This week I was unofficially indoctrinated into a subsidiary of stay-at-home-mom-land, a phenomenon of which I assume the majority of the world is largely unaware. I participated in my first church consignment sale.
Apparently these things take place with regularity at churches and clubs around cities. Usually, the point is to fund-raise for whomever is hosting the sale, but the sellers get to take home a percentage of their profits. In this sale, a fundraiser for the Mothers of Preschoolers group (which I do not go to) of a church I do not attend, consigners get to take home 60% of the total price of the item. Also, every single one of these consignment sales follows a pretty standard pattern: day one, preview sale for volunteers, day two, sale opens to public, day three, sale opens to public but everything is half-price. Sounded dummy proof to me.
Somebody color me dummy.
First I was issued an email outlining the procedures of consigning, which included what and what not sell, how to create price tags, where and how to affix price tags to items, and how to present items: clean, on hangers, sorted by gender and then by size. The email was easy enough to follow, and let me tell you, the A/B honor roll student in me followed directions perfectly.
My first challenge was the question of prices. I went to another sale the weekend before to see what kinds of prices people were asking for the same stuff I had. I also got advice from consignment sale champion friends of mine. There seem to be generally two schools of thought on pricing: price to sell and get rid of everything quickly or price high hoping to get rid of some things then make your rock bottom price at the half-price sale.
My thought: I’m pricing this crap at a number that I would buy it knowing it was used. However, I also realized with the final day half-price sale, it would be pointless to price anything at a $1. (Apparently this bit of self-acquired knowledge actually puts me above the thinking curve of most consigners. Next time, perhaps I should direct these women to my blog.)
I’m trying really hard not to sit down and calculate the number of hours I spent pulling out clothes and toys, checking for (and removing) any stains, sorting, acquiring hangers (including those for pants/skirts and those which hold two or three piece outfits all in one), and safety pinning index cards to each of my almost sixty items. Yes, at one point there was blood.
My next challenge had me wishing I was still sitting in my house surrounded by only my crap. Because I wanted the chance of first-pick at everything else in the sale, I also volunteered to work one day of set-up.
Picture me in the middle of organizing what was basically a gigantic community baby/kid themed yard sale all in one room. It was like a hoarders paradise. I knew instantly that I would not be shopping on “open to the public” day here, nor at any other consigment sale for the rest of my life. The sheer amount of stuff was overwhelming. I didn’t even want to think about sharing the space with other stay at home moms ready to fight for a good deal. I had to suppress my extreme OCD as three tables of unorganized kids’ shoes screamed to be put in order by size. (Okay, I did break down and mostly fix this problem.) I had to consciously focus on not focusing on the entire room, or my head started spinning and I fought nausea. I’m not exaggerating.
I thought I was a little out of hand with my close to 60 items to sell. In comparison, I had a small lot. Also, it turns out I was one of the few consigners who apparently read the consigning procedures email. Sorting? What? Price tags correctly labeled? Nah… And of those who did catch that things actually needed to be on hangers, you’d be amazed to see how many people apparently do not know how to correctly use a hanger. You think I’m joking. I started getting high on my own stench of over-achievement. (Did I mention I typed my price tags?) I also greatly underpriced most of my stuff. Well. Comparatively. I felt pretty confident when I signed the go-ahead-and-donate-what’s-left-over-waver that I wouldn’t actually have any items left over. For me, the experience was a purging, not a trade-in. However, even if I make $100 at this thing, I’m fairly certain it means I worked for about $4.50 an hour in preparation. (Note to self: next time you are thinking about consigning, Claire, think about Ebay instead.)
I arrived at the preview sale about ten minutes early, with the thought in mind that I might find some princess dress up clothes and maybe some games or puzzles. The line of women was already out the door. I knew I was in for trouble when I noticed almost everyone came with a large tote, empty laundry basket, or worse, a double-stroller, but no kids.
Anyone wondering how stay-at-home-moms scratch their competitive itch? We enter unofficial tournaments of frugality. Instead of comparing golf-handicaps, we casually chat about how much money we’re not spending on our groceries. We brag about the great sales we found and the loot we scored. Obviously I’m guilty of this. Everyone in my family believes I’ve officially grown up to be cheaper than my father, a feat my mother believed was actually impossible.
But I’ve decided to draw the line at consignment sales. All the work and worry did not end up paying out in the way of say, triple coupons at Harris Teeter. Give me a pair of scissors and the Sunday coupon inserts any day over a consignment sale. Perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune when my surprise check comes in the mail, but for now, I’m just going to go sit in Eliott’s empty closet and relish my moment of successful purging. I have exactly two hours before my children’s fairy godmother arrives. This moment won’t last.