwise, I grab a handful of CDs… latin, funk, blues, upbeat (but not annoying) stuff! Keep in mind that just because you like death metal or techno, doesn’t mean everyone does! Keep it light and fun, and make sure the volume is loud enough, but not too loud.
It is rare that I will sit during my sales, but that is my retail experience coming out. I am always straightening, folding, meeting and greeting people, and just generally trying to help. Say hello to people! I don’t wait for someone to ask me a question about an item, I will just offer up any information I think they might need. Ask yourself what would YOU want to know if you were buying that item? Offer to plug in electronics so customers can see that they work. If prices are negotiable, let people know. Try to look at your set up as though you were a customer… what would you like to see?
A tip that I think is important is don’t judge people. You don’t know who is going to buy what. It’s not fair to predetermine who someone is by what they look like when you don’t even know them. Just because a guy has a tie dyed tshirt and dreadlocks doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to buy that antique Singer sewing machine! I have sold some pretty amazing things at yard sales… so another idea is not to judge what will sell and what won’t sell at a yard sale. Put it out there! You never know! People LOVE to see things that are out of the ordinary!
At my sales, I am regularly playing human tennis with people, to keep them off the porch. This past sale, I have some orange tape that I put across the door to let people know there wasn’t anything in the house for sale. If there are things on the porch I am willing to sell, I will go up on the porch with the person, and “escort” them back off the porch when we are done. You may even want to consider making a sign of some sort.
A pet peeve of mine: Absolutely, under NO circumstance, should you call your items for sale JUNK! Arrgh! It isn’t junk. If it was, you shouldn’t be selling it! Have you ever heard the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”? I will actively try to clean up what needs cleaning, fix what needs fixing… otherwise, that is just an excuse for someone to talk you down on your price. A little effort goes a long way…
Make sure to have plenty of plastic grocery bags and paper available to wrap any breakables in. Don’t just have them on hand, make sure to ASK customers if they would like a bag. This is not only convenient for the customer, but helps you to keep track of who has paid and who hasn’t.
I have also had people ask if they can go in the house to use the restroom, or try something on. Under NO circumstance are you to allow strangers in your house! Explain to them you don’t have a dressing room, and that they might try an item on over their clothes. In the event of the need of a restroom, direct them to the nearest area you can think of. In my case, there is a deli right down the block.
The most important part of all this (besides making some extra cash and getting rid of stuff) is to have FUN! My favourite part is being the carnival barker, the joker, the outcrier… I love to interact, joke, laugh! I am an excellent multitasker, and sales are the challenge that keeps me going! You can’t please everyone, and having a sense of humour (and a sharp tongue) is one of the most important things to have!
Whew! Did I forget anything? It is a lot of work, folks. But in my humble opinion, it is a lot of fun and well worth the time! If you have any questions feel free to ask, but in the meantime… good luck, and happy sale-ing!