Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where bobble heads rein

I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.”

I post these essays on my blog a few weeks after each one is released. The publishers get first dibs. :)

If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at Thanks so much!
Where bobble heads reign (released 7/19/13)
By Kris Kolk

My family hosted a yard sale last week. We outwitted spiders and bugs to unearth treasures from the basement. For a few days the house was a frenzied prep zone.

“Sell it all,” was our mantra. My son’s wardrobe got sucked into the fervor. We priced most of his fresh laundry before realizing our mistake.

“If it’s nice, it gets a price,” his siblings and I jingled in unison as he sheltered t-shirts, boxers, and jeans from his yard-sale-possessed family.

While getting change, I told the tellers about our upcoming sale. One of them gave me a sympathetic half-smile. I initially interpreted it as “better you than me,” but shrugged it off. Our till was counted and put into a powder blue plastic toy tackle box, our cash register.

Exhaustion led to giddiness. We were too excited to go to bed at a decent hour on Sale Eve. Clothes were hung. Goods were priced. A stash of empty grocery bags was ready for customers’ loot. We wondered if we forgot any details.

The advertisement listed our hours as seven o’clock until noon. We expected early bird shoppers and agreed on a store policy: sell stuff no matter what the time.

We merchandised in pre-dawn dew. Tables almost buckled under the weight of our inventory. We hung clothes on a rope. A stepladder offered belts, shoes, and purses at a variety of heights.

“No early birds yet,” I said, grateful to prepare without distractions. By opening time, a parade of cars started on our street.

“Look, here comes another one,” I’d say. “No, don’t look.” We didn’t want to appear anxious.

Almost every potential customer slowed their car to window shop from the comfort of a front seat. More often than not, the car accelerated and left. We were tired and sweaty and discouraged, too.

I began hoping for just one sale. The kids worked so hard. Our house had been in sale mode for three days and was still a huge mess. Was it all worth it? I was beginning to wonder.

Then a family arrived. Kids poured from the van like clowns from a miniature car. I lost track of how many there were; but one thing was certain: they wanted toys. My kids’ faces glowed as their favorite things were once again appreciated.

These young customers were savvy negotiators. It became apparent that none of them intended on paying full price. Their parents stood behind them, beaming as their offspring were successful in getting discounts just for being so darned cute. I was grateful one car finally stopped, and it felt good to put some quarters in the tackle box.

There was a trickle of customers after that. One man paid us in a fifty-cent piece. I don’t think my kids were impressed but I was excited. Shoppers wanted jewelry, bobble heads and stadium cups, none of which our establishment offered.

We packed leftovers in our pick-up for delivery to the donation drop. Then the most surprising thing happened: swarms of customers arrived. Just as early birds want first dibs at the good stuff, people who arrive after the sale want deals.

I regret allowing the latecomers to peruse what we had already packed. There was a pillaging spirit about them as they ravaged boxes in the hull of our truck while searching for booty. Though they didn’t buy anything, I was relieved when the ransacking concluded.

Our profit was a mere $15. It sounds like it wasn’t worth it; but we did get some of the basement clean, made a substantial donation, and had fun. As we were enjoying our reward of take-out pizzas, my son entered the room. For one moment, I thought I heard a DJ scratching a turntable.

“Are you wearing shorts and leg warmers?” I asked him.

“I hate yard sales,” he said.

Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at Email her at

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