Garage sales are funny things. When else do you invite every person in the area to your front door, practically begging them to take some of your junk off your hands at a small price? There are random strangers throwing their cigarette butts on your sidewalk, small children having temper tantrums, a guy in short jean shorts and a mullet buying up all your MacGyver DVD’s, and little old ladies haggling with the best of them – just a few of the side shows you get when you put on a garage sale.
Today had all of that (no, really – ALL of that), but it also presented some fun opportunities. My hippie neighbor (named after Jimi Hendrix, a hero of his, I gather) came by to check out the latest crop of used t-shirts and showed me his classic truck, making sure to give each of my kids a quarter. Another neighbor came by to see what type of little boy clothes we had this year. At our sale about two years ago, she was a full 9 months pregnant. After selling her a bassinet and a few essentials for her impending childbirth, my wife learned that the young girl had no idea what to expect during labor and delivery. She ended up giving an impromptu private childbirth education for her that very night, along with her boyfriend and her mother. The whole family came over yesterday – it was a great chance to hear about their latest happenings, and remember their little guy is right behind ours in age – a playdate will be forthcoming. Then the little neighbor boy came over, desperate to spend $10 he had earned that morning for doing chores. I gave him a plastic Dodgers helmet (we don’t charge for Bibles or Dodger gear – as I told him, “the best things in life should be free.” ) and ended up selling him a few other trinkets so he could have the joy of spending earned money. Yes, garage sales are one of the unique times when the world is at your doorstep, and there are lessons to be learned.
This particular day was the day I decided to teach my daughter and niece (5 and 6, respectively) about sales. I have been in sales ever since graduating with my MS in Human Development. There are actually some really helpful connecting points between these worlds, but that’s a later story. I challenged the girls to set a price and to try and sell a large piece of plastic play equipment; if they sold it, I told them, they could split the money. We talked about the features that a prospective buyer might find interesting (it could be used inside or outside, it doubled as a bench and toy box, and the shelves could be used to store just about anything, as they pointed out.) We also talked about their audience – they realized pretty quickly that most adults might not have an interest, so they decided to talk to the kids. All was well…well, except for the fact that the busy period had just ended and we barely had a trickle of customers. And no one seemed to want a used plastic castle book shelf.
After an hour or so, a guy came along with a young boy from next door. We talked awhile, and after I got a feeling that he was good with kids, I had a proposition. “Listen,” I told him. “Those two girls are trying like mad to sell that bookshelf. Would you mind if it came to live at your house?” He said he wouldn’t, so I went on. “Here’s the deal. I give you the money to buy it, and you let them pitch it to you. Then, you become their first customer.” He grinned and agreed. The girls had a blast. They told him all about the features, and I was quite impressed by their level of confidence. He was actually a pretty tough looking customer – tattoos everywhere and a pretty large nose ring. But those girls were up to the challenge, and he was a great audience. He kept pretending he needed more convincing, and convince him they did. Finally, the deal was closed. He handed him the $6 I had previously planted, and they carried the toy home to their house. The expression on the girls’ faces was worth every penny. They felt empowered and grown-up. And $6 is big money when you’re 5 or 6 years old. Whereas earlier in the morning, I could barely get my daughter to speak up, suddenly she carried her head high and looked like she could talk to anyone.
We learned a lot of lessons today: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know your neighbors. A kind act is worth more than money. Know your audience, and the sales will follow. Shyness is often learned – don’t be afraid to make a friend.
It’s never too early to start teaching little ones these lessons.
Anybody in the market for some cheap, used junk? My sales staff is out spending six hard earned bucks.
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