Yard Sale Etiquette for Bargain Shoppers and Sellers

by Nancy Twigg
Yard Sale Etiquette photo

Be on your best bargain-shopping and profit-making behavior! Practice good yard sale etiquette by following these do’s and don’ts of a polite yard sale shopper and seller.

Just call me the Miss Manners of garage sales. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that a yard sale is not an anything-goes, no-etiquette-needed free-for-all. As in any social situation, there are certain things you do or don’t do in order to be polite.

Being avid yard sale shoppers, my husband, Michael and I often run across examples of bad manners, both by shoppers and by sellers. Here are a few faux pas we’ve seen that could easily be avoided by the simple practice of good yard sale etiquette.

Buyers’ Blunders

Buyers should never let their quest to find a great bargain cause them to forget their manners.

Being an “Early Bird”

If the paper says the sale starts at 7 a.m., don’t show up at 5:30 a.m. or don’t drive by the night before in hopes beating the other shoppers to the bargains. Yard sale shoppers who do this give the rest of us shoppers a bad name.

Not Respecting the Seller’s Property

Walking unnecessarily through the yard, wreaking havoc on the seller’s merchandise displays, and blocking neighbors’ driveways are definitely no-no’s.

Carrying Only Large Bills

Producing a $20 bill for a 25¢ purchase is extremely inconsiderate. Save small bills and change throughout the week for your Saturday yard sale trip.

Loud or Obnoxious Behavior

Just because the seller is up early for the yard sale doesn’t mean his neighbors are. Driving a noisy vehicle or speaking and laughing loudly will not endear you to the seller. Aggressive haggling or obnoxious negotiating tactics aren’t welcome, either.

Not Respecting Other Buyers

If you want to buy a large item or more items than you can carry, ask the proprietor to mark the item or start a “pile” for you in an out-of-the-way place. It is rude to claim an item as “yours” if you haven’t made any effort to let the proprietor or other shoppers know you intend to purchase it.

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Sellers’ Slips

Sellers should never allow their desire for profits get in the way of their manners.

Not Pricing Items Clearly

Or worse yet (in my opinion), not pricing items at all. Buyers shouldn’t have to work at figuring out the prices. If it’s too confusing, some shoppers will get frustrated and leave without making purchases.

Accommodating Early Birds

Allowing early shoppers to get the bargains is unfair to the shoppers who are careful to respect your start time. Accommodating early birds provides positive reinforcement for this inconsiderate behavior.

Trying to Sell Used Stuff at “New” Prices

If your stuff means that much to you, take it to a consignment store or sell it online. Yard sale shoppers won’t pay prices barely below what you’d find in a discount store.

Being Careless in Preparations

There’s nothing worse for a buyer than hearing, “How did that get out here? That’s not for sale!” If you are working with someone else in preparing for the sale, communicate well so items don’t get out that aren’t supposed to be sold.

Not Taking Down Old Signs

After the yard sale is over, the signs you posted are litter that should be disposed of. Carelessly leaving old signs up is extremely inconsiderate to both future shoppers who will inevitably drive down your street looking for the sale, and the neighbors who must look at your weather-beaten signs for months to come.

If you have ever violated any of these social graces (as either a seller or buyer), take heart. Yardsalers are a forgiving bunch. Just make a silent vow that in the future, you will always be on your best bargain-shopping behavior.

Reviewed June 2021

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