A Craigslist Garage Sale: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

The last couple of days have been quite an adventure. Ethan and I held a garage sale at the house, much of which was fueled by Craig and his famous list. I feel like the whole process has been a mix of ups and downs, so figured I’d share and pass along some tidbits!

I should first say that the main reason for the garage sale was my parents. Last month they sold and moved out of their large 4 bedroom home in Sugar Land (just a 30 minute drive from us). This was the first of many steps they’ll be taking toward retirement over the next few years. You can read all about their journey from suburbia to their rural lakefront property in North Alabama on my dad’s blog (how cool is it that my dad has a blog!?)

when cold springs lewis smith lake alabama blog

So Mom and Dad are downsizing and cleaning out. And Ethan and I finally decided to part with some items we’d been holding onto, not knowing what we’d want/need when we eventually moved into a house (which was over a year ago…let’s sell it already!) So we put a garage sale date on the calendar!

I’m beginning to feel like newspaper ads for garage sales are definitely a thing of the past. So my plan was to list the sale and all the large furniture items on craigslist (I saw this as the way to bring in “serious shoppers.”) Then we would place signs on the busy roads around our neighborhood to drive in the local traffic. Our area of town seems to be a “hot spot” for Saturday garage sales (especially when the weather is nice), and the signs definitely did the trick.

The sale was this morning (Saturday), so Thursday evening, I took photos of all the furniture pieces and parked myself in front of the computer to write individual posts for each one. It took me almost an hour, but was well worth the time because I saw almost immediate results. The next morning I was inundated with emails, phone calls and text messages from people wanting our stuff! It wasn’t long before I realized I’d have to start keeping track of these people – names and phone numbers/emails to remember who wanted what and when they were coming by. But I just loved the adrenaline rush! :)

Ultimately, everything sold for the listed price or above (crazy, I know).

The computer armoire was definitely the most popular. After selling it on Friday and taking down the listing, I continued to get texts/calls from the garage sale listing (which included a picture of it) ALL DAY today. It went to a nice lady named Sylvia who begged me to hold it for her until she could pick it up today. She even threw in an extra $15 so I knew she was serious. She has big plans to make it into her sewing cabinet, so I know it has a great new home!

Next in popularity was this arched bookcase on the left. Once again, multiple people were begging me to hold it for them, but I went with the “first person to contact me” approach on this guy. A lady named Mary (who texted me…I never actually spoke to her), sent her husband and daughter to pick it up Friday evening. She wanted it, full-price, no questions asked, sight unseen. Love it!

This not-so-fancy bookcase on the right was a whole different story. I got a phone call from Victoria on Friday morning and she was VERY serious about this thing. She called me to say she was driving to my house at that very minute to pay for it, and she’d be back to pick it up the next day. (Whatever you want lady!) But today she called me in middle of our sale to say she didn’t want it anymore – it wasn’t going to fit in her daughter’s room. She was sending her husband to get her money back, but “it’s okay if you sell it now.”

I was quite upset with her (and made sure to tell her so) – especially since I’d listed the dimensions on CL, but more because I’d turned down multiple offers for it this morning! When her husband arrived to collect her money, I was really tempted to only give him $15 back – a $5 charge for my inconvenience. Either that, or demand that all sales were final and instruct him to take it away. But I chose the passive-agressive and returned his 20 bucks. It sold (for the full $20) to a couple just an hour or so later, so I guess it’s all good.

Ok, back to happier sales experiences. This desk/chair/hutch combo went on Friday as well. A lady named Darla called me, saying she lived in Deer Park (a city about 1 hour from us) but wanted to come pick it up right away. She only asked that if I sold it before she got there, I give her a call. Since she was driving an hour across town, I was pretty sure she was a serious buyer. I definitely held this guy until she and her mother pulled up in the neighbor’s pickup. When she arrived, she immediately handed me the cash and proclaimed that she had no plans of talking me down. You know Darla? I sure do like you!

The last thing to sell was our china hutch. Ethan bought this guy before we were married for a whopping 75 bucks at a garage sale. It held his camping equipment (such a guy!) until we were married and china took over (I guess that’s the way it goes for guys, huh?) So we strategically listed it for $125 and made a nice little profit, just like the berry rug! A lady named Shawna drove from Magnolia (another city about an hour from us) to pick this guy up, and text me a play-by-play of her location the whole time she was driving – what a riot! While loading it into her truck, she told me that her husband collected shot glasses and she collected “Marvin the Martian,” and that’s what she planned to display in the glass-front cabinets. Definitely a step down from china. And possibly down from camping gear? But she paid full-price and took it away, so whatever floats your boat lady!

And while all the furniture pick-up madness was going on this morning, we were still selling the small stuff (household stuff, clothes, etc.) to all the sign-following shoppers. After closing down around 11am, my dad and Ethan took the remaining items to a local charity for donation – always good for an end-of-year write-off!

So all in all, it was definitely a success! But just to give you the FULL picture (as if I haven’t written enough already!), here’s my evaluation of the CL-fueled garage sale…

THE GOOD
If you price furniture pieces right, and create a sense of urgency, things will go fast! In each listing, I said the pieces were available by appointment on Friday or they would be sold in the garage sale on Saturday. That definitely lit a fire under people – I actually had them bidding against each other on the phone!

THE BAD
It’s a little unnerving to give your personal information – your name, home address, email and phone number – to complete strangers. My rule though, is to make sure I’m never at home alone. Ethan had the day off work on Friday and I was working from home. So with two people and a not-so-ferocious dog (who’s more likely to lick you to death than attack), I felt fairly safe. And as someone pointed out this morning, you’re essentially doing the same thing (inviting strangers to your home) with a garage sale, so what’s the difference? I guess I’m not selling highly valuable items either, so I don’t fear being attached or something like you hear in those scary stories on the evening news.

THE UGLY
This award definitely goes to the scams. I had 7 ads listed (5 for furniture pieces one for an old rug that didn’t sell and one for the sale in general) and ended up with two scam emails. I’m not sure if those odds are good or bad, but here’s what you should look out for.

#1 – Chris, the personal information gatherer
Chris sent me emails on three of the furniture pieces just hours after I’d posted, wanting to know if they were still available. After replying “yes,” he requested I take the advertisement of CL (for just one furniture piece now). He claimed he didn’t have time to look today, but would gladly pay an extra $20 to secure the piece. He could mail me a cashier’s check and send a mover to pick it up. All he needed was my full name, mailing address and phone number. It seemed a little fishy to me. No thanks, Chris – this is a cash only kind of sale. You must be present to purchase!

#2 – Gina, the work-from-home program promoter
Gina, just like Chris, contacted me via email. She first asked if the piece was still available. After replying “yes” (just like Chris), she responded with her email scam. Gina claimed she “actually couldn’t buy anything right now” because her son wrecked her van. Then proceeded to tell me all about how she was making “really good money” working from home right now and the company had openings for two new positions in the Houston area. (Just my luck!!) She included the link and asked that I not share it with anyone, since the positions are snatched up pretty quickly – her sister was going to take one of them and I could have the other! I have to say, it was a really strange transition from purchasing a rug, to a wrecked van, to her awesome new job. And why would she contact me if she can’t buy anything? Sorry Gina – that email doesn’t even warrant a response!

So there you have it. A very full two days, but our garage is cleaner and we’re just a little bit richer. Anyone else with bizarre CL experiences? Surely I’m not the only one fighting off scams.

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