Daniel's Esperanza

Daniel's Esperanza

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Estate Sales of the Future...Strip Before Entering

For many years, I've enjoyed attending estate sales.  When I owned an antiques business, a great deal of my merchandise came from these sales and from auctions.  Since I closed my business, I no longer spend weekends searching for treasures to resell, but I do occasionally attend a sale if I have time.  Sometimes it's just the thrill of the search for me and I do find things that are personal and I keep them for myself.  Mostly, I enjoy the history behind the items and sometimes the homes that I see.

It seems estate sales aren't what they used to be.  Attending one recently left me with little, if any, desire to step foot in another one.  Upon reaching the front entrance of the sale, potential customers were bombarded with signs that had been taped all over the screened porch.  The estate sale company listed so many "dos, don'ts and warnings" that I wondered if we'd be searched upon entering.  Close.

Entering wasn't easy.  Handbags weren't allowed inside.  All purses were to remain in your vehicle, the sign had read.  Grumbling, I made my way to the car, stashed my purse and went back to the house.  I sarcastically thought they wouldn't want me to leave my money in the car, now would they?  This better be worth it, I griped further.

Once given the "yea" to enter, I immediately had to remove my shoes.  This isn't unusual, but it's not a request I like.  The potential for stepping on something sharp (nails, needles, pins, thumbtacks, etc) that's fallen on the floor in these homes is great.  Add a little rust, and well, I'm sure no one would like that risk.  Plus, no one "attends" the shoes. There is always a great pile of footwear by the door and if someone leaving likes a particular pair of boots (that do not belong to said person), then who's to stop her/him from putting them on and walking out?  This is a likely problem.

After removing the shoes, it was on to the next "station".  A lady working for the estate sale company asked me to remove my jacket.  What?  "Too many small items in this house will tempt shoplifters," she said.  "I'm not a shoplifter," I replied.  "Well, jackets aren't allowed," came the response.  By this time I was getting pretty mouthy.  "Then if there are shoplifters, will you guarantee my leather jacket will be here when I return to get it?" I asked.  She wasn't amused but said it would be.  I couldn't stop myself but went further, "My jeans have pockets.  Should I remove them, too?"  The woman didn't find that amusing either.

Once past the layer of security, I continued to think that my efforts had better be worth it.  Surely, there must be true antiques or vintage items of value.  Even priceless, right?  Why else would they make us go through all of this?  Usually if there are small and valuable items for sale, those items are "held" behind a table or enclosure, manned by an employee, and available to view if asked.  But that might be too logical, and besides, I'd just entered "Fort Knox".  The search was on.

And the search was over just as I stepped into that first room.  I think I gasped, but I'm not sure because I eventually realized my mouth was gaping open...a little hard to do both, but I might've gasped first.  Looking around, I thought I'd entered a home that was on the verge of being featured in an episode of "Hoarders".  Not quite there, but close.  If there was anything of value, and that was doubtful, you had to dig to find it.  Lots of plastic, and opened packages of figurines (think California Raisin dudes and the like).  For the life of me, I was trying to figure out why a shoplifter would bother.  If anyone was going to steal anything, they'd be doing the estate sale company a favor.  I didn't see many purchases being made.

Thankfully, my jacket and shoes were as I left them, I didn't have to go through a "pat-down" before I left, and I complained all the way to the car (without buying anything).  Of all the experiences I'd been through attending these sales, this was probably the worst.

Surprisingly, they hadn't enforced the cash only rule, as many estate sale companies do now.  As a former business owner, I understand not wishing to pay credit card fees, but it's the nature of doing business in my opinion. As is the risk of dealing with shoplifters.  You just don't treat everyone as a potential thief.  Imagine the outrage if a national retailer, such as Macy's, made you shed your clothing before you were allowed in their store, simply because you "might be tempted" to steal something.

As for cash only...it might work for small sales, but there are sales with high end items (furniture, cars, electronics, fine jewelry) sporting price tags.  A little difficult to deal with if you don't know the area, or where the nearest ATM might be.  Imagine getting a wad of cash and reaching the door of the estate sale I just described.  What?  I can't take my purse in?  Well, that's no problem.  I'll just stick the money in my shoe (something I did as a kid when I went to amusement parks).  I have to remove my shoes?  Well, I'll just stick the money in my jacket pocket.  What?  No jackets?  Well, what am I am going to do with my money?  I have no pockets on my pants.  The next logical place for a woman?  The bra, of course!  Hope that no one pays attention if something makes an appearance that shouldn't while you're fisting around the front of your neckline to pay for that lamp.

All of the above is in fun, but it does show how ridiculous it's become to attend these sales.  Estate sale companies should stop taking themselves so seriously.  I sometimes wonder what's next.  Strip search, metal detectors, body scanners?  Yeah, those California Raisin dudes are sure worth it.   

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