Updated on 08.26.14

Yard Sale Ethics

Trent Hamm

Is the Sticker Price the End of the Story?

In my recent post about cultivating your own knowledge for fun and profit, I mentioned that you should hit yard sales, consignment shops, estate sales, and so forth as a way to put your knowledge to work for you and take advantage of underpriced items. A few commenters thought that this was unethical, so I thought I’d look at that particular point a bit more deeply.

I’ll start off by giving you a specific example of a situation where I did this in the past. As a teenager, I collected Magic: the Gathering cards (I still play with my wife using a handful of remaining cards). I had a very good idea of what some of the valuable ones were, including a few that sold for hundreds of dollars and a good number that could net $20 or more apiece.

In 2002 or 2003 (I’m not entirely sure which – I was out of college, but it was definitely before children and possibly before marriage), I visited a yard sale that was just a block away from the apartment I was renting. The couple that was running the yard sale was selling off a lot of stuff that obviously was previously owned by a teenage boy with a bit of a nerdy streak. One item was a large box full of trading cards, mostly Magic. The sticker on the box said $5. Within thirty seconds of looking through the box, I found one card I knew I could resell on eBay for $20 and a couple more that I thought could net me at least $5 each – and I had suspicions of finding some of the real valuable ones in the box.

I asked the couple if the box was really available for $5. They said it was and that much of the stuff was items their son had said he didn’t want when he went away to college. I immediately paid $5 and walked away.

I netted a nice profit from selling some of the cards, but I also kept many of the cards and some of them make up the handful of cards I still have.

Here’s the question: was I ethically obligated to tell the people running the sale that their items were potentially worth much more than $5?

My opinion is that the buyer never needs to say such a thing. The seller has the responsibility of setting the price for the item. If they want to set an accurate price, they should investigate the item they’re selling.

This is particularly true today, in the age of the internet, where you can find the value of almost any item you have. An eBay search for those cards would have quickly revealed, even after searching for just a handful of them, that the individual cards had significant value. Even just searching for “Magic: the Gathering” on eBay would have shown that such cards often have value.

To me, the question really comes down to this: should knowledge of the value of an item be the responsibility of the seller? I absolutely think so.

When I’m trying to figure out if I’m doing the right thing in such a situation, the first thing I do is put myself in the seller’s shoes. If I were the seller in this situation, would I consider it ethical and fair for the buyer to tell me that I had grossly mis-priced an item?

In a word, no. If I were the seller, accurate pricing is my responsibility, not the buyer’s. If I put something on a table at a yard sale with a sticker on it, that means I’m agreeing to sell the item for that price. If a buyer thinks that’s a good deal – and in this case, the buyer certainly did – then the buyer has every right to pay that price and attempt to turn a profit on it.

I did a similar thing with Nintendo Wiis back in 2006. During that Christmas year, you could easily resell new Nintendo Wiis in the box for $350-400 online after buying them in the store for $250. When Target or Wal-Mart put a Wii out on a shelf for $250, should I have grabbed one and ran for the checkout or should I have informed the manager that they were worth $350 before buying them?

Now, here’s a separate but connected issue: should a buyer tell a seller if they think an item is radically mispriced? I think it’s a kind thing to do, but I don’t think it’s a required thing to do.

If I had it to do over again, I would probably walk up to the seller and say something like, “This box seems like a really good deal. I think there are some cards in there that I could sell to the right buyer for more than what you’re asking.” Then, I would probably offer them more for the box than the sticker price, but I wouldn’t offer them the hypothetical resale value of the cards, either – probably $10 or $15.

Now, if I were a seller and someone did this to me, I’d refuse to take more than the $5 stated on the sticker. After all, I view the sticker price as the seller’s responsibility, not the buyer’s.

That’s my full take on the issue.

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  1. Des says:

    “I think it’s a kind thing to do, but I don’t think it’s a required thing to do.”

    I think this depends on who’s “requirements” you’re talking about. Is it required by law? Obviously not. Is it required by ethics? Maybe. What if the garage sale was run by an elderly woman trying to make enough money to pay for her medication? What if it was a family struggling to get by after a layoff?

    Obviously, at a garage sale buyers expect a good deal and sellers expect a fraction of the retail value for their items. I would still say it is an ethical gray area.

  2. moom says:

    Some things like insider trading in the stock market are banned because the assymmetry of knowledge is considered unfair…

  3. Hannah says:

    I agree with this. I doubt anyone would say you’re obligated to tell Walmart when they’re selling something for less than it’s going for elsewhere (when in fact that’s part of their business model).

    Just because you are dealing with an individual doesn’t change the fact that it is a business transaction. The couple got $5 for something they clearly had no intention of doing anything with. They also got more traffic to their yard sale. Everybody won in this situation, since the alternative would have been some cards ending up in the trash.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Not even when that person is a relative? (like the cousin’s attic in the other post.)

  5. L says:

    I think you’re trying to justify your own behavior, Trent. Not judging you, I may have done the same thing, but there’s a difference between what’s legal/permissible and what’s moral or ethical. If they would have had a Superman #1 comic out there (not a comic book expert here so I’m winging it here) for sale in a plastic bag, labelled for $500, that clearly shows they know it’s valuable, but it would be worth far, far more than that, but what if it’s a forgery? Too bad for the buyer, right? That is, the seller knows he’s selling something worthless but the buyer thinks he’s getting something of great value. Why isn’t that the same? I’ll tell you: we’d consider that fraud on the part of the seller. While the situation Trent lays out might not be legal fraud on the part of the buyer, it might amount to moral fraud — the buyer is buying something under false pretenses. There is a presumption in striking a bargain any time goods are exchanged for value that both parties are dealing in good faith and that both parties have knowledge of all relevant facts. There is a famous case law students study (I am a lawyer) where a man sells a cow to another man not knowing the cow is pregnant with a calf. Obviously that cow is more valuable than he knew. The court invalidated the deal because there was no “meeting of the minds.”
    Anyways, I question the morality and ethics of this kind of dealing. This kind of bad karma will bite you in the butt some day.

  6. Matt says:

    @ moom –
    Insider trading is completely different than what Trent is talking about here. Insider trading occurs when nobody else has the opportunity to gain the knowledge. In this case (or many other “I found this thing at a yard sale way cheap” stories), the knowledge is available fairly freely – the sellers simply did not avail themselves of that knowledge base. Getting rid of the clutter had a greater value to them than getting top dollar.

    @ Des – I think if the buyer and seller agree on a price, it’s not an ethical issue at all. The seller has had the opportunity to do research on the value of the items they’re selling. If both parties agree on a price, I think it’s fair. Putting the onus on the buyer to pay more than the asking price if they feel the seller really needs the money doesn’t make sense to me.

  7. Johanna says:

    I’m with Trent here. Part of what brings a lot of people out to yard sales is the possibility of finding things that they can resell at a profit. And in my experience anyway, the reason someone would have a yard sale rather than selling things individually on eBay or what have you is that it’s more important to them to get rid of a lot of stuff quickly than to get absolute top dollar for everything.

  8. James says:

    There is nothing unethical about it at all. That’s how yard sales work.

  9. Wes says:

    Moom, insider trading is unfair (and illegal)because the trader has knowledge that is not publicly available. Assymentry in and of itself is not unfair, it occurs to some degree in almost all transactions that take place.

    In Trent’s scenario, the information about the true value of the cards was readily and easily available to both the seller and the buyer, along with any other prospective buyers out there.

    To project this idea onto your insider trading example, is it unfair if a trader spends a ton of time reading about an industry, gathering data on certain companies, and running valuation models to determine that a stock is underpriced before he or she makes a good buy? No, because anyone else could have done that as well if they wanted to. Is it unfair if an executive employee of a company learns in an internal and confidential meeting that the company is about to tank and then short sells the stock before the news gets to the press? Yes, because other players in the market did not have access to that information.

  10. Johanna says:

    @Gretchen: I think the deceased person’s attic is a totally different situation, and is a lot more like “insider trading.” In that case, the items belong to the next of kin, who may not have had a chance to investigate their value. So I’d say that taking something that’s worth more than it looks like it is is not right, even if you have an agreement that you can take whatever you want.

  11. Jenny says:

    I agree. When I hold a yard sale, I go through all my stuff carefully and look up on eBay any items I suspect may be valuable. I wouldn’t want to be told if one of my items was worth more. If I put a $5 sticker on something, I think it would be dishonest of ME to thank an honest person by raising the price. I thought this was what made a yard sale a yard sale. If you feel morally bound to pay actual value, why not go to an antique or pawn shop. (Antique shop owners, by the way, frequently pick up super deals at yard/estate sales and that’s how they stay in business.) I think there are times when people price things low because they want to dump the item fast due to emotional reasons, or just because they didn’t care enough about making money to do the research.

    Now, if you see something in a box, purse or coat at a yard sale that you don’t think the person meant to sell at all–like a piece of jewelry stuck in a pocket–THEN I think the honest thing would be to tell them.

  12. done that says:

    I agree with Des. I might consider who the seller is. I was thinking more that I have often mentioned to young (10ish) entrepreneurs that they might want to check their price. The other thing is that I live in a smaller community and often this is my neighbor that I will have to live with after I buy his stuff. But the bottom line is that I agree with Trent. Part of the fun of yard sales is that sometimes I get very lucky and get a great item at a great price. But I do occasionally consider giving the seller an undeserved break in the interests of good karma.

  13. I’m with Trent here. We had a garage sale this summer. I sold several sets of DVDs (television series) in “like new” condition. I sold them for $10 each, and I sold my LOST sets (Seasons 1-5) for $15 each. Didn’t I know I could have gotten more? Of course. But I knew I was offering a deal, they would move quickly, and I would have money for my real goal–buying the complete set of LOST later in the summer.

    Bottom line for me: If I’m selling something, *I* set the price. Even if I undervalued it, I still received my asking price, which is fair, in my book.

  14. Steve says:

    Hannah, don’t forget the ebay buyers who got cards they didn’t find locally for a price they found agreeable, thanks to Trent’s find.

    You also have to account for the fact that these cards are, in all actuality, worthless. They have no intrinsic value. The people selling the box of cards had zero use for them, and in their minds, $5 was far more useful than a box of cards. Both parties walked away happy, and that’s the best kind of transaction.

  15. Sara says:

    Oh please, there are transactions like this going on CONSTANTLY, even on Craig’s List 100x every minute! People oftentimes don’t care what something is worth, they just want to get rid of it, which is why they are selling it for a low price! When I moved I sold a bed that cost me $750 retail, but I charged a guy $50 for it. Should he have said “I bet you could have sold this for more”? NO! He got a good deal because I just wanted the bed gone and didn’t care all that much what I got for it. Same thing as donating clothes or other goods – sure, I could go on Ebay and sell them for a profit, but I don’t care to do all that work so I just give stuff like that away! Just because I don’t look up the price doesn’t mean I was taken advantage of or that I even CARED that it could have made me money! Haven’t any of these naysayers ever seen Antique Roadshow? :P

  16. Katie says:

    Yes, I’d probably make my decision based on how valuable the thing in question was and who was selling it. If it’s something I bought for $5 that can be resold for $20 or even $50, I wouldn’t be too concerned. If it’s something that’s akin to a winning lottery ticket and could go for $5,000, I’d feel more of a compulsion to tell.

    Similarly, if the seller is very young I’d be more likely to tell. I might also tell them about the value of the item if it’s clear that it’s in the aftermath of a sudden death or something like that where the circumstances didn’t give the person the time or wherewithal to go through the items carefully themselves. Or if the person in question is clearly in dire financial straits.

  17. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I agree with the idea that I’d handle it differently depending on who the person is running the sale. I’d be more likely to try to pay more to an elderly lady who is trying to pay for her husband’s chemotherapy than to a middle aged couple in a huge house that’s trying to clear out their son’s bedroom for a new den.

    As for information asymmetry, as mentioned above, I don’t think it’s an issue. We both have access to eBay – there’s no hidden information here. I think that the effort someone has gone through to do extra research and homework to really identify the value of things deserves reward.

  18. almost there says:

    I agree that Trent took advantage of the cousin when he got valuables from the attic without disclosing it. But I agree with this article because it is up to the seller to know the value of items at a yard sale. When I lived in Guam the local ladies would always go to garage sales of military leaving the island and offer 10 cents on an asking price of a dollar for clothing in great condition, knowing that the military people were pressed to get rid of the excess weight that they couldn’t ship. They would take the clothing down to the outdoor markets and sell for quite the markup. Around here people want to pay almost nothing for items at a yard sale. In the pre ebay days my mother let an autographed John Elway orange #7 jersey that she won in a contest go for $25 thinking it was a good deal. I told her after I found out that there are people willing to pay thousands of dollars for stuff like that. So, the seller needs to learn the value of what they are selling.

  19. moom says:

    I didn’t say it was the same as insider trading. That is just a more extreme example of asymmetric information. There is another example in the Talmud about a camel that was sold with a gemstone hidden in the saddlebag. Shimon Ben Shetach who bought the camel told his servants who were happy about the find to take the gem back to the seller… Personally, I’d probably take advantage of the situation with the cards too if I had the knowledge, but I wouldn’t “boast” about it.

  20. “Some things like insider trading in the stock market are banned because the assymmetry (sic) of knowledge is considered unfair…”

    Not when the insiders are buying something that originates with an unrelated seller.

    Come on: are you really going to ask an old lady selling Honus Wagner baseball cards for a nickel each “Are you going to use this money for medication?”

    Matt’s right: often the sellers aren’t selling items so much as they’re selling clutter (or buying cleanliness and order, if you want to look at it that way.)

    I’d love to know the financial situations of the people citing “karma”. Sorry, but that concept has no place in financial transactions. If you question the seller’s motivation (see above), that’s your problem, not the seller’s. Brag about karma all you want: meanwhile the next buyer to come by will make the exact same transaction you walked away from, leaving the seller in the exact same position.

    Taking advantage of a minor seller is one thing – there’s a reason why kids don’t enjoy the rights and incur the responsibilities the rest of us do. The parents should be supervising the kid anyway.

    Of course you need to look at the transaction from the other party’s perspective. And so does the other party.

  21. Johanna says:

    Roald Dahl wrote a great story (called “Parson’s Pleasure”) about the dangers of taking too much advantage of asymmetric information. You can find the whole thing online. :)

  22. Trevor says:

    What if the gas station down the road has a mixup and instead of $2.99 gas, the pump price is $.299? Would it be ethical / right to pump all the gas you wanted and call your friends or should you go inside and let the store manager know of the mixup?

  23. Sunny says:

    I agree with you.

    From the seller’s POV, there are times that I feel I may be able to get more money for an item, but I don’t have time to research the item (or have it repaired etc). I feel that freeing up my life of clutter is worth any possible money I might lose. And bonus, I get five bucks that I had from something sitting there cluttering up my life.
    (This is why the people at Half-Price Books love me, I never gripe at them over a few dollars when I sell my books back.)

  24. Wes says:

    But still, Moom, the Camel story doesn’t reflect the concept of asymmetric information unless the buyer knew the jewel was on the camel before he agreed to buy it. And even then, to truly reflect the idea of asymetric information, I think both parties would have to know about the presence of the stone on the camel, but one would know it’s true value while the other thought it was a common rock. I haven’t read the story, but it looks like both the buyer and the seller were unaware of the jewel until after the trade. Thus they made an agreement based on similar information, and that’s symmetric.

    Your point, though, does raise the question of windfalls. If Trent had found some gold coins in the box AFTER he purchased it, does the ethical question change? I think it does.

  25. Daria says:

    The elderly couple across the street from me died a couple of years ago. Their nephew, who lived in Maryland, and was the only heir did not want to spend the money to move things to Maryland. He gave a lot of items for free to us neighbors and he hired me to run an estate sale for him. I was not a professional and he knew it. I asked him if he wanted to hire a professional company and he said no. There was a lot of stuff and because he was paying me $15 an hour to go through things and set up the sale, I felt under pressure not to run up his bill. there was just too much to look up the value on the internet. I had neighbors help me price stuff. My best friend fell in love with an end table that was from a large piece of petrified wood. I let her buy it for $15. I could have had it for free but it was not something I was interested in. She looked it up on the internet. It is a museum quality piece that you cannot buy and it is valued at approximately $35K.Did the nephew get cheated? I don’t think so. He wasn’t interested in it himself. He would have given it to me for free if I had wanted it. He was not interested in using a professional appraiser. Would I have gotten $35K if I knew it’s value. Probably not. I couldn’t get the value of items like the depression glass that I knew their value at the estate sale.

  26. brad says:

    @ #18 johanna

    thanks for the reference, checked it out and it was a very entertaining read. i was so invested in it my stomach started hurting when i realized what they were doing!! :)

  27. Courtney says:

    I think it’s fine, unless you are buying from someone who is obviously not mentally competent – for example, an elderly person with dementia. That would be weaselly.

  28. David says:

    Absolutely it is the SELLER’S responsibility. Period. No further discussion needed.

  29. Annie Jones says:

    I agree with Trent, that it’s absolutely the responsibility of the seller to know what they are selling.

    No way I would ever tell a seller they had under-priced something. Actually, I’d never tell them they had over-priced something, either; I might ask them to come down on the price, or I’d just walk away. Finally, I won’t suggest a price on an unpriced item when a seller asks “what would you give me for it?” I always tell them it’s their item and they need to be the one to decide what they want for it.

  30. Johanna says:

    @brad: Roald Dahl wrote quite a lot of short stories, if ever you want your stomach to hurt even more. :)

  31. AndreaS says:

    I think we’re confusing kindness with ethics. In a strictly business transaction, there is no room for kindness… it is understood that each party is trying to get the best deal he can for himself. In some situations, as Trent indicated, you can choose to be kind…it is an option.

    There is some sentiment expressed that the ethics is about the degree to which the item is undersold, or that it depends on how needy the seller is. That’s like saying it is okay to steal a dime, but not a dollar, or okay to steal from a rich person, but not a poor person. It is either right or wrong.

    Most items sold at yard sales are under priced. Like-new secondhand items have the same intrinsic value as new items, but we all expect to pay 10 to 20% of the retail price.

    As for the Guam ladies buying items from the military families: Too bad those military families didn’t buy their stuff secondhand, so it could have been resold at a break even price. Too bad those military families didn’t have the foresight to not buy too much while they were there, because they knew when they arrived that the military will pay to move only so much of their stuff. Too bad those military families didn’t set up some sort of system where outgoing families could sell to incoming families. Too bad those military families didn’t save enough money to pay to ship their excess stuff.

  32. Michael says:

    That Dahl story was good. Thanks, Johanna.

  33. kristine says:

    As someone who lives near the Walmart with the trampling death, I would argue that buying a Wii only to immediately resell it inflates prices, causes shortages, and clears the shelves of an item that many family an only afford at 250, not 350-400.

    It is no different than scalping tickets, and we have all seen the disastrous results of merchandise frenzy. It is why festival seating and scalping tickets are illegal. I find it unethical to buy more than you will use or gift, just as I find scalping wrong.

    I do however, see this as different than buying troll dolls or cabbage patch dolls in anticipation of collectibility. There is a lag time that makes it an investment, as opposed to opportunistic fleecing and creating faux-scarcity.

    I am glad to see that you would take into account the seller. But unless you can read minds, you do not know if that middle class family is paying for their kids chemo-therapy, or using the money for a Chucky Cheese party. They may not give you the whole story, as hardship is usually considered private.

    I found a bunch of old comics at the Salvation Army for 25 cents each. Tons, really. Not knowing anything about comics, I just picked out the oldest ones, about 50 of them. Turns out my first edition Daredevil, and issue 2 of Submariner are worth quite the pretty penny. I do not know if I would have acted differently had I actually known the value up front. I was guessing. To no avail however, my on insists on keeping them and reading them occasionally, and we probably have them till they are in no condition to sell. But hey, that is what comics are for!

  34. I consider yard sales and retail purchases to be a business transaction and nothing more. Buy low and sell High….Survival of the fittest.

    Maybe I am heartless but I would have no problem giving some old widdow $5 for her dead husbands golf clubs because she doesn’t know what they’re worth or how to use the internet. In fact I would probably talk her down to $3 because, I also know it would be difficult for her to carry them back inside if they don’t sell.

  35. Noadi says:

    Entirely depends on circumstances. If it’s a family getting rid of junk they don’t have space for? I feel no ethical responsibility to tell them their stuff is worth more.

    On the other hand, if it’s a charity sale or I think the people running the sale really need to money I might feel it unethical to take advantage of their not knowing the true value of their items.

    Yeah I know, that’s a bit of moral relativism but the world isn’t black and white, there’s lots of fuzzy grayness.

  36. Marinda says:

    Having had successful yard sales on things I just wanted gone, I know nothing of significant value went unnoticed by me. I now take things to the local thrift shop, so they can sell and I purchase most of my hardcover books there for 1.00, some are still on the best seller list, but that’s their price, so I get a bargain.

  37. Jennifer says:

    The reason I shop at yard sales is to strike a good deal. If I wanted to pay full retail value I’d do retail. I also think the point of a yard sale is to get rid of stuff, not get rich, and I also know that people usually shop at yard sales for a good deal and I price my items accordingly.

  38. Michelle says:

    I saw this same question posed to the writer of the ethics column in the New York Times Magazine. He agreed with you, as do I.

  39. SupportingParents says:

    The seller put something on their front lawn, listed the price they wanted to get, and got paid what they asked for it. I don’t see a problem with this. Obviously the seller was happier with the $5 than they were with the cards.

    I bought a $5 ring at a flea market that the woman was happy to sell. A year later I had it sized and the jeweler admired my diamond filagree white gold ring! Are you all saying that I’m obligated to place an ad in the paper, track down the seller, and make her take it back? She accepted the $5 for her “junk”, that’s good luck, not insider trading or immoral behavior.

  40. Wes says:

    Interesting perspective, Kristine. I would argue, however, that re-selling items at higher prices doesn’t actually inflate prices as much as it pushes underpriced items to their market price. And the shortages you speak of are not created by the re-sellers, but by the suppliers. Buying and re-selling Wii’s has no effect with how many of them are on the market (except maybe locally, but one could argue that since they are likely being sold online, they are still locally available), but everything to do with how many Nintendo can produce.

    Sometimes, sellers will sell items below market prices for various reasons. I don’t know why Wal-Mart underprices their Wii’s, but maybe they’re trying to avoid media attention for selling a scarce item at a high price (but again, they don’t have control over either scarcity or demand for the product). Unfortunately, such actions create inefficiencies in the market, and the re-sellers earn a premium for correcting that inefficiency.

    And before anyone says it, I know that all of this assumes that how much people can pay for Wiis is the best way to allocate them. Whether or not that is ethical is another debate, but for our purposes now I think we can all appreciate the fact that it’s simply the way our economy works, at least with items like Wiis.

  41. Stephanie says:

    As someone who is about to conduct a THIRD estate sale for my deceased great uncle’s estate, I think people are blowing this out of proportion! We want the stuff to be sold, yet we realize that we don’t have an entire lifetime to look up the value of even 1/4 of the stuff we are trying to get rid of. Pricing is fair, but leans towards the low side. I am not going to be angry about people potentially reselling things at a higher price since they clearly have more time to jump through those hoops than I do!

  42. valleycat1 says:

    Antiques Roadshow, anyone? Where would it be without “I got it for a dollar” and “It’s worth $xx,xxx”?

  43. Larabara says:

    Every now and then the news comes up with a story of someone who bought an item at a garage/yard/estate sale, and then turned around and sold it to a collector/museum/dealer for millions.

    I think the latest story was about someone who bought some Ansel Adams works for $45 and it turned out to be worth something in the stratosphere. Although in this case I think they held on to the items for about 20 years before putting them up for sale.

    But most of the stories stress that the buyer knew that they were taking advantage of the seller’s ignorance, and pounced on the chance to score a fortune in profit. I always wondered if the sellers had any recourse in these rare cases.

  44. Nancy says:

    Absolutely not unethical. All those who state otherwise is absolutely ridiculous.

    Simply put, YOU had the knowledge and expertise to know the “value” of the product from years of being involved in the hobby, or have at least invested the time to research the product after you purchased it. The seller did not invest in the “labor” to determine the product or sell it for its true value. This “labor” or processing is not free.

    In addition, once you purchase the item for $5, YOU have to use the time and energy to search for a person willing to purchase the product. Whether it is via Ebay, etc you are taking the time to resell the product. Just because an item is a collectible, does not mean that you will easily find a seller.

    If you see a rare item in a thrift store, would it be up you to tell the seller this? Absolutely not. Again, they probably know that there may be stuff of value but just don’t have the time to dig through and figure out of all the stuff they have available what is worth $ and what is junk.

    If it is unethical, it puts to question the History channel shows: American Pickers and Pawn Stars.

  45. almost there says:

    #25, AndreaS. My, you showed your anti-military bent. I was just pointing out that people get taken advantage of when they have to move at a moment’s notice. I was born on Guam so know a little of the isle. It wasn’t named the island of theives for nuthhin’. When I lived there a lot of military the housing areas were open to the public and if it wasn’t chained down or locked up it was taken. 25% of Guam is made up of filipinos(local ladies) and they are known as the ____ of the Pacific. They know the value of the $, and who could blame them after what Spain, Japan and the USA have done to them. The government of Guam is the most corrupt of any state or territory in the USA but that is another topic. Read Manchester’s “Goodbye Darkness” to get to know Guam.

  46. Becky says:

    My father is king of yard sales. His best “bargain” ever was in a worhtless book of stamps.

    He was flipping through it and in the middle he noticed a signed picture of babe ruth. He shut the book, paid the $3 on the price sticker and promptly got it verified and sold it for several thousand dollars. I’m a little torn on the ethics to be honest.

    But as he has found a number of bargains at yard sales he is worried about HIS possessions when we die. He is a borderline hoarder and has junk mixed in with valuable things. He is afraid that when he dies us kids will just throw everything out in the yard and sell it for 50 cents apiece. So he has spent years marking the price of the valuable items so we don’t let someone else have a yard sale bargain. ha ha!

  47. Lisa says:

    In this day of easy access to information and potential buyers (ebay, etc) yard-sales serve a very different purpose. I think it’s fairly understood that yard-sales aren’t about optimizing your profit on items, but are primarily for de-cluttering with the intent to get some money as well, but without spending a lot of time selling or researching. That’s just a given in my opinion. People sell on ebay/consignment if they are willing to spend more time and effort. I donate things I know I could get decent money for, just to save myself the time/effort.

  48. Alaine Loriss says:

    Similiar story – I found a decorative tin box at a yard sale priced at fifty cents. Inside were stamps collectied from the 1970’s, and asked the vendor if they realized the stamps were still valid postage. They said they didnt want to mess with the stamps, and I got several dollars worth of postage for under a buck. Score!

  49. Julia says:

    If you own something, it’s your responsibility to take care of it, or toss it, or give it, or sell it however you see fit.
    The potential buyer does not have a responsibility to buy it at all, let alone tell you what they think it’s actually worth.

    As for dealing with things differently based on who the seller is (i.e. the old lady trying to buy her medication) – I don’t think this is a matter of ethics, it’s a matter of charity. I’ll pay more for cookies if they’re a fund raiser for a charity. That doesn’t mean the cookies are worth more.

    I had a yard sale a couple weeks ago. I actually wish people had haggled more when looking at my stuff. I think I overpriced some of it, and I wanted it to sell! I think if somebody had told me “You only want $5 for that doll? It’s worth $50” I would’ve said “You better buy it and resell it then!” Because that would make it their responsibility.

    But really, I wish people would stop thinking of value in terms of market value. Market value defines what something is worth to a large group of people. But when you’re thinking about the value of an object that you want to buy or sell it’s a question of what is it worth to you.
    For example, a Ferrari is worth $140K to somebody, but I wouldn’t pay $10k for one.

    That box of magic cards was worth lots of money to somebody, and that made it worth $5 to Trent. But it was clearly not worth much to the people selling it. They probably would have thrown it away if it didn’t sell. (What I couldn’t sell went to Goodwill).

    I agree it’s unethical to buy an item that the seller clearly didn’t intend to sell (like an item in the pocket of a coat), and it’s equally unethical to lie about an item to get a bigger price (like the forged Comic Book example). But neither of these quite compares to not sharing that you believe an item is underpriced.

    What Trent is describing is actually more similar to (and opposite to) marketing. Remember that the reason most items cost so much at retail is because of extensive marketing efforts to convince people that they are worth more. Is marketing unethical? I think it’s only unethical if it involves a lie.

    I actually don’t think Trent ripped off his relative either. To say “Take anything you want” without looking at it is choosing to be ignorant – just like not looking up items online before putting the price tag on.

  50. Wren says:

    The cards were offered for sale by a price choosen by the seller prior without influence by Trent. Willing buyer, willing seller, seller chose price — no issues.

    Now, if the person had simply had the cards sitting out somewhere, Trent saw them while visiting and said, “I’ll give you $5 for these” knowing there was a high value card in the set, that would be unethical IMO — and a real quick way to kill a relationship — but it is a very different situation.

    Julia nailed it: an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. All else is mere speculation and unrealized potential.

  51. Johanna says:

    I went to a yard sale the other day and there were no prices on anything. I saw something I wanted, asked the woman how much it was, and she just said “Make me an offer.” I said “two dollars” and she said “OK.” My guess is that she probably would have accepted whatever I offered.

    I can see several advantages to that sort of system over the usual, you’re more likely to get what people are willing to pay, you don’t have to think up prices beforehand, and you don’t actually have to worry about getting the physical price tags to stick to all the different items without falling off or damaging them. The only disadvantage might be that some very shy people might be more reluctant to buy anything at all – but I’m very shy, myself, and I managed all right. So if you want people to haggle with you more, that’s something you could try.

  52. Michele says:

    I go to a LOT of garage sales and I have actually told people that their Homer Laughlin vintage creamer and sugar bowls were worth a lot more on ebay, (for example) but have been told many times that they don’t want to bother with listing, waiting, wrapping and shipping…they just want to get rid of stuff for a quick buck. So now I shut my mouth and take my blackberry and check online if I find something I might want for re-selling only. Otherwise, I buy what I am looking for.

  53. Bill says:

    Good article and good comments, I find it interesting that my ethics change based on the seller (old lady/kid) and the amount. I have no trouble with the magic cards for $5 that could turn $200 in sales with a lot of effort, but I would not take a cigar box that I found $10,000 stack of $100 bills for sale at $5. Still not illegal, but I would not do it.

    And think you for the lead on the ‘Parson’s Pleasure’, never heard of that writer.

  54. sipote says:

    Who’s to say the sellers did look up the cards online, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of creating an account (most likely don’t have one if they’re doing a YS), taking pics, figuring out the ebay interface, communicating with potential sellers, receiving payment (opening a Paypal acct or waiting to deposit a check), shipping the item and possibly dealing with problems with the buyer if they did not know much about the item they were selling…it was not worth it to them and the CHOSE to mark it for $5 to get rid of it…or maybe they just want to stick it to their kid!

  55. Rachel says:

    Andrea (25)- A little opinionated toward those military families, hm?

  56. SwingCheese says:

    I think Trent is in the right here. As someone else put it above, market value and what X is worth to YOU are not always the same thing. When my husband and I were moving, we decided to get rid of almost all of our cd collection (living in the 90s, I know :). I was going to take it down to the dumpster and let whomever wanted it take it. My husband took it to a cd resale place, and we ended up with some unexpected cash. Did I enjoy the cash? Sure. But if I had thrown them out,I would not have begrudged the cash going to someone who nabbed them and resold them. It simply wasn’t worth it to me to invest the time. I just wanted them gone :)

  57. Cindy Brick says:

    As a professional appraiser, thought I’d weigh in here…if I see things for sale (I specialize in textiles and paper ephemera) that are wildly underpriced, I’ll say something — but tactfully. And it is true that the seller will often say, ‘oh, I don’t have the time to look it up — just give me something for it.’ (I do NOT generally specify what its specific value is, though, unless they want to pay me for my opinion. That, after all, is my job. I might give some stronger hints, though, to the little old lady holding a garage sale to pay for an operation!)
    People who find these incredible bargains often have done years of research and patient searching. Then again, they may just luck into it, like the 1840 handkerchief I bought on Ebay for $100 recently…and saw a similar one sell in March at a prominent auction house for nearly $6000. That one was being in the right place at the right time — and thanks to lots of study and an educated gut feeling that the piece was more valuable than it was going for. (I knew where to go to double-check myself, as well.)
    Trent knew what he was looking at. That came from experience. You can’t buy that kind of knowledge — you have to earn it, step by step.

  58. Cindy Brick says:

    …and we once found a stack of Confederate currency in a metal cabinet we bought at a garage sale. But the seller was our friend, who also went to our church. We returned the money. (As well as his old divorce papers; I always wondered why he put the two types together!)

  59. Mike says:

    Meeting of the minds. couple thought just useless old cards. Trent understood the value. The old Picasso under another picture, courts would reverse transaction. If Baseball cards not “Magic” and had a Joe D rookie how would you all feel. Ethics is irrelevant of price. stealing a nickle is just as wrong as stealing a porsche. Trent should have owned up to it. IF the seller was still looking to get rid of it then they would have. Taking advantage of another person’s mistake is unethical just ask P&G when they got crushed in options spread they didn’t understand but were too Proud to admit they didn’t know what they were signing or the all the CDMO’s that almost crashed the planets financial system. Taking advantage of someone is taking advantage and it is unethical there is no gray here.

  60. Greg says:

    That’s why internet auctions are so great! The buyer does not really have to worry about setting a price because there are many buyers out there who are competing for the item, and will set a price that (more or less) balances supply and demand. The only responsibility of the seller is to provide a really accurate description of the item. For a seller who is not an expert, finding out the value of an item can be a huge cost, at least in terms of time even if the information itself may be available for free.

  61. Winston says:

    The point of a yard sale is to get rid of stuff fast, not to maximize revenue. Just about every item at every yard sale could be sold for more money if the seller researched the average price, advertised it individually and took offers over a period of weeks. The point of a yard sale is to get rid of it all in one day, not to get the highest price.

  62. Carol says:

    I wonder if the folks who believe the ”garage sale” deal is unethical, go to garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets. I have gone for years and love the hunt as much as those who are looking to get rid of stuff love the sell. If they were truly interested in the money part of it, they would research and talk to folks about the possible value of items. People who want to garage sale want to get rid of stuff or have to in a hurry and have the time to try to make a little bit of money from it. They don’t want to take the time to research or they would.
    We had to move and take only 8 suitcases with us…we did not even want to take the time to garage sale..just donated to Salvation army.
    We could have made money at a garage sale. What of items found at a Good Will store, that were donated, then purchased for a small price, who should then be notified of the items value? It is not reasonable.
    The cards were ”worth” 5 bucks to the seller, they were worth more to others…and finally, here is what I wanted to say: one persons trash is another persons treasure.

  63. I think you are absolutey right, however, I do think it would be untethcial to intentionally try to “talk down” the seller if you know the item was worth considerably more.

    I know this wasn’t mentioned, but if you know you’re gettting a steal–just don’t take advantage of the situation.

  64. Marsanne says:

    I like yard sales because I can find good deals on things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Should I tell the seller that the lamp I want is going for $50 at Target, and they are only asking $10. I don’t think so. It wouldn’t be in the yard sale pile if they didn’t want it in the first place. A yard sale is an opportunity to get rid of things that are cluttering your home. If you make anything, you should feel lucky.

    On the other hand, as far as researching the value of something…. I recently upgraded my phone. One of my friends mentioned that he would like to have my old phone; I had no further use for it and it likely would have gone to Goodwill. He offered $30 for it, and I agreed to the price. Two days later, online, the same phone went for $75. Do I have the right to be upset? No. I didn’t research the going rate for my old phone, so that’s my loss. I do know that in the future, I should at least check it out before I agree to a price and determine if it is fair. In the end, though, I’m happy with the $30. It’s more than I had before and he has a phone he wants, so I guess it was a win-win situation.

    I guess it’s just important to remember that there are two sides to every transaction, and both the buyer and the seller have the opportunity to say no, that’s not fair. In Trent’s case, both he and the seller were happy with the price, and that’s all that really matters.

  65. I bought a pin at a yard sale that was extraordinary and covered in very pretty sparkling stones that were exquisitely set. As soon as I touched it, I knew it wasn’t base metal so I asked about it, and the sellers told me they thought it might be silver plated. I paid them the $15 asking price and wore the pin periodically as it is just gorgeous and every time I put it on a jacket I looked at the very beautiful and exquisite workmanship and the brilliant sparkle of the very white stones. After two years, I took it to a pawn shop to discover that it is made of 14K white gold and the sparkly stones are very high quality diamonds and the pin is worth about $3000 in today’s market as it has serious weight to the gold and VVS-D/E diamonds. If I could remember where I bought it, I would take it back and tell them that it was sold in error as I feel guilty every time I wear it–I knew it was a quality piece when I saw it, but they swore it was not. I feel that I should have told them that based on a lifetime of collecting jewelry and dealing in gold that I was sure it was much more valuable than they thought–but they insisted it was costume and most likely would have sold it to someone else for the $15 BUT this does not alleviate the guilt I feel for not mentioning that I was sure it was worth far more than they were asking.

  66. Kim says:

    From the original post, under “Odd Jobs”:

    “even do things like help someone clean out the house of a deceased family member (which is a nice thing to do anyway). . . I’ve found great items. . .in the closet of a deceased cousin of a friend.”

    For the garage sales, I think it is buyer and seller beware, but this example bothered me. Did you tell your friend the supposed value of the item and pay for it, or did you just comment that you liked/wanted it and he just gave it to you, assuming it wasn’t worth much anyway? It seems from the purpose of the post that the whole idea was finding ways to get things for much less than they were worth.

    My cousin, who was very into antiques, used to help take care of older disabled gentlemen in his small community when he wasn’t at work. The families thought he was just wonderful–the wives might offer to pay him, and he would just say “why don’t you just give me that little trinket there, and we’ll call it even?” I thought he was taking enormous advantage of these elderly people, who thought these were just knicknacks they’d had for years, but he would show them off to us and brag about how he was able to get these very valuable or rare antiques for just a few hours of his time–his mother was quite proud of him, too! I thought it was deplorable. He is now retired and sitting pretty in his house full of antiques with the money he made selling the other antiques supporting his lifestyle!

    Admittedly this relates to the first post rather than this second one specific to yard sales, but I hope you agree with me that my cousin was unethical, and I hope that a few more facts about your story would alter my opinion of it.

  67. Callie says:

    I say haggle away!!! This statement is crazy in regards to a yard sale: -My opinion is that the buyer never needs to say such a thing. The seller has the responsibility of setting the price for the item. If they want to set an accurate price, they should investigate the item they’re selling.-

    You could be selling hundreds of items. It wouldn’t be worth your time to look them all up.

  68. tarynkay says:

    A number of years ago in my hometown, a man bought a framed print at a thrift store. The thrift store benefitted the local homeless shelter. When the man brought the print home and took it out of the frame, he realized that there were several extremely valuable books of stamps behind the picture. He went back to the thrift store and told them about it, gloating that he had been able to make $30K off this print that he bought for $0.50. This was in the newspaper and it kicked off a huge local debate about the morality of this action. My opinion: this was wrong (especially the gloating part.) But the wrongness for me, at least, really comes from the fact that the thrift store existed to benefit the homeless shelter. Similarly, if you are helping a friend clear out the closets of a deceased family member, you should NOT take things and then resell them for vast sums of money without *at least* sharing that money. The rules are just different when we’re talking about friends, family members, and charities. If you’re just buying some old gaming cards at a run-of-the-mill yardsale so that some empty-nesters can clear out juinor’s room, go ahead. But don’t gloat. Gloating is always wrong.

  69. Bridget says:

    You don’t know the motives behind why the seller is selling – maybe they just want to get rid of the stuff quickly and are willing to take a loss or just happy they are getting some money for the item. If they were more diligent, they would do more research regarding what they are selling and what the value is to the market. If they are unwilling to do the research, that is not your issue. At the time of the transaction, if both parties are happy (which they should be because the transaction occurred), then there was an equivalent value perceived on both sides.

    Put it the other way around – there is a saying from Roman Times, Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware. It behooves a buyer to do research as well. Again, the seller doesn’t know the motives of the buyer, nor is it required for a transaction to occur.

    As for relatives, friends, etc – lower your expectations if you wish the relationship to be of more value than the economic transaction. You can have your own ‘rules’ beyond that which is legal. It all depends on who you are and what your value most.

  70. Mike says:

    Hi Trent,

    Hmm, I found the question of “Is this unethical” really strange. I’d never think that buying something that you believe is undervalued as unethical in the least. You as the buyer still have the risk and responsibility to sell the items. Also, I think it’s somewhat “situational” meaning IF you were actually harming someone by offering them less for something (and they were in dire straights)….

    Ultimately, you are giving the buyer what they are asking for.

    Interesting post. Take Care, Mike

  71. Ashley says:

    I purchase items like this all the time either if they are underpriced or if I feel that I can repair and repurpose them and for resale. I work full-time and have a booth in a local store that I don’t have to physically be there to sell items and it is my way of making extra money to pay off debt in addition to my full time income.

    This is a fun way for me to spend lunches and time after work hunting for “treasures” and quite relaxing and rewarding to repurpose them and see others appreciate and want to purchase them.

    “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. When someone goes to a yard sale they do not purchase something unless that item has some type of value to them – whether it is for resale, just to keep, or buying it for someone you know needing that item.

    I look at making profit on items like this as payment for the physical searching (time involved, gas, etc.) and for reparing or repurposing the item (time spent, supplies, etc.) and displaying it for sale at my booth (time, rent, etc). There is a lot of work that goes into preparing an item for sale even after finding a great deal and some profit on the item seems well deserved. No person/business sells products if they aren’t making a profit of some sort – If not, it’s charity. I believe there is nothing unethical about the magic card situation and two thumbs up for such a wonderful find!!!

  72. Hope D says:

    My father was known in the neighborhood for buying things. People who had something of value they wanted to sell would come to him. He would usually pay a low price. They were happy, and he was happy. My dad was not wealthy either. We were lower middle class, but my father was frugal. The items were usually under $100. He would then trade or sell to other friends of his. We had one neighbor that was notorious for fluctuating fortunes and overextending himself. He would bring my dad collectibles from Hallmark and the like. He had a family and my dad would feel bad for him. My dad would buy whatever it was. Later the guy would come back and want to buy it back. My dad didn’t want to sell. The guy didn’t realize my dad wasn’t a pawn shop.

  73. AndreaS says:

    I seem to have given people the wrong idea that I am anti-military. To the contrary, my father served in the military, as did my brother. I have other close relatives and friends that have served, and/or continue to serve. My son-in-law, whose parents were both military, lived in Guam, England and other parts of the world. His father spent time in Iraq this year.

    I just called my son-in-law’s mother this morning to ask about her duty in Guam. She didn’t recall any weight limitations, though she said it depends somewhat on rank. Before going you are briefed, and they estimate the weight of your stuff. The military moved several huge crates for them. She recalls that service people there had yard sales on the base and sold to other service people. When I explained what this discussion was about, she said that buying low and selling high is just good business.

    My earlier comments were a response to the implication that military families are somehow victims of circumstances, when in fact this is what they signed up for. The military is a noble career, but it is not family friendly. When you sign up you know you will move frequently. I was pointing out that there are strategies to avoid financial impact from moving. I know military people who actually made the frequent moves to their financial advantage.

  74. Dee says:

    Years ago I took 4 or 5 books to a local used bookstore that offered store credit in exchange. The owner became very excited about one of the books asking me repeatedly where I had gotten it. I let him have it but realized that it probably was quite valuable. Since then, before I donate or exchange a book, I check what it’s going for on Amazon. I’ve sold many books on Amazon since then–one for $200.

  75. kelliinkc says:

    I absolutely agree with your post. I have not read through the other responses as I wanted to get this off and head out. How many folks have walked into a Goodwill or other such store and paid 5-10 bucks for something that was worth way more? Did they not purchase it because it was underpriced? How about estate sales? What about antiques stores– they underpaid for their purchases because of their knowledge and they fully intended to resell at a profit. It is the seller’s responsibility to know and in this day and age of Antiques Roadshow/Ebay/Craigslist there is absolutely no excuse. I personally almost never shop garage sales, thrift stores, etc but I have heard of plenty of good scores.

  76. Tanya says:

    People don’t even like to pay resale store (goodwill, etc.)prices at yard sales. It is understood that a lot of your items will be resold by someone that has the time and knowledge to make their own profit for their effort. Isn’t that how the economy works? From farmer’s to manufacturers, they sell items that are then marked up for resell to consumers.

  77. I have a different point of view on this issue. It’s not so much that i think of it in terms of ethics; the seller did not want to do the work – I’m sure they knew their *might* be some value in some of those items. Otherwise, no one would want to buy them.
    But for them, the time and effort it would take to research the cards online and resell them was not worth the additional income. For you, the time it took to list each card, sell it, mail it out, etc. WAS worth the profit.
    It comes down to a perception of the value of your/their own time. Their “goals” in this case were probably not to make a killing. Most people do not hold a yard sale primarily to earn money–instead they hold a yard sale to get rid of things in their home they no longer want and that they think might have value to someone else. In the process, it would be nice to earn a few dollars.

  78. Shari says:

    I recently read of a garage sale buy in which a man paid $45 for a “trove” of old glass negatives which were proven to be from pictures taken by Ansel Adams. They were found to be worth $200 million dollars. Now, I think in a case like that, it would be great for the yard saler to split the profits with the previous owner. But I’m also sure it would end up in a legal battle somehow, in our sue-happy world. I think that if I have a yard sale and sell something that is worth more than I’m asking, say if the buyer does some work and sells it and makes $500 off of something I had no idea about, then good for him. Of course, if he WANTED to share with me, I’d probably love his integrity, but I don’t think it’s a necessity.

  79. Anthea says:

    Speaking as someone who is donating stuff to Good Will because it’s easier than selling it, value is in the eye of the beholder. I have given away appliances and electronics that I could have gotten $100 or more for simply because the person was willing to take it away and that saved me from calling the town for a special trash pick-up.

    Sometimes, getting rid of stuff is the value that people running yard sales are really looking for. If they were doing it for the money, they’d more likely be using consignment shops and selling items individually online.

    On another note, I find it easier to let go of my emotional attachment to stuff if someone is likely to use it later, which is part of why I take the time to donate to Good Will instead of throwing functional but unneded items out. Some people may find holding a yard sale and selling stuff an easier way to let go of unneeded possessions than donating.

    The way I see it, what the seller charges and what the buyer pays are all down to what an item is worth *to them.* I’d agree with Trent’s point about pricing being the seller’s responsibility too, but to me the subjective value is more important than any absolute, researched value.

  80. littlepitcher says:

    It’s a free market. I’ve never heard one person tell an employer that my labor and knowledge are worth more than the pittances I get paid. I grab any bargain I can get, and no one hears about it except the ladies on the Stretcher forum.

    I will tell a courteous flea marketer or garage saler if they have a second or third item they may want to mark up. So far, I’ve seen few actually take the markup, though.

  81. My husband and I buy vintage fashion and rare books at yard sales and sell them for much needed extra income. I admit to feeling some guilt at exploiting people’s ignorance. I guess the real question here is “Is capitalism moral?” Maybe – as we’ve seen all too painfully in the econmy – the jury is still out on that one.

  82. Mary W says:

    Years ago my husband went to a garage sale and found a first edition Ray Bradbury book for $2. He pointed out to the seller that it was a first edition. The seller said, “okay, $3.” It was worth $60.

    People generally realize that selling at a garage sale may be the easiest way to sell things, but isn’t the way to get top dollar. The couple in Trent’s example could easily have gone on line and found the *retail* value of the cards and dealt with e-bay if they wished. They chose not to.

  83. SLCCOM says:

    Sorry, folks, but I like to sleep at night. I have told people at yard sales that something they are selling is quite or potentially quite valuable and suggested that they remove it from the yard sale and do some research. Nobody has been offended. They have all appreciated my ethics and morals, and I can sleep well that night if they say, “that’s ok, go ahead and buy it for the price we said.”

    The only person I have to answer to is myself. I guess I require more of myself than some of you do!

    And #59; I have told more than one boss that they have an outstanding employee who deserves a raise! Just because you never heard it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Unless you never go beyond the call of duty and earn such praise…

  84. tentaculistic says:

    Ok, I’m going to out myself as someone who, when in the grip of a cleaning-out frenzy, just WANTS EVERYTHING GONE!! I don’t care what it’s worth, all I want is it out of my house and into the hands of people who will enjoy it. I LOVE the idea that someone who values those things will take them and cherish them. How is that any different from someone wanting those playing cards to go to someone who knows enough to enjoy them, even if the enjoyment comes from selling them at a profit?

    Now, I should mention that when I am in my normal sane, rational mode (non cleaning-out mode) I research everything, sell on eBay or Craigslist, and if I can say so myself I’m pretty good at that. But there is a time and a place for everything, and I think a yard sale is the time and place for JUST GETTING RID of that darned stuff that is draining your energy, and maybe make a few bucks out of it. That’s about all most people expect from a yard sale. If a buyer gets to profit, good for him or her.

    Trent, I’m with you. In my book, you did not do anything wrong, either ethically, legally, or morally.

  85. Sean Roberts says:

    If it comes to ethics at Garage Sales, I have to say that most people don’t bring any when they go to them. I am sick and tired of having garage sales, asking $5 for something that is definitely worth $5 or more in tangible value but being offered $1 or being asked “how about 2 for $5?”. When I refuse, the buyer walks off, grumbling about how I’m being cheap or I’m “Richie Rich”, like I somehow can afford to just give away my items that I am trying to make some money off for my family.
    Most of these folks are cheap (as opposed to frugal) and would pay more for the same item at Goodwill. I know that they re-sell these items for way more than they pay for it, so I’m left taking the loss. No need to beat me down and then insult me also.
    I have simply resolved in future to donate the items to charity and take a Tax deduction.

  86. Amy B. says:

    Wow. I’m surprised that no one mentioned the value of knowledge. No one doubts that physicians or lawyers are compensated because they know things that we do not. Same applies here.

    My mom bought a very valuable piece of art for 3 dollars at an antique mall. Her profit belongs to her for her trained eye to spot it.

    Trent, you knew the value, so you profited. Such is capitalism.

  87. Gerhard says:

    I put up a make me an over sign on stuff if I am not sure what a fair price for an item is. I have an idea of what its worth and if its close I let it go. But sometimes people would suprise you with what they are willing to pay.

  88. kristine says:

    #25 Andrea. I do not agree that there is no room for kindness in business. True integrity is acting in a way that based on a moral code, regardless of circumstance. I do not see cut-throat businessmen who are nice to their families as having much character. We are part of a larger family, and if that were kept in mind, our economic system would run more smoothly. Growth might be slower, and plodding, but really, what is the rush anyway? Boom/bust is a rough cycle.

    If the tug-of-war of cause-effect is all you rely on for business to remain effective, and remove the moral aspect, you get the big mess our country is in today. I am curious if anyone knows how the Amish conduct business- do they strive for win-win and kindness? Just curious, as they seem to have the communities with the least strife. At least publicly, anyway.

  89. SLCCOM says:

    Getting a great buy at an antique store is a very different situation than at a garage sale or an estate sale run by an amateur.

    Yes, there is value to knowledge. That does not excuse taking unfair advantage of someone who, for whatever reason, does not have that knowledge. If you wouldn’t want someone else to do it to you, don’t do it to them.

  90. Stuart says:

    There are other values to consider when your buying something, beyond the item itself. For instants at a yard sale the main objective usually is to clear out and clean up, so there is a value to the seller to making the items go away, faster the better.

  91. Victoria says:

    I’m really amused at all of the “I don’t have time” comments. Given that this is a website dedicated to getting out of debt and frugality, you would think that more people would have time to spend a couple of hours on ebay for a potential payout of hundreds of dollars per hour.

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