Do's And Don'ts For The Great American Garage Sale The most advanced garage sale goers know the game is not for the weak. Commentator Laura Lorson, a self-proclaimed connoisseur, discusses the art and etiquette of shopping on someone's lawn. From early-birding to haggling she breaks down the summertime tradition.
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Do's And Don'ts For The Great American Garage Sale

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Do's And Don'ts For The Great American Garage Sale

Do's And Don'ts For The Great American Garage Sale

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It's a common summertime site across the nation: the garage sale or tag sale, yard sale, rummage sale, whatever you call it.

If you are planning on cleaning out a few closets, we've got some expert advice for you from commentator and garage sale connoisseur Laura Lorson.

LAURA LORSON: Summertime is upon us. It's the time of melting makeup, maddening music coming from ice cream trucks and that particular brand of lawn Armageddon that is known as the Slip 'n Slide. And in case you didn't know, it's also the time of the garage sale. I can't imagine how you wouldn't know. Have you ever met anyone who says they haven't been to a garage sale? Because that person is lying.

Garage sales are great, even the ones that are nothing but stained baby clothes and Diaper Genies and broken George Foreman grills. You get to paw through people's stuff.

I myself became a connoisseur because my mother loves garage sales. I think it's because in my family, every gift, every acquisition, every new thing that comes through the door comes with its own play-by-play and color commentary.

This is the sort of thing that drives my husband completely nuts, and is something I have to guard against to preserve my marriage, because I find myself, just like my mother, spieling out some protracted story with every single purchase. The punch line to which is, guess how much I paid. Do you know how much that thing is worth? To which the answer is always, well, if you paid a quarter for it, then it is, in fact, worth a quarter.

But that's just being mean, and missing the point of the garage sale experience, to which there is an etiquette and formalism that rivals the Japanese tea ceremony. For example, early-birding is common, but in my neighborhood, considered bad form. Early birds are the people who show up before the garage sale is supposed to start.

There's a ritual for haggling, the analysis of which is worthy of doctoral dissertations. People expect you to discuss pricing, but that's only within certain limits. If an apparently worthless item is priced very high, the person probably doesn't really want to sell it. You have to tread very lightly in this situation. If you offer, say, a buck for the rust-stained, dog-chewed machine-made comforter that is being billed as a handmade quilt for which they're asking $150, that would be considered rude. It's also considered out of line to haggle over extremely low-priced items.

There is no ridiculous outfit, no creepily personal hygiene device offered for sale, no insane wall art featuring owls made of macrame, wire and brass brads that it is okay at which to snicker. It just is not done. The most advanced sale devotees know this game is not for the weak. You have to have stamina, and strength, and the ability to look serious and contemplative when confronted with the truly bizarre ephemera of our nation.

It's the great game of America, this time of year, sifting through garage sale items, picking up that obscure object of desire at a discount, trading little bits of our history back and forth, telling each other our stories through used Fisher-Price toys and yogurt makers and old Christmas presents that we loved with all our hearts until we forgot about them in our blinding rush toward wherever it is that we're going.

SIEGEL: Laura Lorson continues her fruitless search for a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar at sales in and around Perry, Kansas.

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