The yard sale: A lesson in micromarketing

On a recent sweltering 95-degree Saturday, we staged an experiment in human behavior, also known as a yard sale. Yard sale, rummage sale, garage sale … whatever you want to call it, people love a good rummage through other people’s discarded things.


We had a few interesting exchanges, starting with the guy who cruised in looking for Apple boxes — a woman at the checkout table whispered to me that the empty boxes are hot online. Curiously, in a house loaded with Apple products, we found just a couple … wink. (Thanks for the pro tip, lady.)

One guy pulled up on a motorcycle and promptly bought an overstuffed chair and matching ottoman — good luck getting that home. Another man said he liked our ugly lamps, so much so that he bought the pair for $8. We were not insulted in the least, since they were quite ugly.

Aside from the people watching, yard sales are also a great study in micromarketing. My husband, as it turns out, is a genius at marketing.

It worked like this: He would position basically any item next to the checkout table. As soon as the display was in place, it was purchased literally within minutes. This happened no less than four times. A pair of Pottery Barn Kids storage baskets … sold! Canvas director’s chair … sold! A play doctor’s kit with matching lab coat … gone! Gatorade cooler … yep, that, too.

Not only did we unload a lot of stuff that day, our little marketing study reinforced the importance of knowing your target audience … now who will give me $20 for an empty box?


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