August 5, 2008

Garage-Sale Deals on Foot, Online: From eBay to Your Neighborhood, It’s Easy to Find Stuff You Need, and to Sell

By Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Aug. 5--Network. Haggle. Get there early. Come back late.

For the best deals on a garage-sale item, take notice of veteran shoppers' tips.

Carmen Rodgers did most of her shopping for the upcoming school year at a series of garage sales last weekend in Pataskala.

As her 11-year-old daughter enters a "grunge phase," Rodgers said it was more practical to buy used clothing.

Plus: "Apparently buying new clothes is not 'in'."

However, it was popular with Rodgers' pocketbook. Last year, she spent $350 to $400, but this year she has spent only about $40 and has finished most of her shopping.

In looking for a specific item, networking is important, she said.

Last year, Rodgers was searching for a desk at a teacher's garage sale. She couldn't find the item there, but the teacher called around.

"The network happened, and eventually I found the desk I wanted at the price I wanted," she said.

Katie Poeppelmeyer of Reynoldsburg said she has been to tons of garage sales to add to her collection of coffee mugs.

To find the best items, arrive on the first day of the garage sale, or the first hour of a one-day sale, Poeppelmeyer said. The best deals, she said, are on the last day.

At the neighborhood sale of baby items in Westerville last spring, most big items such as cribs and strollers went early, said Patty Churan, a Westerville mother of two.

"And if it's good quality, it's going to sell for a good price," Churan said. "It's a lot of work the prior week, but it's so worth it."

As families scramble for back-to-school bargains, a growing number are finding deals online.

Craigslist, a directory of online classified ads, boasts more than 30 million users in the U.S. The online auction Web site eBay has seen its number of active users grow from 64.6 million in 2005 to 84.5 million this year.

Columbus Alive, an alternative weekly owned by The Dispatch Printing Co., has free classified ads on the Web. And The Columbus Dispatch, through its print and online classified advertising, reaches more than a million people in the metropolitan area, or 60 percent of the market.

The popularity of online classifieds and auctions has opened a door for aspiring entrepreneurs.

"With a digital camera and a PayPal account, you're in business," said Chris Davis, an auctioneer for Auction Ohio. He suggested that people stick to specific types of items and provide a lot of information.

Providing detailed, accurate information is paramount to maximizing profits on eBay, said Jim Griffith, an eBay employee since 1996 who teaches people how to use the site profitably.

The Internet has evolved to the point that businesses exist to help sell items online.

One of them, iSold It on eBay, which is part of a national chain, researches, photographs and sells items online for a commission.

The seller gets 60 percent to 70 percent of the sale price. However, that research helps sell items for about 25 percent more than what a seller would get going it alone on eBay, said Don Davis, co-owner of the store on Polaris Parkway.

"We want to sell it for as much as possible because we're making money," said Davis, who's not related to Chris Davis.

"It's a matter of exposure," said Don Davis. "You have 20 people come into your garage sale versus 2,000 people who see your stuff on eBay."

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Tips for online sales

Provide detailed, accurate information when selling online.

Shoot your own photographs instead of using stock images.

Beware of deals that seem too good to be true. Buyers might be missing the fine print.

Watch out for sellers that do not accept returns on eBay. Sellers without a buyer-oriented return policy could be misleading the buyer.

Do not attempt to sell counterfeit items on eBay. Users caught doing so will face a permanent ban from the Web site.

Source: eBay employee Jim Griffith

Learn more

Resources for bargain shoppers and power sellers: provides tips for having a great garage sale and finding deals.

The eBay Answer Center has answers to frequently asked questions for buyers and sellers., a how-to Web site that anybody can edit, has a list of tips for a successful garage sale.

- has a schedule of local auctions, focusing on real estate.

Community centers sometimes organize local consignment sales. Contact yours to find out if you're missing a sale.

Source: Dispatch research


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