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JIM SHEA Tag sales attract all types of tag sailors

July 24, 2018

The sign clearly says the tag sale is to begin at 9 a.m. but the first people, the professional tag sailors, show up at 8 a.m. asking if they can have a preview.

No, they are told.

They start up the driveway anyway.

“You really don’t want to go any farther,” I say. “The dog is loose and we think he might be rabid.”

They weigh this for a moment and then finally decide it might be too risky. Tag sailors are not easily discouraged.

Our driveway looks like someone dropped a stick of dynamite into a pile of hurricane debris. There is furniture, electronics, athletic equipment, appliances, rugs, tools, clothing, books, dishes, lamps, nuts, bolts and car accessories scattered everywhere.

There are also mysterious objects, things whose use and origin cannot be determined. We slap stickers on them and hope they will be exactly what someone is looking for.

Sailors go to tag sales in hopes of finding bargains. Sellers hold tag sales in hopes of saving themselves a trip to the landfill. Tag sales are the epitome of the old saw: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The purpose of this particular tag sale is to declutter. The closets are overflowing, the basement is full, the garage no longer has room for the cars, and a representative from the TV show “American Pickers” has been calling.

Agreeing to declutter is one thing. Agreeing what is clutter is another. (See above, “One man’s trash …”)

She wants to keep a room divider.

“It’s been in the basement for seven years,” I point out.

I want to keep a toboggan.

“What, are you 12?” she asks.

I broach the subject of retaining my old BB gun.

“No,” she says, “you’ll put your eye out.”

At 9 a.m. the traffic picks up. Some people are in and out. Some browse for a long time. Some want to talk, others do not. The eye contact is tricky. You don’t want to appear to be unfriendly, but then you don’t want to appear to be needy, either.

One of the main things you have to get past as the seller is accepting that in many cases what you are pricing something for is well, well below what it is worth. In many cases there is also an emotional attachment

“We can’t sell my softball bat. You know how many home runs I hit with this baby?”

“Yeah, one, and it was a fluke.”

Why one goes around painstakingly putting prices on each and every item is beyond me. There is no relationship between the tag price and the price that is paid. This is a tag sale tradition.

Still, there is quibbling, and then there is dealing with people who arrive at a tag sale, it seems, for the sole purpose of quibbling.

“Will you take $10 for this lamp?”

“Sure.”

“How about $7?”

“Fine.”

“How about $5?”

“How about I call my dog?”

Another type of tag sailor is the sprinter. These folks can run through a tag sale and be back in their car in a time that would make Usain Bolt envious. In most cases these speed demons are looking for something specific.

“I’m look for a small centrifuge to process uranium.”

“Geez, too bad, we just sold one.”

Then there are the critics. These are the sailors who comb through your stuff making faces, shaking their heads, laughing, mocking, ridiculing and then wondering if you will take $2 for the unopened package of adult diapers that belonged to your late mother.

When the tag sale is finally over, you take what remains, bring it out to the curb, and attach a “free” sign. Everything is gone in a matter of minutes, causing you to wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place.

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist. jimboshea@gmail.com; Twitter: @jimboshea.

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