REI Garage Sale tomorrow: Tips and Tricks

Tomorrow: REI Garage Sales across Massachusetts!

Back before I went to my first garage sale, I searched the internet fruitlessly for information on what to expect, how to snag the best deals, and otherwise just be a savvy garage-sale customer. Either no one’s thought to publish any info, or the avid salers are purposefully keeping their trade secrets under wraps. So, even though I selfishly don’t want any more people at the sales, I feel like people at least deserve a few pointers.

Also, just in case anyone was wondering: a garage-sale day is a wilderness day, except rather than experiencing wild scenery or wild animals, you’re experiencing wild humans who are wild about wilderness and adventure. So it counts.

1. Be prepared.

Think about what you’re looking for, especially what you need vs. what you want. Once you’ve made that list, and ordered the items according to how badly you need/want them, do a little research. Find out what types of REI items are for sale, what the full price range is, and whether there are reviews out there for best products or products to avoid.

2. Consider what items are worth it/safe to buy at a garage sale.

Be smart. REI has an amazing returns policy. If you’re not satisfied with a product, it malfunctions, or doesn’t perform well, you can return it easily. BUT, items bought at the garage sale carry no such warranty. If that headlamp doesn’t turn on when you put batteries in it, tough luck. So, to that end, think carefully about the risks you’re willing to take.

3. Become a member or locate your membership card.

Becoming an REI member is totally worth it if you live near an REI store. Lifetime membership is only $20, you get all sorts of savings, you can get money back each year (dividend) based on how much you purchased, and most REI stores sponsor events, classes, and other fun stuff that are available at discounted rates to members. Also, you MUST be a member to go the garage sale.

4. Look up directions, think about parking, and plan when to arrive.

My nearest REI store is in Framingham, and the parking lot isn’t that big – but there’s a massive mall nearby, so I could always park there. But, I’ll want to get there early (even though they’re letting people in according to lottery (not based on who arrives first)).

5. Have a strategy.

Decide which items you’re going to go for first. Your prioritized list will help you decide. For me, I know that I clothing is the safest option (I know what I’m getting and I know what I like) and so I go to that section first, grab what I want, and then move to the gear area, where people are anyways going to be thinking more about  what they want, grabbing things but then putting them back when they decide they don’t actually want it.

Having a smart phone can also be super helpful to look up reviews of an items on the spot, although you won’t have much time for this, so do a lot of your research in advance.

6. Read the labels.

Every item has a return tag attached to it that lists the name of the item, the original price, the current discounted price, and why the item was returned. This last piece of information is SUPER helpful, because it can alert you to information about the item that you wouldn’t be able to test in-store. For example, I found a stove (which is usually a risky thing to buy at a garage sale) but the tag said it was returned because the customer didn’t like the design. That means that it mostly likely works, and as long as I like the design it’s fine. So, I got myself a $60 for $20, and it’s amazing. On the other hand, I found a head lamp that had batteries in it, and it turned on, and seemed great, but on the tag it said “Does not turn on consistently” which I didn’t understand until I was trying to turn it on again in the check-out line, and it wouldn’t turn on. I knocked it around a bit, and it turned on, but then turned off again. I put that item back. So read those tags!

7. Be friendly and have fun!

I know, I know… deeply discounted gear can bring out our aggressive, greedy side… but seriously, try to relax and have fun. Be friendly to your fellow customers (it goes without saying you shouldn’t push or grab, but also think about helping someone if they’ve dropped one half of a sock pair, or notifying them if you see a rip in the back of their rain jacket. Or tell them, hey, I have that sleeping bag and it’s awesome…)


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