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When the Lousiest Salesperson Participates in a Garage Sale

Taking a Break, Ottawa, June 2013
Taking a Break, Ottawa, June 2013

It’s June, and it’s garage sale season. I wrote about this very popular Canadian activity before but until last weekend, I had never participated in a garage sale.

Oh, and did I mention I am the lousiest salesperson on earth?

Last weekend, Feng, Mark and I went to the Glebe garage sale, one of the most sought-after opportunities for treasure hunters who seem to favour this trendy neighborhood. We bought a copy of Nirvana’s In Utero (my CDs are still in France) for $1 and a Pink Floyd Live DVD for $3 before calling it a day. We already have too much junk at home—no need to buy other people’s.

But it gave me an idea: why not sell Mark’s old winter clothes? I have a diaper box full of newborn and 0-3 month pants, onesies, pyjamas, etc. and it’s not like he is going to shrink and fit in them ever again.

Our community’s annual garage sale is held on the first Saturday of June. That day, I woke up earlier than usual, excited like a kid on Christmas Day.

I don’t even know why I was excited. I mean, I have various life and work skills, but sales skills aren’t on my resume.

Let me rephrase that—I am a lousy salesperson. You wouldn’t buy a bottle of water from me even if you were thirsty and if I was the only seller around.

I can “sell” myself, I am not a shy person, I am usually confident and I have normal social skills. But for some reason, I can’t sell anything.

I accidentally took up several sales positions in my early twenties and I was a disaster. As a student in France, I once worked at selling magazine subscriptions. I don’t even know why I applied for the job—I do actually, I was desperate—and most importantly, how and why I was hired. But I quit after a week of working my butt off and selling a grand total of six subscriptions. And yes, the job was commission-based.

In Canada, when I was still new and inexperienced (and barely spoke legible English), I was hired by a local flower shops to sell bouquets close to LCBOs (liquor stores, for non-Ontarians) and on holidays such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Although I was somehow slightly better at selling flowers than magazine subscriptions, I was still a lousy salesperson. I felt the flower price was too high, that people were wasting money and I certainly didn’t know how to upsale.

“I don’t have anything to lose,” I thought, carrying Mark’s outfits to the driveway.

As I was arranging a red jacket on a coat hanger, a car slowed down and the driver hailed me. “Hey, how much for that jacket?”

“Five bucks. Brand new!”

I walked to the car and she inspected the jacket carefully as if making a million-dollar investment. The lousy salesperson in me already felt like saying “take it now, bye bye!” and running home.

“I’ll take it.”

She rummaged through her handbag and handed me a five-dollar bill before driving away.

I felt like a kid after receiving a vaccination shot. That was it? Meh, didn’t even hurt!

I bragged to Feng for a minute and returned to arranging the rest of the clothes on the driveway, and brought Mark outside with me. I put a blanket on the ground, arranged a few toys for Mark, got my Kindle (eh, who knows? I may be able to read if Mark gives me a minute!) and gave the baby his first bottle of the day.

“How much?”

I was about to say something along the lines of “the baby? The rate is per hour!” when I remembered these kinds of witty replies may be the reason why I can’t sell shit.

“$3 for the outfits, $2 for the pyjamas and $1 for the rest.”

Yes, I totally made these prices up. Sounded about right for second-hand baby clothes.

To my amazement, the lady actually handed me some change and bought newborn outfits.

The following hours went by fast. Mid-morning, I took a Canadian break—I walked to the Tim Hortons at the end of the street with Mark for a cup of coffee. The rest of the time was spent smiling at people who invariably commented on Mark’s cuteness; giving pricing info; congratulating mothers-to-be who bought clothes; preventing Mark from chewing on the tree leaves; and retrieving Mark’s toys he constantly threw away.

I made $20.

Trust me, I valued these twenty bucks. It’s not about the money—it’s about actually getting over my selling phobia.

The garage sale turned out to be an interesting social experience as well. It was hot and humid and people were relaxed and enjoyed chatting. I got to know some of my neighbours and Mark got to play outside (and then we had to deal with an overexcited baby for the rest of the day, but never mind…).

Midday, I packed the rest of the clothes I hadn’t sold in a diaper box and gave it away to the local community centre though the “Neighbours Helping Neighbours” program.

I suck at selling… anything but baby clothes!

(That, or Mark is good luck!)

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