Cleaning up at garage sales
Skip the "tween" hours. Go early, when you can have your pick of the lot, or go late, when prices may be slashed by weary sale-givers looking to move merchandise. Or do both.
Check considered purchases' battery compartments -- no, not to see that they have fresh batteries (bwahahaha!) -- but to make sure old ones haven't corroded their innards. Even if all's clear, ask for batteries to check that items are working properly (or tote your own, if you know you're in the market for a battery-operated product).
Use the power of touch. Often, small chips in glassware can't be easily seen, so run your finger around glasses' rims.
Plug it in. Never buy an electrical item without first getting a demo.
Be aware that certain items -- hair dryers and
children's car seats, among them -- have a high safety recall rate.
If you're uncertain about something you've bought, or are considering,
call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-2772,
or visit its Web site at www.cpsc.gov.
The art of the deal
Can you bargain? Um, can Britney sell records?
Start by asking for at least 10 percent to 20
percent off the marked or stated price. If in doubt, go for the
greater reduction. Best-case scenario: Your offer's accepted. If
not, the lower figure will give you room to maneuver in the back-and-forth
that may ensue before a "happy medium" is reached.
Don't insult the merchandise. Rather than exclaiming,
"What, for this old rag?," either counteroffer or simply
ask, "Can you do better on the price?" If the item has
a flaw, politely use it to your advantage: "This crooked hem
will mean a bit of work for me. If you can do better ..."
Negotiate discreetly. You're asking for special
consideration, something the seller may be unable or unwilling to
do for everyone within earshot, so do be discreet.
If you're considering a couple of items, try
the "two-fer" tack and ask: "If I take both, can
you do better on the price?" (Remember: The more the merrier,
in terms of bargaining leverage.)
Never can say goodbye ... nor do you need to
If you're ambivalent about an item, or it's still too pricey, despite
your best bargaining efforts, give the seller your name and phone
number. Tell them that if the piece remains unsold, and they're willing
to come down in price, you just might consider purchasing that velvet
painting of the dogs playing poker. Or maybe not.