Are yard sale holders getting more desperate?


Saturday was my first yard sale day of the season, and there were tons on Cape Cod -- no surprise for Memorial Day weekend. But I've been a dedicated yard seller for at least the past 15 years, and had an interaction today that I've never had before.

I found a pair of prints that I liked, one priced at $2 and the other $1. I offered $2 for the pair -- I almost always try to haggle a little bit -- and the guy looked at me and said "Trust me dude, I need the dollar a lot more than you do."

I gave him the three dollars and headed back to the car content, but a little bit freaked out: Who needs a dollar that badly?

Given that this is the first yard sale season of the worst recession we've had in a long time, I think that we may see an uptick in the number of "distress yard sales" -- people selling their castoffs to try to hold on to a house, keep the kids in college, or even put food on the table. Even though most of us yard sellers are bargain hunters by nature, I think that we have a special obligation this year to be fair in our dealings with people who seem like they need the money.

On the other hand, the rising number of distressed sellers -- especially in hard hit markets -- might make yard selling a little bit less enjoyable, imbuing it with a darkness that it didn't used to have. On the other hand, there may be bargains galore this summer as sellers part with things that were previously sacred.