Deals missed by drive-by garage-salers

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

You’ve heard of drive-by shootings. My wife is the master of drive-by garage-sale shopping.

She wants to go to garage sales but the whole process of walking up to each house, pawing through the stuff and making a deal is too much for her sensibilities. The idea of a bargain appeals to her if she doesn’t have to work too hard at it.

I on the other hand enjoy looking through every box and playing with the stuff and trying to figure out what each little gadget or do-dad’s function might be. By the time I’ve played with an onion chopper long enough to figure out it’s missing a spring, she’s back in the car looking disgusted because I’m taking so long.

Sometimes going to garage sales isn’t a merry occasion with us. The good part is there is always coffee and breakfast at a restaurant when we’re done.

If I’m not in the mood to hit the garage sales and she is, I’ve found the best tactic is to drive by real slow. She sizes things up from the street and we only have to stop at about one of every five sales. If I’m hungry and ready to get to breakfast this is a good thing.

I agree with her drive-by tactic in some cases, like the sales with baby clothes spread out on a blanket and one table filled with Tupperware and a cordless phone without a battery. The woman running the sale is sitting in a fancy patio chair with a big bottle of water at one elbow, a calculator at the other elbow and a change purse around her waist. She’s quickly learning this garage sale stuff isn’t as easy as it looks. As we roll by she pleads with us to stop. “We’ve got some great bargains.” I drive faster and smile at her.

The wife normally has one or two things she’s looking for and she doesn’t want to stop if she doesn’t see those things displayed out front. The tough part comes on the rare occasion when she suddenly locks onto an idea for something she sees.

“Look dear, I think you could paint this and put some new knobs on it and it would look great in the living room between the TV and the brown chair,” she might say.

I point out to her that the item she has her hand on is at least eight feet long and the space where she wants to put it is a little less than five feet. Then I point out that it’s missing two legs. It usually doesn’t matter; her garage-sale radar is locked in and we’re either buying the item or fighting for the rest of the day — my choice.

I’ve put on quite a few yard sales, but only once at my own house. Once was enough. My experience has been gained through the annual sale we used to do as a Rotary fund-raiser in Carbondale, Colo. It was a huge sale that we held on the main highway through town and a big frustration at times.

We stored things before the sale in a storage shed and then trucked it over to the sale site. Problem was we could never get it all moved over because people were there to help go through it as we unloaded. We tried roping it off, posting guards around the perimeter. Nothing would work. They all wanted to get the first look at the stuff, usually scattering parts as they went.

I liked the haggling and selling part of putting on the Rotary sales because every piece of merchandise was different and each customer’s desire to own that fine piece of junk was different. Getting down to how bad they wanted it and getting a laugh out of them as I gave a zany demonstration of the item was never dull. I like it when the sales I go to work like that, too.

If you miss the demo because you’re in drive-by mode you’re missing out on the best part of the sale.

Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481 ext. 33 or by e-mail: