There are few things about a garage sale that are controversial. Generally speaking, a seller is quite pleased to spring clean and de-clutter, especially when earning a bit of cash in the process. A buyer is usually, equally eager to purchase the seller’s stuff, using or repurposing as he or she sees fit.
It is a casual, laissez-faire, kind of adventure. Shoppers browse, dig and bargain, with a minimum of structure and constraints. Very little money is on the line and fun is the order of business. All in all, it is a win-win shopping experience for both the seller and the buyer.
Those of us who frequent garage sales know that already. We live it every weekend, without any hullabaloo or debate whatsoever.
Can you make a garage sale not a garage sale? It is not a riddle, but rather, the source and crux of the controversy posed. Should an entry fee or admission price be charged to go to a garage sale? Does paying a fee to attend a garage sale change its very nature? Is it problematic, if not oxymoronic, for a shopper to shell out garage sale cash in order to rummage through “trash” looking for “treasure?”
Here are negatives to charging an entry fee.
- Seasoned shoppers agree. It can be a deal breaker, a reason to think about going to the garage sale or the basis for not going to the sale at all. There is a lot of competition for garage sale dollars. Sellers should aim to include as many people as possible to come to the sale and to do all they can to encourage, not discourage, buying. That entry fee could be 10 items not purchased by a shopper. (In other words, the shopper will compensate for the $5 entry fee paid by not buying 10 items at fifty cents each, equaling $5.00).
- It can feel a lot less like a garage sale if a shopper is charged an entry fee to go to the garage sale. In fact, most garage sales do not charge admission fees. Most retail shops, from big box stores to boutiques, do not charge admission to shop. (Admittedly, there is an exception. A flea market or holiday mart type event does charge to get into the venue. They presumably pay an overhead expense of insurance, lighting, etc. which needs to be absorbed somehow.)
- The garage sale will be held to a higher standard. If and when people pay to go to the sale, they are more concerned that they actually receive the value, their perceived value, of the admission fee. If they walk away without buying anything, grumbling will be heard and felt. That buyer is unlikely to return next year as well.
- Similarly, the garage sale will be scrutinized more closely for fairness. If the garage sale has been shopped, or “picked”, before the paying shoppers actually shop, it really needs not to show. It is a colossal error, if not an injustice, to parade volunteers and their garage sale loot in front of those waiting to pay to enter the sale.
- There is a risk of making the shoppers feel gauged or ill treated, especially given the circumstances specified above. It is like being charged for a baggage fee or a banking fee.
- Most shoppers would prefer if you asked for a voluntary donation, upped the prices to make up for amounts earned in admission fees, or eliminated any negotiation.
There are positives to charging an entry fee.
- It does increase the bottom line of your garage sale. It is an effective fundraiser. It may offset adminstrative costs.
- It may limit the crowds.
If you do not object to paying admission fees, head over to St. Theresa’s Academy on Friday at 9 a.m. There is a $5 admission fee from 9 to 11 a.m. only. The annual “TNT” sale runs on Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The school is located at 5600 Main Street in Kansas City. It is a large sale with a solid, long standing tradition. Last year, the sale earned about $50,000 according to its web site.
If fees are not your thing, follow neighborhood sale signs or head over to Christ the United Methodist Church in Independence. It is located at 14506 E 39th Street. Their basement sale runs on Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
What do you think about this subject? Do you go or not go to a garage sale based on an entry fee? Let your garage sale examiner know. As always, happy hunting.