Bargains found at garage sales

A Buyer's Market

People congregate during last week’s sales in Silver Creek.

The late comedian George Carlin used to do a routine on how we all have too much stuff. Look around your home and you can probably easily relate. The solution is the annual warm weather ritual — the garage sale.

The recent annual villagewide sale in Silver Creek is a perfect example of just how much stuff anyone can accumulate. About 100 households trotted out their no longer wanted belongings. They ranged from items for baby, bedding, or bathroom … from dishes to DVDs to drills … as well as holiday to handyman to hunting gear among many other offerings. Even though those 100 locations were anxious to unload, there were easily 500 people combing the sales who would scoop it up. Ironically, many times I heard people say “I really don’t need to be buying any more things.” Yet there they were bargaining in the hopes of negotiating a better price.

Sellers also report the die-hard hunters start cruising the streets even before the official start time of 8 a.m. Some even show up the night before in the hope of catching someone pricing in their garages.

There are “storefronts” where the items are meticulously arranged and carefully priced. Others have that “aftermath of a hurricane” appearance. Here they encourage you to make a fair offer. Some of the browsers don’t seem to mind combing through messes.

What is the attraction? Sue Briggs is one of the founders of the annual Silver Creek garage sale 25 years ago. She attributes the draw to the “fun of the hunt.” So, to help satisfy that craving, she sets up her wares every year. Other sellers tell me the lure of the bargain and not wanting to pass up a “good deal” cements sales. Darin Benaglio’s been selling for 10 years and his strategy is simple: “Anything sells at the right price.” In fact, the Silver Creek sale has a strategy that prices get reduced at 3 p.m. So many serious shoppers were ready to pounce once the hour arrived.

Some merchants don’t even wait till then. One seller swore nothing is going back in his house. He points out if a prospect seems even slightly interested, he will work the price down to get it out of his hands and into theirs.

The draw of the bargain is not strictly a neighborhood thing either.

A group of Amish folks who didn’t wish to share their names told me they drove 50 miles just to attend this annual event. A pretty long ride for an Amish horse and buggy you say? Not so. They actually hired a driver with a large van with a trailer attached to the back. Seems that doesn’t violate their traditional lifestyle. They obviously expected to make a haul home …. and they did. I noticed while I was purchasing DVDs for a dollar or less, they were packing in large pieces of furniture. I respectfully did not photograph them since many Amish dislike having their picture taken.

The stuff for sale at this event tells me many life stories. There’s technology no longer desirable like VHS tapes which no one wants. Piles of outgrown kids clothes decorate the lawns. That exercise equipment seemed like a good idea at one point … until it started seeing more dust than reps. Dresses with the tags still on them were perhaps a fantasy purchase in the hope that a diet would reduce a figure to the right size. Now the garments will hang in someone else’s closet.

There are also sellers who fail to understand this is a garage sale not ebay or a retail store. The lady hoping to get $20 for an old Petula Clark CD set will find it returning to her player. There are even some items I have no idea what they are used for. Shoppers apparently reacted the same way as they go unsold.

Just about every garage sale has its share of the unusual. For sure, my vote for the “winner” is the stuffed boar’s head up for grabs. Never did get the full story on how such an unusual taxidermy item made its way to little old Silver Creek where typically the wild life available might be a fox!

This event is also the opportunity for young people to cash in as several stands selling hot dogs, snacks, lemonade and even Girl Scout cookies sprouted up.

Of course, once the shoppers have rushed home with their treasures, there will be another beneficiary with the remaining goods. A good share of the remnants will find a new home at assorted charities. Some won’t even do that well. By day’s end, lots of stuff made it to the curb awaiting the next trash pickup. Frankly, that’s where some of the stuff at the Silver Creek garage sale should have gone in the first place.

One person’s trash is not always another one’s treasure!

Mike Igoe, former WGRZ-TV reporter, is a communications professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia.