During the summer months, garage sales pop up like dandelions. Whether you consider them a bargain hunter’s dream or eyesore, garage sales can be a great place to furnish your home with treasures at a fraction of the new retail price. However, parents should be smart consumers when it comes to buying children’s products at garage sales. Getting a $10 retro bar stool is a steal; saving $50 on an infant seat is a major risk.
Children’s products are hot sellers at garage sales – but are they safe? Some products commonly found at these roadside mini-markets don’t meet current safety regulations or may not even be in working order. Baby gates, walkers, cribs, cradles, playpens, car seats and booster seats, strollers, walkers, toys and even children’s sleepwear are all products regulated by Canada’s Hazardous Products Act.
If you’re thinking of selling any of the above items at a garage sale, you may want to think twice. On their website, http://www.safety-council.org, the Canada Safety Council warns that The Hazardous Products Act provides for steep fines and prison sentences for individuals or companies if someone is injured due to a product you sold to caught selling items that failed to meet safety standards you can be held responsible them.
So you’re smart enough to avoid the potentially dangerous children’s items. There are still going to be great ways to save by garage sale shopping.
• Go out every weekend.
• The early bird gets the worm. If a sign says the sale runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, go on Friday. The best stuff always goes first.
• Look for signs that specifically mention baby gear, or multi-family sales.
• Check out sales in neighbourhoods with many new families.
• Bargain! The people running the garage sale expect to sell the item for less than the marked price. Buying $25 worth of stuff? Offer them $18 for the lot, and you’ll get it for $20.
• Carry small bills for better bargaining. It’s embarrassing to offer $16 for $20 worth of stuff and then pay with a $20!
• Bring your own screwdriver and batteries. Keep a container in your car with at least 6 batteries of AA, AAA, D, and C for testing any items that require batteries. A classic garage sale selling tactic is to tell a buyer the item works, but they took the batteries out to sell it, when they know very well the battery compartment is damaged by corrosion and there’s no chance of the item ever working again.
• Bring your own bags or a cardboard box or two – sellers often forget to have these handy.
• If you’re considering an item, pick it up while you continue to shop or think about the purchase. You may turn around for it and it’s in someone else’s paws.
• Take a friend for company (and a second opinion)!
If you don’t have the time or inclination to shop at garage sales, check with the community centres. Often they’ll have an annual or spring and fall kids’ stuff sale, which is essentially one huge garage sale.
Sarah Deveau is a mom of three, and the author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting. Visit her website at www.moneysmartmom.ca or pick up her book from Chapters Indigo.