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Rummage Sale Smackdown

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This LAist writer is a self-professed thrift junkie. I blame my parents -- on weekends we would hit every flea market in a 20-mile radius to look for salt and pepper shakers (for my mom), old fishing bait and tackle (for my dad), and '60s lucky troll dolls and vintage costume jewelry and compacts for myself. In the summer months of my teen years I would roll out of bed at 6 am to drive around my suburban Arkansas town to scour the streets for those neon-colored garage and yard sale signs.

Upon moving to LA the madness didn't stop. Even as a carless Angelino I routinely make it out to the Goodwill thrift store (there's one a mere five-minutes walk from my apartment) and take the Metro out to the PCC Flea Market and Trading Post.

The proverbial Holy Grail of the thrifting world, however, is the church rummage sale. Unfortunately the churches around my neighborhood rarely have rummage sales but this weekend a large church a few blocks away sponsored a "HUGE" sale.

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Arriving a little after 9 o'clock yesterday morning (the advertised start time) I came across a scene of chaos. A few tchotchkes were strewn about on cloths on the ground and many more items were in boxes. A pack of confused teens were bringing out dinged appliances, trash bags bulging with shoes, and boxes of retro Christmas decorations. Amongst this flurry of activity I felt a little awkward... so by 9:30 had only selected a small animal figurine from the 1940s and proceeded to the cashier. After being quoted the price of $1 I dutifully handed over the bill when an angry church member/rummage sale organizer sauntered over.

Angry woman: That is an ANTIQUE. (She wildly gestures at the figurine in my hand).
Me: Blinking in shock.
Angry woman: We do not sell ANTIQUES for a dollar!
Me: Still in shock.
Angry woman: This should be at LEAST 5 dollars.
Me: (Saying nothing but thinking... Um, look lady, this isn't ebay!)
Angry woman: I'm sorry but this isn't for sale! (she proceeds to snatch it out of my hand and glares at the cashier).

I'm left there reeling from this woman's rudeness. The only answer was to schlep over to Starbucks for a peppermint mocha frappuccino and writing a list of rules regarding rummage sale etiquette for LAist readers (under the cut):

Photo by tajheartvia flickr

1) Set all items on tables or organize them on blankets on the ground. Jumbling fragile glass and chinaware into cardboard boxes is just asking for breakage.

2) Put price tags on everything. Or at least group items together by price (ie everything on this table for $1 or all mugs for 25 cents).

3) Be reasonable about pricing. This is not ebay. Nor is it a chichi vintage store on Melrose. If people have to dig through broken, dirty items to get their prizes at least reward them for their time and labor by making things cheap.

4) Agree on prices for "big ticket" items BEFORE the sale. If something is 'antique' then don't put in the middle of items that are priced under a dollar.

5) Don't have volunteers wave huge "Yard Sale" signs on the corner if you're not done setting up yet. Also, set a reasonable start time... there are always hard core thrifters out there that will try to come early. Trust me.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending. After the Starbucks trip and an expletive-filled phone call to a good friend I decided to face the church sale again. For under $10 I scored three Pyrex bowls from the early '60s, a '70s dress, some belts and a purse from the '80s, some drinking glasses from the '50s, and a fun jewelry box (some of the goodies pictures below).

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Anyone else have thrift horror stories to tell? How do you find out about rummage/yard/garage/estate sales? Craig's List is a great source, just type 'rummage' into the for sale/wanted section.

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