3 Tips for Avoiding Chaos at a Garage Sale

A family moving out of a foreclosed house has just experienced one of the worst  classified ad nightmares we have heard of.  It is important we become aware of this type of situation since many of us are in the process of cleaning out our aging parents’ homes or we’re downsizing ourselves.

It all started innocently enough when the Michael Vercher family from Woodstock, Ga posted the ad on Craigslist sometime Tuesday night.   The plan was to give away a few items they no longer needed or wanted.  The giveaway was supposed to be in their driveway at the set time of 10 AM Wednesday.

What happened next could have been thought up only by a Hollywood screen writer.

Michael thought he would be getting home from work in enough time to work the “sale” .  But when he arrived early Wednesday morning the crowds had already beaten him there and some people had actually broken into his house.  The chaos that followed went something like this.

People were grabbing the family’s possessions, even keepsakes, while the helpless family was begging people not to take their things.  Some things were returned but most people only continued to ransack.

So how could all of this have been avoided?

Here are 3 main tips for avoiding chaos at a garage sale

1. Give your items to churches or reputable charities and let them deal with it

You will be in complete control and you will be dealing with the experts.  These people know how to distribute goods because they do it all the time.  They are knowledgeable about how to do it in an orderly fashion and they know many of the tricks and scams some people will go do to get anything free.

Your chances of getting your things to the people who need them the most have just gone up dramatically and you won’t have to fear any dangers such as the ones the Vercher family experienced.

2. Be very careful how you word your ads

The ad the Verchers put out had phrases like ” free yard sale”,  “so come down and take whatever you want…”

This is definitely not how to do it.  If you extend a seemingly open invitation some unscrupulous  people will definitely respond.  They will interpret it the way the want to interpret it.  Plus, you have to say this does sound inviting.  However, breaking and entering is still a crime.

Don’t ever word an ad in Craigslist like that.  All they needed to do was advertise the yard sale.  Then they could have given some of the items out for free once people got there.  The people could have been monitored better and the sale would have ended peaceably with  only the designated items leaving the property.

3. Have plenty of backup for your garage sale

It’s a shame I have to say this, but you may need friends and relatives to help you keep an eye out for any mischief making.  Shoplifting goes on everywhere.  I grew up in retail and I can tell you stories that would make your hair curl.  I also know of a garage sale where a family made $400 only to have the money box stolen.  That money was going to help pay for their vacation to Florida.

But another reason for back up is things can easily get out of hand.  A long time ago our neighbors across the street were having one of their many garage sales.  I was appalled to find a carful of people who had driven up my driveway  going all over my yard while peeping into my windows.  Our houses are somewhat secluded on big lots and there was no way these folks could have gotten us mixed us with the neighbors having the sale.

When I confronted  one of the men, he just shrugged and left.

I guess my points are we need to take special care in how we present a garage sale or any giveaway   In fact, I would never use the word “giveaway”. Tragedies such as the one the Vercher family has experienced just in the last few days can be avoided.  When we venture into the very public world of retail even if it is only for a garage sale, we are going into challenging territory.  Be well prepared.

Here’s the video showing what happened to the Verchers.


Garage sale
Garage sale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


More information about garage sale dangers

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