Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tales from the Yard Sale

It seemed like a good idea a month ago when one of our neighbors stopped by the house and said he was organizing a neighborhood yard sale. "Sure" we said, "we'll participate." When Friday morning rolled around, the date of the yard sale, I did not have much organized for the sale, but we hauled what we had out to the front of the yard, near the road. Ray, it seemed, had scheduled (ahem) some meetings that day, so it fell to me to man the yard sale. Since it was a beautiful day, it was nice to ensconce myself in a comfy chair (back, right side of the photo) and read the new Smithsonian magazine from cover to cover while I waited for customers. My next door neighbor wandered out and was my best customer of the day. She bought some baby things for her new granddaughter. Customers were few and far between. I entertained myself by posting yard sale updates to Facebook. I considered taking a nap under a tree. Then the guy showed up.

An older gentleman, smartly dressed in khakis, hiking boots, a snappy brimmed hat and one of those vests with all the zippered pockets wandered into the yard. He observed every item in my offering and said he was sorry I had nothing he was looking for. "What are you looking for?" I asked, more out of boredom than genuine curiosity. He said he was a regular vendor at the Vancouver (WA.) Flea Market and explained that his usual source of merchandise was the contents of abandoned storage units that he bought at auction, sight unseen, but he added to this with yard sale purchases. "I sell anything, unless it is illegal or immoral." He said he sometimes found pornography in his storage unit purchases, but refused to sell that.

"You must find some interesting stuff in storage units" I commented, thinking of the potential for disgusting or gross stuff. "Yikes, what if you found a dead body?" I was thinking.

"Well," he replied, "my best find was a unit where I found, first a box of gold bullion, then a suitcase full of cash—$100,000.00." HELLO! Now he had my attention. He spun out his story.

Uncomfortable, and wondering about his liability, he called the police. They referred him to the FBI. He said the FBI did a little investigating and got back to him to tell him that the unit had been rented by a Pakistani who was in the country illegally and was bringing more illegal Pakistanis (terrorists??) into the country. When this Pakistani was discovered, he fled the country, leaving his stash in an abandoned storage unit in Beaverton, Oregon. The FBI agent told my storyteller that the cash was legally his, but warned that someone might be looking for it and could easily get his name from the auction records. My yard sale visitor told me his wife became convinced that they were going to be killed for this money and had a heart attack, which she narrowly survived. They sold their home and moved to an undisclosed location, still in fear for their lives—but here he was, perusing my yard sale, and continuing to stock his flea market table. I could see that he was checking out my reaction to his story, and he nodded, emphatically, a couple of times. "Enjoy the day..." he concluded, and wandered off up the street.

This story was the best thing I took away from my yard sale day. Sales were dismal. I took in less than $20. Do I believe the story? It doesn't matter, but for the record—maybe.


  1. Love the story ... my immediate reaction was that this guy is an author trying out his story line on folks to see if it's plausible. It would make a great book, wouldn't it?

    Selling stuff in yard sales is grueling! I'd much rather be the one buying little things that I'm sure I'll use in some art some day........But I think you were the winner with the story!

  2. I think the duffer was flirting with you! All that (and a heart attack) over a mere 100K? I would have believed him if he had come in at say, 750K, maybe. I have been so tempted to go to one of those auctions. There's a place just up the road that has it once a month. The massive bad Karma load of snapping up the remains of someone else' bad luck is scary. In my my neck of the woods I'd be likely to find Granny's mummy or something equally difficult to unload.

  3. I have never understood the packing up of a storage facility and then abandoning it. It's almost like it's being used as a "hesitation dumpster" or something.

    The guy? I wonder if he would have told his story if Ray had been home?

    I have begged my daughter to let me have a yard sale in her front yard (off a main street and gets lots of attention) while I live on a dead end street in the woods. I'm not even sure people would buy my stuff as the best sale items are usually 25 cents. Did your neighbor do better?

  4. There's a cable show called, "Storage Wars" where they depict folks bidding on storage units. They get a small peek at the surface items and the bidding begins.

    Yard sales here in southern AZ are drastically different. You open early (like 7am) and are EMPTY by 10am. Folks from south of the border come and choose literally armloads of items to load their pick-ups 10' above capacity. You just can't believe the sight of these piled-high trucks going thru the neighborhood! Can't begin to imagine where it all goes, as long as, it's out of my house!

  5. Even if the story is false (I live in Portland and I don't remember reading about this...and surely it would have been in print), it is a good story and quite the find at your yard sale.

  6. My first reaction was "What a Trip". LOL. You'll never know for sure. It's something to talk about though. I think I'd rather just give stuff away than have to go through all the work of a yard sale. And I can just see my husband baleing out on me to go fishing. And I'd be stuck with it. So no, I don't do yard sales. Meeting such interesting people might be worth it though.

  7. I was drawn into the story until the heart attack. Then it just seemed too much. Regardless, it perked up a dreary yard sale day, so I'd say there was value in that! Maybe the guy knows that yard sales can suck and he was doing a civic duty in entertaining you. ;-) I always get so frustrated hearing about all the great finds and big profits in magazines and on TV shows when I can't sell my own stuff for more than a few dollars and never seem to find anything good either (if it's good it's too expensive and if it's cheap it sucks, nothing like what the re-fashioners in Martha Stewart or Country Living find).

  8. Catching up on your blog after a long week - you always make me smile. Great story - and I'd give it a maybe, too.

    Your son-in-law is indeed talented and you are a lucky art collector!

    I love the way you spin gold from the dross of every day life.

  9. That man made for an interesting day. I had my last garage sale last year when I realized that I spent more time than the items were worth setting it all up. The great thing about a garage sale is people watching. I had one garage sale that my Mom convinced a woman that was trying on a dress that was way, way too small that by adding a gusset she would fit in the dress. The woman bought the dress. LOL

  10. The people watching is the best! I heard this american life story about buying storage units, it seemed pretty interesting but apparently comes with dangers!