What I Hate About Running Estate Sales

The last few entries were a bit schmaltzy and people are starting to complain (Okay, nobody complained; it was just my opinion.  Either nobody else thought so, or nobody else reads my blog.).  With that in mind, let me tell you what I hate about estate sales:

  1. Clients who want to control everything.  They hired me, but I’m just a front, just a conduit for their ego displays.  They already have prices in mind for most of their belongings, usually greatly inflated above their resell value.  Maybe they just want to show off about what great taste they or their parents had.  I don’t know their reasons, all I know is that the sale will most likely tank and I will sell very little.
  2. Complaining neighbors.  I try to ensure that all my customers and workers obey the posted street signs and don’t hassle the people who live around my sale, but there always seems to be one person who loves to break the rules. That person is usually matched by one neighbor who is chronically unhappy, and the estate sale in their neighborhood is a great excuse for them to vent.  If someone is truly being bothered, please come talk to me and I’ll do whatever I can to solve the problem.  But please don’t call the property owner or the police before you’ve told me about the problem.  I’m not hard to find:  I’m almost always right at the front of the sale so that I can more easily handle whatever problems I see.  I want you to be as happy as I can help you to be.  It makes my job more pleasant, too.
  3. Thieves.  I don’t get them too often, but when I do, it breaks my heart and possibly even breaks my budget.  I take it personally when people steal from my sales; it feels like such an insult.  I’m a trusting person and I like it that way.  When someone steals, it hurts my image of myself and of other people  I don’t want to go through life being suspicious of others.  Besides, you may be stealing from a dead person’s family!  Maybe they need that money more than you do.  And if it is a foreclosure or downsizing sale, they almost certainly need all the money they can get.  For that matter, so do I!
  4. People who don’t play the game right.  If you ask me the price of something and you don’t like my answer, there’s no need to get huffy about it.  I’m not trying to pull a trick on you or to steal your hard earned money.  I’ve priced that item that way because I believe it is the correct price to ask for it.  Possibly I’m wrong, but its more likely that I will inadvertently price it too low than too high.  What you think is a outlandishly priced purse could be a Louis Vuitton that retails for thousands of dollars  or maybe that ordinary looking set of wineglasses is really a hand-blown set by Stueben that actually sells for several hundred dollars.  Even if it IS an ordinary item that I just priced higher than you want to pay, there is no reason to get angry or (just as bad) to slam it down and walk away.  If you are confused about why I priced something as I did, or if you just don’t want to pay the price I put on an item, just ask me.  I might tell you why it’s so expensive, or I might stand by my price because I think it’s fair, or I could possibly be willing to negotiate with you.  You won’t know unless you ask.
  5. Working hard on a sale and not making enough money to make it worth my time.  It happens.  I’m sure you can figure out why I hate this.
  6. Working on a boring sale.  I rarely get these kinds of sales, possibly because I choose carefully. Probably, though, it’s because I love digging through people’s lives and finding out about them, which makes most sales at least passably interesting.  However, occasionally sales have only ordinary items because the family has already mined the estate for all its gold (both literally and figuratively).  All I can hope for then is that the family at least kept the interesting stuff and didn’t just throw it away.
  7. When people tell me that I’ve got a great job because it’s so easy.  It’s not easy.  It requires heavy lifting, it’s dusty or dirty, we work long hours, and often it is messy and smelly.  It looks easy because I have years of experience doing it.  And it has taken me years of experience plus college courses in appraising that have given me enough knowledge to price ordinary items with confidence, or recognize my ignorance so I know when to do more research.  By the time the customers come in, the chaos we started with has been partially tamed and cleaned. If I’m being honest, though, I don’t really hate this part of the job, I just hate being told it is easy.
  8. People who can’t wait until a reasonable hour before calling me to find out the price of an item they want.  I know you are excited and want to get first dibs on that special thing, whatever it might be, but chances are good that I haven’t even priced it yet. And please don’t ask me to let you buy it early.  You always have some excuse about why you can’t come to the sale, but I know you probably made it up.  You just want what you want when and how you want it, and at the price you like.  While I’d love to sell you as much as you want, I have other customers who have seen the same pictures but are willing to wait until the sale to try to buy it.  Think about how rude that would be to them to just up and sell the item before they have a fair shot, and all just because they followed the rules and waited politely.  Also, I have a life outside of doing estate sales.  Waking me by calling at dawn or after I’ve gone to bed will not go in your favor.  But it does let me know that the item is of special interest so I know to price it just a little bit higher than I might have otherwise.  Hey, maybe I should thank you for calling and warning me!  Nah!
  9. Finding a treasure that turns out not to be one.  I’ve gotten excited about something before and been disappointed.  That Louis Viutton purse turned out to be a phony; the original oil painting turned out to be by an unknown family member; the gold necklace wasn’t a gold necklace.
  10. Worse than #9 above is having a customer find a treasure that I didn’t find first.  That hurts.  The worst one I’ve witnessed fortunately happened to someone else back when I was just a peon assistant: she had priced something in a hurry; a customer came,  grabbed it and laughed in glee as he explained to me just how rare his find was and how much it was really worth.  I never told that pricer about her mistake because I knew it would haunt her more than it did me.

Overall, it looks like there isn’t much I hate.  That’s a good thing.  I’d better stop now before I get schmaltzy again.



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2 responses to “What I Hate About Running Estate Sales

  1. You’ve got a tough job but at least you chose it and you like what you do.

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