Yard Sale Etiquette
By Nancy Twigg
Just call me the Miss Manners of garage sales.
You see, I believe thereís a certain moral and ethical code governing the sacred
act of selling and buying secondhand stuff. Contrary to popular belief, a yard
sale is not an anything-goes, no-etiquette-needed free-for-all. As in any social
situation, there are certain things you do or avoid doing in order to be polite.
Being avid yard sale shoppers, my husband, Michael and I often run across
examples of bad manners, both by shoppers and by sellers. Here are a few of the
faux pas weíve seen that could have been easily avoided by the simple practice
of good yard sale etiquette.
* Being an "Early Bird" - If the paper says the sale starts at 7a.m., donít show
up at 6 or donít drive by the night before in hopes beating the other shoppers
to the bargains. Yard sale shoppers who peer in garage windows with flashlights
or knock on doors at 5:30 a.m. give the rest of us shoppers a bad name.
* Not Respecting the Sellerís Property - Walking unnecessarily through the yard,
stepping in flowerbeds, and blocking neighborsí driveways are definitely in poor
taste. If your children accompany you, see to it that they respect the sellerís
property as well.
* Carrying Only Large Bills - While it is the sellerís responsibility to have
adequate change, producing a $20 bill for a 25-cent purchase is extremely
inconsiderate. Save small bills and change throughout the week for your Saturday
yard sale trip.
* Loud or Obnoxious Behavior - Just because the seller is up early doesnít mean
his neighbors are. Driving a noisy vehicle or speaking and laughing loudly will
not endear you to the seller. Aggressive haggling or obnoxious negotiating
tactics arenít welcome, either.
* Not Respecting Other Buyers - If you want to buy a large item or more items
than you can carry, ask the proprietor to mark the item or start a "pile" for
you in an out-of-the-way place. It is rude to claim items as yours while you
continue shopping if you havenít made any effort to let the proprietor and other
shoppers know you intend to purchase them.
* Not Pricing Items Clearly - I donít know which is worse: not pricing items in
a way that is easily understandable or not pricing items at all. Buyers
shouldnít have to work at figuring out the prices. If your pricing system is too
confusing, some shoppers will get frustrated and leave without making purchases.
* Accommodating Early Birds - Allowing early shoppers to get the bargains is
unfair to the shoppers who respect your wishes. When sellers accommodate early
birds, they only provide positive reinforcement to this inconsiderate behavior.
Politely but firmly tell early birds that the sale is not open for business yet.
* Trying to Sell Used Stuff at "New" Prices - If your stuff means that much to
you, take it to a consignment store or sell it through a classified ad or on
eBay. Yard sale shoppers are looking for bargains, not prices barely below what
youíd find at a discount store.
* Being Careless with Yard Sale Preparations - For the buyer who thinks she has
found the item of her dreams, there is nothing worse than hearing, "Thatís not
for sale!" Remove things you do not want to sell from the sale area (lawnmowers,
bicycles, wagons, etc.). If that is not possible, cover them with an old sheet
or dropcloth, or use masking tape to rope off areas that are not part of the
* Not Taking Down Old Signs - After the yard sale is over, your yard sale signs
are litter that should be disposed of just like any other garbage. Carelessly
leaving old signs up ad infinitum is extremely inconsiderate to both shoppers
and neighbors who must look at your weather-beaten signs for months to come.
If you have ever violated any of these social graces (as either a seller or
buyer), take heart. Yard sale fanatics are a forgiving bunch. Just make a silent
vow that in the future, you will always be on your best bargaining behavior.
Nancy Twigg is the editor of Counting the Cost, a free twice-a- month e-zine
devoted about simple, frugal and abundant living. She is also a popular
conference and retreat speaker as well as the author of two books. To learn more
about Nancyís work, visit