When I was three years old, my family and went yard sailing with Arthur, my Dad’s best friend. Arthur was an Anthropology professor and art collector. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning in San Francisco, and I had my eye on a sock monkey. It was a fine specimen – bright red mouth, large matte black button eyes, long tail, and a perfect red yarn pompom on top of its head. Arthur introduced me to the delicate art of bargaining, and I claimed my prize for a quarter. I was proud of my newfound negotiation skills. (I’m sure my large brown eyes and blond pigtails didn’t hurt either.)
We don’t have many opportunities to negotiate a purchase price in Portland. There are a few notable exceptions: garage/yard/estate/moving sales, craigslist postings, classified ads, used cars, scalped tickets, even sometimes in musical instrument stores. Bargaining gives us a unique opportunity to interact with our fellow humans as we find common ground.
So why would you want to visit a garage sale while on vacation? So many reasons! Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Pick up souvenirs to take home. Talk to the people having the sale about fun things to do nearby. Explore new neighborhoods: Laurelhurst, Irvington, and Hollywood in Northeast; Hawthorne, Belmont, and Mt. Tabor in Southeast; the West Hills in Southwest, and Sellwood.
I love a good find – like my yellow high-waisted Versace skinny jeans purchased for $21.00 at Goodwill. I didn’t need to bargain (and it wouldn’t have been appropriate). Garage sales are a different story. What is the most important step in the bargaining process? Don’t be afraid to ask. As long as you are diplomatic and respectful, the seller will not be offended.
So. You go to craigslist and find a sale in an interesting area. You drive or take transit and find yourself with a big, beautiful blue bowl in your hands that you can’t quite afford. How you proceed from here depends on the type of sale and time of day. If it is a garage or moving sale, the seller may be happy you want to take the bowl off their hands, and pleased it is going to a good home. If it is later in the day (particularly on Sunday) you are well positioned to bargain. If you show up early, you may pay more. Some sellers charge an early bird fee of around 30%. Estate sales can be trickier, because often the people running them aren’t the owners of the goods for sale.
Here’s how the conversation might go down:
You (holding the bowl priced at $10.00): I love this bowl! Would you take $5.00 for it?
The seller might name a higher price, say $7.00. If that works for you, then you have a deal.
If you would like to purchase multiple items, inquire about the possibility of a discount. Remember: the goal is to agree on a price you are both happy with.
Portlanders are an interesting and unique bunch. Odds are you’ll meet a neat person, find a cool souvenir, and explore a fun neighborhood. Happy hunting.