Some of my favorite weekend activities are attending flea markets or going to garage sales. Many people think of the two events as interchangeable, but a connoisseur knows that when they are true to form, they are quite different.

At a garage sale, people are looking to sell their items and get rid of them. Bargains abound, especially toward the end of the sale, when sellers would rather make you a deal than keep their possessions. At a parish-wide garage sale last weekend, I purchased a manual typewriter for the marked price of 25 cents. The same model is listed on eBay for $55 (not that I am selling it!) 

Flea markets, at their purest, are more like antiquing. Items are often sold at a premium, as vendors are hoping to make money from their unique or rare treasures. If something doesn’t sell, they will most likely pack it up and try again later rather than giving it away for a bargain. At my last flea market, I paid $1 for a vintage Rainbow Tablet notepad that is clearly marked for 10 cents as the original price.

To be successful — as a shopper or a seller — you do best when you understand the event and have the right mindset regarding the transactions. While the two selling arenas appear to be similar, in fact, there are important distinctions. I would have expected to pay $25+ rather than 25 cents for the typewriter at a flea market, and would have wanted the 10 cent notepad for, well, 10 cents or less at a garage sale. 

Think about the programs your organization is offering and consider whether it is possible they are being confused with another type of event in a similar category. Is your service project being perceived as a fund raiser? Or is your open house really a scheduled program? Maybe your educational webinar is seen as just an advertising pitch? Or what you promote as a town hall is more of a presentation vs. open forum where people can ask questions?

Be clear about the nuances in your category so you can align expectations with reality. People need to know if they need to bring their checkbook or a coin purse to your sale.

beth triplett

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