Yard Sale Etiquette
By Nancy Twigg
Friends call me the "Miss Manners"
of garage sales. You see, I believe there's
a certain ethical code governing the time-honored
act of buying and selling secondhand stuff.
Contrary to popular opinion, a yard sale is
not an anything-goes free-for-all. As in any
social situation, there are certain things you
do or avoid doing to ensure you are polite and
considerate of others.
My husband, Michael, and I are avid garage
sale shoppers, and we have seen many examples
of bad manners among shoppers and sellers. Here
are a few of the faux pas we've seen that could
have been easily avoided by the simple practice
of good yard sale etiquette.
Garage Sale Buyers' Blunders
* Being an "Early Bird"
If the paper says the sale starts at 7 a.m.,
don't show up at 6 a.m. and don't drive by the
night before in hopes you will beat the other
shoppers to the bargains. Yard sale shoppers
who peer in garage windows with flashlights
or knock on doors at 5:30 a.m. give the rest
of us shoppers a bad name.
* Not Respecting the Seller's Property
Walking unnecessarily through the yard, stepping
in flowerbeds, and blocking neighbors' driveways
are definitely in poor taste. If your children
accompany you, see to it that they respect the
seller's property as well.
* Carrying Only Large Bills
While it is the seller's responsibility to have
adequate change, producing a $20 bill for a
25-cent purchase is extremely inconsiderate.
Save small bills and change throughout the week
for your Saturday yard sale trip.
* Loud or Obnoxious Behavior
Just because the seller is up early doesn't
mean his neighbors are. Driving a noisy vehicle
or speaking and laughing loudly will not endear
you to the seller. Aggressive haggling or obnoxious
negotiating tactics aren't welcome, either.
* Not Respecting Other Buyers
If you want to buy a large item or more items
than you can carry, ask the proprietor to mark
the item or start a "pile" for you
in an out-of-the-way place. It is rude to claim
items as yours while you continue shopping if
you haven't made any effort to let the proprietor
and other shoppers know you intend to purchase
Garage Sale Sellers' Blunders
* Not Pricing Items clearly
I don't know which is worse: not pricing items
in a way that is easily understandable or not
pricing items at all. Buyers shouldn't have
to work at figuring out the prices. If your
pricing system is too confusing, some shoppers
will get frustrated and leave without making
* Accommodating Early Birds
Allowing early shoppers to get the bargains
is unfair to the shoppers who respect your wishes.
When sellers accommodate early birds, they only
provide positive reinforcement to this inconsiderate
behavior. Politely but firmly tell early birds
that the sale is not open for business yet.
* Trying to Sell Used Stuff at "New"
If your stuff means that much to you, take it
to a consignment store or sell it through a
classified ad or on eBay. Yard sale shoppers
are looking for bargains, not prices barely
below what you'd find at a discount store.
* Being Careless with Yard Sale Preparations
For the buyer who thinks she has found the item
of her dreams, there is nothing worse than hearing,
"That's not for sale!" Remove things
you do not want to sell from the sale area (lawnmowers,
bicycles, wagons, etc.). If that isn't possible,
cover them with an old sheet or dropcloth, or
use masking tape to rope off areas that are
not part of the sale.
* Not Taking Down Old Signs
After the yard sale is over, your yard sale
signs are litter that should be disposed of
just like any other garbage. Carelessly leaving
old signs up ad infinitum is extremely inconsiderate
to both shoppers and neighbors who must look
at your weather-beaten signs for months to come.
If you have ever violated any of these social
graces (as either a seller or buyer), take heart.
Yard sale fanatics are a forgiving bunch. Just
make a silent vow that in the future, you will
always be on your best bargaining behavior.
Nancy Twigg is the editor of Counting
the Cost, a free twice-a-month e-zine devoted
about simple, frugal and abundant living. She
is also a popular conference and retreat speaker
as well as the author of two books. To learn
more about Nancy's work, visit