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Insider's tutorial on rummage sales, how best to get the job done efficiently

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The season for garage, rummage and yard sales is just about over. If you haven't yet had a harrowing experience this summer, there are still a few weeks left to experience one of these high-stress retail events. So, if you've got a half a mind to do it, that's all it takes. We just had one at our house and here's our inside analysis.

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If you've never had a garage sale, you should know in advance that it is an opportunity to give away your stuff without the help of an auctioneer.  Whoever said that you can't get blood out of turnips never met the turnips running rummage sales.

By the time you are of retirement age, you have already accumulated so much stuff that you are forced to liquidate the least-used in your inventory. "Least-used" is defined as stuff you haven't seen for 10 years that has been lost deep in closets and under beds. Most of it you wouldn't even remember as your own except it's in your closet and under your bed. It's stuff you can't use that will be sold to somebody else who can't use it, either. 

In order to entice buyers to your sale, you must offer some worthy items, sort of like the "loss leaders"  big retailers offer.  So you go through the heart-wrenching experience of pricing these items at one-third their real value. Your first customer will look it over and offer you half of that. That's when you realize you are in the big league of cutthroat marketing. 

Most rummagers have no respect for precious keepsakes either. For your grandmother's commode brought over from the old country in 1873 you will be offered such a meager price that your deceased grandmother would need the commode right now if you sold it for that.

It seems to me that folks who hold rummage sales ought to be protected. If farmers can get price supports and disaster payments, surely rummage salers should have some sort of government safety net. Of course, they would need to organize a lobbying group with an impressive name to start the ball rolling, something like the American Association of Intermittent Retailers.

Don't try to figure out what will go best at a rummage sale. Rummagers are unpredictable. They will buy stuff you nearly threw in the garbage but decided 'oh heck!' and put it out. At the end of the sale, you will still have some of the items you thought would go first.  A bike with one wheel will sell before a brand new sump pump - even in Devils Lake. (You have a new sump pump for the sale because it was your third back-up sump and your second back-up had not even been used yet.)

Another thing. The hard core rummagers always jump the opening hour. In fact, they will get you out of bed to look at your "good stuff" before the sale starts. To deal with this problem, advertise your sale to start at noon but then open at 8 a.m.

Most ordinances do not allow you to put your rummage sale signs on city property,  but  rummage salers do it anyway because they don't care what the city don't allow. These ordinances are never enforced. The mayor knows that rummage salers could hold the margin of victory in the next election. Besides the police have bigger fish to fry.

That's how rummage sales are done. So get a two-month supply of Zantac - that will last the first day - and convert your long lost valuables to cash. If you are lucky, you will recover enough for one of those great meal deals at McDonald's.

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