How To Make Money Selling Other People's Castoffs
December 17, 2006 2:45pm CST
Have you ever run your own yard sale? If so then you probably have experienced the common disappointment of not getting the price you wanted for the items you were selling. This often means that you didn't make the profit you anticipated or you may have even suffered losses. The problem here is that most people are selling things which they bought at one time and later found that they didn't need it afterward. These items may have been brand new, almost new, or seldom used. It just seems unfair that you could have paid, say, $50 for something just a months ago and now no one will pay you even $5 for it. This is disappointing to say the least and quite infuriating and insulting. But, let's face it, in the business of garage sales this is what the market will bear. I've known people who make things to sell and when they finally sell them the profit comes out to be something like 10 cents an hour or something equally humiliating as that. So what's the answer? The most obvious thing is that we should have diminished or more realistic expectations. This is what most of us would do or we may become so frustrated with the business that we just give up and never hold another garage sale again. There is another alternative that I've found and one which I gladly share with others. the secret, as it is with all businesses, is to reduce overhead. In this case it's the overhead of the items you're selling at your garage sales. I reiterate, most people sell items at their sales that they've either made or bought previously. This is overhead. The secret is to find things which no one else wants-in other words, things that you can get for free-and then sell them. This way every nickel is clear profit. Where To Find Good Throw Aways Now I can see you scratching your heads and wondering to yourselves, "Now where on earth can I find such a thing?" Well, it's easy. The best way is to keep an eye open for things set out on the curbside for pick up time. This is done by establishing what days the local garbage man comes through each week. Once this is done then all you have to do is drive around on the night before pick up or early that morning and look for good throw aways. It's true that most of what you'll see is just common household garbage but, also to be found is some pretty good stuff. Another way which is a little more selective about what you'll find is to do the same routine during bulk pick up time. This is when municipalities pick up non garbage items for disposal. These include furniture, leaves, lumber, tires, broken appliances, and so forth. This service is done on a less regular basis than trash pick up. Usually it's done on a monthly or weekly basis. In some areas it's even done only on a seasonal basis. Where I live it was until recently done only one week in the spring and one week in the fall. The only way to find out what the schedule is in your area is to simply call your town or village highway department (or department of public works) and they'll tell you. If they can't then someone at Town Hall will know. When you're on patrol for good junk you have to train your eyes for what to look out for. You will be utterly amazed at what you'll find. Perfectly good garden hose, lumber, wheel barrels, hand tools, power tools, lawn mowers, chain saws, weed whackers, furniture, dishware, carpet, bedroom sets, fishing poles, sports equipment, picnic tables, lawn and garden tools, and on and on. The list alone would fill a page or two. You're probably thinking to yourself, "Most of this stuff must be useless otherwise they wouldn't be throwing it all away". Is this statement right or wrong? The fact of the matter is that some of it is pure junk. Be it a hose that leaks or a lawn mower with a blown engine. But, you'll be amazed to learn that most of it is in a state of only moderate disrepair. In these cases a minimum of effort on your part is needed to get it back into working order. This is to say a coat of paint or some penetrating oil to loosen up a joint. In still other cases even less effort is needed to make something completely usable again. This can be something as minor as re-winding the recoil cord on a chain saw or weed whacker. I personally have found several of these items which need exactly this type of repair and I had a perfectly good power tool. One chain saw I've had for seven years now and I've cut up more firewood with that saw than I've done with all previous chain saws I've ever owned combined. There are even cases (not all that rare either) where you will find something without a blessed thing wrong at it at all which has been discarded. It might not even be dirty. Why Do People Throw Away Perfectly Good Things? Some of you might think that this is incredible to believe-that people actually would throw away things which are perfectly good or need just a little bit of fixing up. Well, believe it because it's absolutely true. How can this be, you ask? It's simple! Today we are a throw away society. We've gotten so spoiled by the conveniences of life that we simply can't be bothered to do a little effort ourselves. Forget about the money they'd be saving if they fixed it themselves. To a lot of people these days it's easier or less stressful for them to go out and spend $200 for a new chainsaw than it is to just re-wind the recoil cord. There are a lot of yuppies out there who just can't be bothered. As a stubborn and frugal Dutchman I found it hard to believe for a long time that people could actually be so wasteful. Indeed, they're lazy too. But it's true. Today my attitude on the matter is that I don't care how or why people throw away these things just as long as I can find them and either sell them at a garage sale or fix them up and use them to prune trees in the yards of the very same people who threw them out in the first place. I've even had the last laugh when I sold back a "reconditioned" item to the very same person who threw it away. I say, if people are crazy enough to, in effect, give me these things, then I'm crazy enough to use them for my own benefit. Even Damaged Things Can Be Useful Another thing I've stumbled upon is that sometimes when you find something (especially power tools) that's obviously too broken to bother fixing, it pays to take it home anyway. The reason for this is that no matter how badly mangled something is there is always something on it that's worth salvaging for later use. This is especially true of power tools and lawn mowers. If you find a mower that's shot but, it still has a good recoil and wheels, then take it home and remove the usable parts. Before long you're bound to find another machine like it which may just need another wheel or recoil. This is especially true of the more common brands like Craftsman. These companies vary their designs very little for often many years at a time. So very commonly you will find a situation where a 1990 part will perfectly fit on a 1987 tool. Then you have a working machine which you can either sell at your sale or use it yourself for many years yet to come. And if you fix up a lawn mower as I've just explained then you've found yourself a good machine which you otherwise would have had to buy with your own hard earned money. Isn't that found money too? This is the whole point: overhead, overhead, overhead! What Sells And What Doesn't? That's the whole secret of it all. The only thing left for me to tell you is what to look for. By that I mean what is it that you should be looking for that will sell. This is kind of like running a used book store in that you have to get a feel or understanding of exactly what it is that people are looking for at garage sales. The first big no-no is to stay away from used clothes. They just don't sell. The reason, I think, is in psychology. People are afraid to buy someone else's clothing for the fear of getting the previous owners skin rash or something. True, all one needs to do is wash it out or take it to the dry cleaners but, this is an extra step and as I've previously said, a lot of people just can't be bothered with this anymore. It takes their time and effort and they're unwilling to do the extra step. Strange things these humans! Dishes and kitchenware sell intermittently. It's hard to predict but, usually you can put them out for sale for 6 or 8 times and not a nibble. Then wham! On the tenth try they're all grabbed up. So, if you don't plan on having too many sales I wouldn't recommend spending much time on these items. The same is true of books and records, as they move very slowly. Nature oriented books do tend to sell fairly well in comparison to the other subjects though. So, what sells? Furniture always moves well as do appliances. Lamps not as well. Tools are big sellers. Seldom will saws, rakes, hammers, chainsaws, lawn mowers, and power tools last long. Seldom do I have to offer an item more than once. Stereos and tv sets do well. Anything related to cars will likewise sell quickly. Bicycles are ok. Sometimes building supplies sell but, this is often a matter of luck when someone who is in the middle of a home project will happen by and buy shingles or lumber. Another trick is to be season conscious. This is to offer lawn rakes in the fall and garden tools in the spring. It always pays off as you're offering practically new tools at cheap prices when the stores are gouging the public with the highest prices of the year because they know that the public will come to them for, say, air conditioners for instance, in July when they're in demand. A little common sense is all it takes.
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