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Yard Sales versus Cyber Sales

And the winner is…

Large family yard sale which can be found in any region of America during seasonally mild weather.
Photo credit: The original up-loader was Jimmyjazz at English Wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Long before computers, cell phones, websites and social media there were newspapers, signs, newsletters, churches and community events. As with everything, time is one factor which remains constant. That being said, is the American yard sale going the way of newspapers? Are we seeing the death of flea markets, garage sales, rummage sales and of course, yard sales? 

Thankfully, the answer to this question is a resounding, “NO!” What we are seeing is the birth of a new form of yard sale. One which started with a little company called, eBay

eBay was founded in Pierre Omidyar’s San Jose living room back in September 1995. It was from the start meant to be a marketplace for the sale of goods and services for individuals. It was based on a simple premise that most people are genuinely good. Additionally, another company, Craigslist, also started in 1995. Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an email list to friends, in the San Francisco Bay area. It became a web-based service in 1996 and expanded into other classified categories. It started expanding to other U.S. cities in 2000, and now covers over 70 countries.

While The Online Yard Sale will never be what these companies are, the keyword phrase “online yard sale” now accounts for between 1,000 to 10,000 searches a month on Google. That’s small potatoes when compared to the keyword and of course company name, “eBay” which is searched between 1 and 10 million times a month!

Having registered this domain back in 2001, I fiddled with variations of  the website with the goal of allowing people an alternative place to buy and sell goods. Obviously, it never worked out so well. However, since I enjoy writing and had worked at a newspaper for 15 years, I figured it was time to share my experiences  with yard sales, versus cyber sales. With upwards of 10,000 searches a month of my domain name, perhaps I can have a successful website after all. 

The biggest challenge facing traditional yard sales is of course, weather. Indoor yard sales such as community events held in churches and fire halls are gaining in popularity. More popular though are indoor yard sales. These take place right inside a person’s home and online thanks to Facebook groups and of course, Facebook Marketplace. Basically, you post an ad to the marketplace group and announce an indoor yard sale. You can include some photos of the things you are selling but it’s not always needed. People can private message you and you can let them know the date and time of your sale. You can also post it right online in the ad. It’s that simple. 

Of course, internet naysayers will scream bloody murder about this practice. The Craigslist Killer and any other number of reasons they can muster as to why this is not safe, come to mind. In the end, it is no different than running an ad in your local paper and inviting people into your garage or home to look at a freezer you might be selling. Long story short, if someone wants to kill you, they don’t need a yard sale as a reason. I’m not condoning murder. I’m simply stating a fact which will likely be lost on a large number of social justice warriors.

Speaking of death, I recently asked a friend whose mother passed away if she held a yard sale to liquidate the contents of the estate. Her facial expression told me the answer to my next question. After all the work, she had made a whopping $250 in a very populated area of New Jersey. This is not to say that other yard sales are not profitable for the time and labor involved. I’m merely pointing out one instance. My own experience on a hot summer July 4th weekend found me sunburned, hot, sweaty, and only $180 dollars to the good which my wife somehow managed to weasel me out of. 

More recently however, I sold less then ten items on the Facebook Marketplace and took in close to $750. These items included an older refrigerator, an older freezer, a set of china, some cookbooks, a few DVD’s, an air purifier, a Dewalt table saw that needed some repairs and a few other odds and ends. My prep time and work involved was far less then a yard sale and my only real expense was my time which was less than six hours total. Best of all, people came to my home. I quite literally had a gentleman stopping over the day I wrote this article to pick up a used tread mill which was given to me! I might add, he paid a hundred bucks and the ex-wife isn’t getting any of the windfall.

So the question we need to answer is, which is better? Yard Sales or Cyber Sales? 

The answer is, neither and both. Each have their own place and time.  More importantly, when you couple the two together, the results can be quite rewarding. In the end, it’s all just a matter of perspective, and, who gets to keep the money.

Guy R. Mathews

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