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Best safety and security tips

Unfortunately there will always be that element of risk when dealing with strangers. There is the risk to you, to them and to your property. Incidences can be accidental or intentional. These tips will help you minimize the risks.

Don't leave electrical appliances and tools plugged in or batteries in battery-powered tools

People may trip over the power cords or pull the appliance down onto other things. Children (or some unsupervised adults) might accidentally turn something on - like a circular saw! Oops, I think you're going to need more than that box of tissues.

Keep your yard and garage clear hazards

This includes tripping hazards, low tree branches, unstable tables, large objects on the edge of tables, etc.

Don't include your address in your ads or flyers

Apart from the reasons mentioned in the other sections, without an address, you don't need to worry about being a target for burglars before your sale.

Always have at least two adults present during your garage sale

Three would be better as there will be times during the day when one person will need to quickly drive around and check the signs are still up or prepare lunch, etc.

Be visible

Resist the urge to go inside when there is no-one around. You may miss some customers and some of your merchandise while you are all inside.

Position yourself at the front of your garage in view of the street

Apart from helping to make sure your garage sale doesn't look deserted (a bad sign to people as they slowly drive by) it is safer for you than being at the back of your garage sale where you can't be seen from the street.

Don't block the view to your front door or side gate

Don't hang clothes up or position a large cupboard so that you can't see who is loitering at your front door, side gate or other items for sale in your yard.

Be vigilant

Thieves often work in pairs or groups where one will try to distract you while the other will steal small valuable items or your cash box. Refer to Best tips when handling money. Quite often they'll be there with the early birds while you are trying to set up or during the rush when you have 10-12 shoppers all haggling over prices, so be vigilant.

Another technique I have heard being used is a person will ask something to try to get you to go inside while they help themselves to your tables. They might say they're looking for any sort of jewelry (perhaps you have some that you hadn't considered selling until you heard how much they were prepared to spend) or that they like fixing things and are keen to buy any old televisions, computers or broken electronics (that you were planning to throw out and so hadn't included in your sale).

If you go inside, always make sure you let one of your helpers know so they can keep an eye on things while you are inside.

How to deal with a suspected pilferer

If you suspect someone is trying to steal something from your tables, make yourself visible by walking around tidying up and re-arranging items. Ask what they are interested in and whether you can help. The close scrutiny will dissuade them from trying anything.

Lock up the house

Always keep your house locked and no windows left open and be careful not to lock yourself out!

Never allow anyone to go inside your house

If they need a toilet (even for a child), direct them to the nearest gas station, fast food restaurant or shopping mall. Have a sign up saying NO RESTROOM AVAILABLE may avoid you having to refuse a request. If they want to try on some clothes, have a full-length mirror outside that they can use.

Watch out for people who are wearing a fanny pack

Most serious buyers will be wearing a fanny pack but one might be there to pretend to be the owner and sell some of your items pocketing the cash!

Try to only have one person as the designated money-person

Having only one person designated to handle the money prevents a shopper claiming that they paid for the item with someone else or you asking a customer twice for payment.

Always check what's being bought

If someone tries to help by totaling a number of items for you and just gives you the total, always have a quick look through the items to make sure they haven't slipped a high value item in there without including its correct price.

Use your Inventory Record to check what's being bought

If you have an Inventory Record handy on a clipboard, each time you make a sale check the id number on the price tag to your list to ensure the correct tag is on the item and hasn't been swapped with a cheaper price tag.

  • You can also cross-off the item so you can quickly see at the end of the day what unsold items you should have left.
  • You can also write the final price against the item to quickly add up how much money you should have.
  • In the case of a group sale, you can quickly add the sale prices of each Group's sold items to help divide up the money.

Don't accept a check or payment other than cash

There isn't any way for you to know if there are funds available or if the check was written on a closed account. If they don't have enough cash on them, tell them where the nearest ATM is.

Try not to accept deposits

  • Insist on payment in full. If they don't have the cash on them and it's a high value item, write the details down on paper including their name and contact number, the agreed sale price and the time they are to return with cash to complete the sale. Include a statement saying that both parties agree that the transaction is void after the nominated time, the deposit can be reclaimed and the goods can be resold and have them sign it. If they don't come back within the agreed time (allowing for delays) then you can try to sell it to someone else. If the original party does eventually return, you have some evidence to argue your case.
  • While accepting a deposit helps to ensure they are serious and intend to return, a risk is that they have time to think about it. When they return, they may say they've had second thoughts and don't want to buy it now. You are now left with the unsold item and have missed out on selling it during the day.

If you accept a deposit, try not to miss out on a sale

If you do accept a deposit, and you have enquiries from others later, make a note of their name and phone number so you can ring them if the original buyer doesn't complete the sale.

Don't be too nice to customers by helping to carry out their large purchase

This is a tough one. Be careful if you're asked to help take something out to the person's car and/or load it for them. This can take more time than you would like, leaves your garage sale one person down and you may miss a sales opportunity.

This distraction may also be what the 'buyer' wants to happen while an accomplice helps themselves to your merchandise.

The buyer might also come back claiming that you didn't load all their purchases and they'll want a refund for the 'missing' items. They could be right because it's unlikely you can remember their exact purchases. They could also be trying to con you. You could test them by saying "You're the third person to try that stunt today and it won't work". Chances are that if they're trying to con you they won't be bothered to try to get away with a $5 con.

If you have other shoppers browsing, be clear that you can only offer a quick help (if you have helpers to mind the store) or that you can spend more time later when it's less busy. I've been caught a couple of times. Once where the person needed me to help re-arrange their full trunk trying to fit in the chair they bought. Another time was to help them retie down their trailer.

Protect yourself with these signs

To protect yourself and in case a customer comes back later wanting their money back, display these signs prominently:


Also, don't put yourself in a position where you may get an unhappy customer:

  • Don't lie about the condition of an item.
  • If the item doesn't work or has a defect, be upfront and tell them about it before they buy it.
  • If it's a serious defect and you think they may return it, have them sign something agreeing to its condition as part of the sale.

Advise your local community crime watch leader

Not only will they pass on security tips but they may also help spread the word that you are having a garage sale to other residents.

Having said all that - don't be put off. It's unlikely that these things will happen to you but it's better to be safe than sorry.


More related tips on these pages...


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