Selling and haggling tips - 1 of 3

Unlike a retail store where everyone accepts the marked price as being fixed, at garage sales, it's just a starting price. Whether you like it or not, most people who want to buy something from your garage sale, no matter what the starting price, will want haggle, negotiate or dicker so they feel that they are getting even more or a bargain. Even if the starting price is 50c!

A quick introduction to haggling

If you are new to the concept of haggling, the process is generally a split the difference affair and goes something like this:

  1. The customer sees your price (say $20) and assumes it's negotiable and higher than the lowest price you'll accept.
  2. They will offer a really low price (say ($5) indicating they are interested in buying it and hoping that you either accept it or will compromise and lower your price.
  3. You don't get offended by the ridiculously low price and offer a slightly lower price to the one you had marked (say $15).
  4. At this point, let them to think it over and don't say anything. They may accept your price or walk away or offer a higher price than they originally offered (say $10).
  5. It's up to you whether you accept this price or say that your price is the lowest you will accept or offer a lower price (say $12).
  6. At some point you will either agree on the negotiated price or not agree and hope another customer will be prepared to pay the price you can accept.
    Watch out if it goes past 2 or 3 exchanges because then you're wasting your time as the other person is probably more interested in the "game" of haggling for its own sake rather than buying anything.

What to do if you don't feel comfortable with negotiating a price

Invite a relative or friend who is good at it or enjoys the 'game' to come to your garage sale and do the negotiating. Even if it's just for the first hour or two when the second-hand dealers, professional garage sale shoppers and collectors arrive (usually also an hour before your advertised start time!). This is when the serious haggling happens.

Not everyone wants to haggle

You'll find some people don't like haggling either and are happy to pay your asking price. Some other buyers will find your prices reasonable and fair and pay your asking price without haggling.

Practice your haggling

If you're serious about getting as much as you can, practice your haggling technique before your garage sale. Go to other garage sales and flea markets and practice haggling over items. While you browse, listen in and take note of how other people haggle.



Try to keep the whole haggling process fun

Haggling is not an argument. Keep a smile on your face and remember that the stakes aren't high and you want to enjoy the process and not feel that the whole day was a horrible, never-to-repeat-again process. Haggling doesn't mean that you have to be a stubbornly difficult person who has win at all costs. Instead, you'll often feel better about the process if you make concessions too where the other person feels like they've gotten a good deal.

Everyone expects that you have marked your prices a bit higher

They would do it themselves too to give some room to move on the price. But some people are happy to pay your price without negotiating your price down by 75c. And then there are some people who have to get you down no matter what the price!

Consider firm bottom-line prices for low priced items

To reduce the menial penny-pinching haggling over a 50c item, consider marking all items priced under $2 with your bottom-line price that you will accept. All items $2 and above are negotiable.
If anyone offers a lower price on one of your under $2 items, politely say, "Sorry but this is my bottom-line price". Also, don't then say, "Take it or leave it." I know, this is what you're really thinking but most people will find this a bit too abrupt and probably leave without buying. The sales on the under $2 items you miss out because of your firm resolve could well be made up for by the sales to people who accept your price.

Don't give anything away for nothing

While the main reason for a garage sale is to get rid of stuff, (you could easily achieve this by taking everything to the nearest charity and feel better for it or just take it to the rubbish dump) you really want to get as much money as you can for it. Always expect a fair price for your goods but don't forget that an item sold for a low price is better than a high-priced item that didn't get sold. It is amazing how fast a lot of small $1 or $2 sales add up.

Clinch a sale with a freebie

If a customer is hesitating over buying your chest of drawers for $75, offer to throw in something that they also wish to buy for free to 'sweeten the deal'. Quite often they will accept your offer. Don't give too much away though.

Try to resist rewarding customers with a freebie

If someone buys a high priced item, try to resist thanking them by throwing in freebies. After all, they have already bought it and you don't really need to worry about keeping them happy so they come back for your next garage sale next year! If you throw in a freebie worth around $5 then why didn't you drop your price by $5 when negotiating a price. I'll tell you why, because you want to get the most money for your stuff - so don't go throwing your money away after the deal!! They agreed on the price, they're getting a bargain and they are happy. No need to thank them by dropping your price again.

"Do you want fries with that?"

When someone buys something, mention some other related items you have in case they didn't notice them. For example tools / hardware, gardening tools / plants, cooking utensils / cook books.

When not to offer big concessions?

Try to resist big discounting or accepting offers of packaged or two-for-one deals within the first two hours unless you are sure the item/s will be hard to sell. A two-for-one deal is when someone will come up to you holding 2 items and offer to buy one if you throw the other one in for free. There's a good chance you aren't desperate to sell anything at any cost within the first couple of hours of your sale. After that you might be starting to feel a bit different though, so be strong in the early stages.

Negotiating in a group sale

If you're having a group sale, make sure everyone who is authorized to do the selling and negotiating is clear if they can lower the price of the other party's items and if so they know what the lowest prices are. With a multi-family sale, it's always a good idea to have a representative from each family to OK any deals. It can spoil the day if someone sells an item well below the price the owner would be happy with.



Get shoppers to pay you for the privilege of shopping at your garage sale

If you have the right sort of merchandise they will!

If you have a lot of quality items you know won't disappoint dealers and the usual keen early birds - have a "Garage Sale by Appointment".

First you collect your items, clean and prepare them for sale, work out your prices and record them on your Inventory List. There is no need for individual price tags or stickers yet. Then you contact your local second-hand dealers and offer them the opportunity to buy a 15 minute time slot for an individual private viewing of your inventory where they can make offers to purchase anything. The first time slot could cost, say, $75, the second might then cost $50 because your items have now been "picked over", the third time slot might cost $30, etc.

If a dealer buys the first time slot, at say $75, any purchases will come off the $75. So if he only buys $30 worth of goods, you have made an extra $45 for nothing. If he buys $100 of goods, he pays you an extra $25 (on top of the $75 time slot fee) and you have sold $100 of items already.

You will find the dealer will want to buy at least $75 of anything because he won't want to walk away with nothing or give you any money for nothing. So you can expect at least $75 of guaranteed sales from that person.

How much you charge for each slot will depend on your items and prices. You aren’t sure, you can start high and if you don’t get any takers, come back later with lower rates.

It isn't all easy money. You still need to sort, clean and present your items for sale. You don't necessarily have to attach price tags onto the items but you do need to have a list of the items and the prices you will ask for them. Your prices will of course be appropriately inflated for exclusive sales to a dealer.

You will also still need to go through the normal haggling process. You will find all your good stuff gets bought at top-dollar prices leaving all the miscellaneous stuff of questionable value. You can then decide whether it is worth your while to spend money on signs, advertising and a day in your garage or just donate everything that is left or have a Free Garage Sale!

Pay shoppers to shop at your garage sale!

Yes, pay them to shop.

Many sales techniques you see in retail stores also work in garage sales. One that I have often used is the "Cash Back" promotion.

I was selling a desk in a garage sale and the customer's top offer was $10 but my rock-bottom price was $15. No-one else had shown interest in the desk and I was keen to sell it – but not give it away.

A common method to encourage someone to come up closer to your price is to sweeten the deal by throwing in something extra for 'free'. The problem is that the customer will probably accept it but may not really want it and not give it a lot of "value" and so not move up their price as much as you would expect. I had a desk lamp and drawer organizer that I could throw in to sweeten the deal but I new they already had these so it wasn't going to be of much value to them and not entice them to raise their price.

A better method would be to say "Is there anything else you have seen in my garage sale that I could throw in to help you come up to my price?" Often the customer would say that they don't know and they would have to have another look. There are problems with this:

  1. I would lose the sales momentum while they look around again. They have a chance to think it over more and may decide they don't really need the desk after all.
  2. I would need to put a "Not for sale" sign on it while they looked and I may miss out on selling it to another customer for my price.
  3. I will probably have to haggle over the other item/s they pick too!

A more effective method is to offer a "Cash Back" deal during the sales process. In effect, I would say, "If you come up to $15 and buy the desk now, I'll give you $5 for you to buy something else that you value afterwards."

In a retail store, you would get either cash in hand or a check is posted to you after you send in an application. Both ways is like free money and who doesn’t like free money? And who doesn’t like to buy with free money? You can then buy something you value.

"But hang on one minute" I hear you say.

"If I give them money how do I make sure they buy what they value at my garage sale and not go to the next one and spend the money there?"

I'm glad you asked that question. To get around this problem, you don’t give them actual cash but a coupon that says: This coupon has a value of $1 and can be used towards the purchase of any displayed item at the Garage Sale at "your address" or something like that. When I sold my desk, I gave the person 5 $1 coupons. This way,

  1. I made the sale because the sales process wasn't interrupted while they looked for something else. They can do that afterwards and take all day if they like.
  2. I now have another guaranteed $5 sale because who would throw away ‘free’ money?

So for your next garage sale, print up a bunch of 50c, $1 and $2 coupons to give to shoppers to help you make more sales.


Another strategy is to welcome everyone as they come in to your garage sale and hand them a 50c coupon to be used towards the purchase of any item. This also helps to get people into a spending mood. Who doesn’t like to buy with free money?

Don't let the buyer intimidate you

The buyer will try every trick in the book to get your price down. They will say things like:

Don't take it personally. It's just a tactic in the game. Just smile and refer to the next tip for what to say.

What to say if the buyer is insistent on getting you down past a price you feel is fair

Always talk with a strong, confident voice. If they see that you are nervous or unsure, they will keep trying to wear you down. Reply with:


Page 1 of 3 pages of garage sale selling and haggling tips.

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