Sale-ing away

By Les Linz

“The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless” then brags about getting a bargain!” (Prov. 20:14 — NLT).

Bargaining (or haggling) has been around for centuries. Some relish the practice. I am not one of those. Undergoing a root canal, completing eight hours of colonoscopy prep and being eaten alive by saber-toothed tigers all qualify as things I would rather be involved with instead.

It may have its roots in mid-Eastern practice, but in recent years, it has migrated to the United States, and if anyone in the family is going to dicker on price with anybody, it will be wife, mother, sister or daughter.

Are there some places that demand greater negotiation than others?


Maybe I’ll talk about the “pleasant” experience of car-buying at another time, but for now, I will focus on that formidable bastion of our country’s gross national product — the nontraditional sales forum.

I say nontraditional because I don’t refer to the nationally known brick and mortar retail giants, but rather, garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales, estate sales, auctions and thrift shops.

Some garage sale hosts are in the wrong profession. They should be selling overpriced used cars or working for loan sharks instead. They are the ones when asked if something works, they respond by saying, “Oh, yes, I checked it out this morning. It’s fine.” Yeah, right.

Those are also the people who tend to inflate the value of their wares, as well. It is not uncommon for them to have bought a household item for $5 and then price it at $20 because it has obviously “increased in value” over time.

Additionally, they regularly price their items above and beyond to help accommodate for hagglers.

And have you ever noticed, they are not responsible for accidents? Of course not! They are irresponsible for them, and why would they be responsible anyway. They don’t call them deliberates?

Occasionally, garage sales are genuinely held in garages, or at least partially in garages, and then there are those who brave the elements entirely — yard sales.

You can easily spot them on a weekend when you’re out driving by the dawn’s early light and a large expanse of bright blue tarp sharply blinds your “sand”-filled eyes. Lying under the mass of canvass and polyethylene is a veritable collection of cool knickknacks that the secondhand owners don’t want to have to pack up come moving time.

They sport the formerly popular VCRs (the ones growing hair on the sides) and a healthy collection of exercise VHS (and occasional BETA) videotapes — tapes so old that the instructors have now gone on to glory due to heart attack, stroke or acute circulatory compression from wearing body stockings to make them appear more thin than they actually were.

The late exercise gurus who passed due to coronary artery disease may have found themselves “running” for a running refrigerator and rummaging through its foodstuffs. Rummaging through the fridge is probably not the best thing for a workout celebrity to be doing, but there is some value in rummage — rummage sales, that is.

You can usually identify them by the proliferation of signs that dot the landscape within 12 square miles of the actual building where it is being held. Frequently hosted in the musty basement of a house of worship (and more recently, utilitarian sanctuaries, gymnasiums and espresso coffee bars), they seek to raise money for some worthy charitable cause.

Commonly sold food items to help boost the revenue include a few tortilla chips drizzled with nacho cheese, hot dogs you need a magnifying glass to help identify and the “complimentary” drink that comes with the combo meal — chips, dog and either a can of pop or 12 oz. bottle of water for the low, low price of just $5. Now-deceased exercise instructors would have fared better just sticking to the aqua.

And speaking of the dead, what do their heirs do when it comes time to dispersing the property of their late beloved? They orchestrate an estate sale.

Estate sales are held for any number of reasons, including a lack of interest in grandma’s World War I-era baby diaper pin collection or not having enough room in the trailer to house grandpa’s assortment of corroded Mason jar lids. They may even have to raise quick cash to eradicate old Aunt Effie’s Publisher’s Clearing House 10-year magazine subscription bills.

They typically hire a surrogate, who for a healthy fee of realized proceeds, endeavors to take on all administrative headaches at a rate commonly charged by loan sharks. To be fair, estate sale administrators do handle a lot of things and are likely worth every penny they charge.

To help make their job easier, they will either be auctioneers or hire them for the task.

For the record, auctioneers do not speak English. In fact, they do not speak any known language. They spit polysyllabic phonemes into an oversized microphone, which come out further undiscernible from portable amplifiers built in the 1820s.

To keep a semblance of order — and preserve the peace — those wanting to bid on an item are given a number. When an item is up for bid, those who have waited patiently all day for the one item they are willing to pay $10 for wind up paying $50 for it instead because they don’t want to have wasted their time waiting around on an item they thought would be cool to have just to see it go to another. The auctioneer definitely has their number.

If the auctionee was thriftier, he would be more careful to spend his money on gently used items with an original value far greater than what he winds up paying — enter the thrift shop.

These are (usually) small buildings crammed to the ceiling with toys, games, books, knickknacks, neckties skinnier than Twiggy and dinnerware items invented before the Sears catalog. Much of their stock comes from leftover rummage sale items. There seems to be a difference between the smaller thrift stores and those with a national reputation.

A word to the wise: Jesus told the Pharisees they had turned his father’s house into a den of thieves. Don’t be a victim of “theft.” Go to the Cougar’s Den instead and make out like a bandit.

Les Linz is a resident of Seymour who writes the “Humor: More or Les” column. For information about Linz, visit his author page. Send comments to [email protected]