Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yard Sale WARNING!!!

I just have to post a public warning over an experience a friend of mine had this weekend.

Thanks to a couple of reality TV shows, there is a new phenomenon of "yard sale companies" that will haul away any items you want to sell, do all the tagging and sorting work, hold a yard sale for you, and split the proceeds with you.

Sounds like a great deal... people come in, remove your "junk" for free, go through all the hassle of preparing it for sale, do all the advertising, etc... then run the sale for you. You just "sit back and collect the money."  Wow! Easy money!

Well, NOT so easy..

A local shop owner I know is moving away at the end of the summer, and moving to Florida. Her husband is already down there, so she was stuck with the task of clearing most of the stuff out of the house. It was way too much for her to do on her own, so she called a local yard sale company to have her stuff they won't be moving with taken away and sold...

Before the "yard sale" she went through the home with the company representative, showing which items for the sale and which were not. Simple instructions were given, like  "Everything out in this room, including the furniture is for the sale.... Everything in THIS closet is NOT for sale, etc."

Most specific instruction: "DO NOT touch anything in the basement, It's the brand-new summer stock for my retail store which I'll be selling over the season."

After this walk through, and the verbal arrangements, my friend left and the "yard sale" folks did their job.


My friend  was deliberately staying out of these folks way so they could do the sale for her without interference. During the day of the sale, she got a call from a couple of her horrified retail customers... "Do you know these people are selling your shop stock for pennies!?!?"

My friend rushed to the sale, and discovered these folks had taken her brand new retail stock out of the basement, and were selling it like junk. Brand new factory sent and packaged clothes, which she had planned to retail out of her store this summer at regular retail price, (say $50 to $200 per item) were being sold by these people for FIVE DOLLARS EACH! 

Other items which had been agreed were strictly off limits, such as a Wii Fit game console with a complete set of games, and her great-grandmothers handmade Irish linen, were also taken and sold. The yard sale people BOUGHT MOST OF THE EXPENSIVE STUFF THEMSELVES for peanuts... and of course my friend only got "her half" of the proceeds from that.

Bottom line? These people basically stole something like THIRTY THOUSAND dollars worth of "off limit" personal items, antiques and stock, "bought" what they wanted, and sold the rest at yard sale prices. My friend got "her share" of the proceeds as agreed after... a whopping $4,500.

She's still crying. And... there's NOTHING she can do because all this was done on a verbal agreement. When she want to the  "dealers" who had done this all they had to do was say: "You never told us anything was off limits. Get off our property."

So... if you're ever in a bind and need to sell stuff with a "yard sale" company that promises to "do all the work and hand you the cash"... BE CAREFUL!

Here are some ideas which might protect you if you ever need to do this...

1. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. Verbal agreements are worth nothing. Get documents you can go to court with if you need.

2. If at all possible DO NOT leave anything out that you don't want taken. My friend thought she was protecting her stuff by showing off items "not for sale"... but that simply identified what was valuable so they could take it and do what they wanted. If you can't move something off the property, securely lock it up and/or chain it down so it cannot be "accidentally" removed and sold.

3. If you have to leave valuables on the premisis, STAY THERE to protect them while the collection is being done. Better yet, stay there with two large, burly friends if you have real valuables you don't want taken away and "sold" for pennies on the dollar.

4 GO TO THE SALE before it opens and check over the items, if you have any doubts about what's out and what's not. Reserve the right to take stuff off the "for sale" pile if mistakes have been made.

I'm sure there are legitimate companies who provide this "yard sale service" out there. Obviously there is one local company in this area who is NOT legitimate, so don't lose your valuables to a non-legally binding verbal agreement and be left robbed and sobbing like my friend!