Copyright © Harry Rinker, LLC 2018

The Digital Sales Approach Is Not Always "The" Right Answer

Although a member of AARP (American Association of Retired People), I disagree with many of its advocacy positions. “The Magazine AARP” is the primary reason I continue my membership. Each issue provides me with helpful and thoughtful information. That is until the 2018 June/July issue.

Bruce Horovitz’s “MoneySaver: Your Yard Sale…Madison Avenue Style!” contained a piece of advice that caused my blood to boil. The article had four sections: (1) Get Catchy and Classy; (2) Target Your Customers: (3) Get Paid By Phone; and, (4) Use Letgo Instead. Each section appears to have been a summary of an interview Horovitz conducted.

When I taught “Advanced Composition” at Davenport University, I stressed to my students the need to question all sources. Does the author have the expertise to write about the subject? Are the author’s sources creditable and knowledgeable? Just because something appears on public and social media or in print does not guarantee its accuracy or neutrality.

If I was writing an article about how to conduct a garage/yard sale, I would interview three basic groups – individuals who conducted garage/yard sales, authors of books about how to conduct garage/yard sales, and experts in the disposal of antiques, collectibles, and household goods. The so-called experts consulted by Horovitz included a CEO of Deutsch, North America, Los Angeles, a group creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, New York City, a head of communications strategy, McCann, New York, and a chief information officer, TBWA/Chief/Day Los Angeles. These individuals are big city focused. Garage/yard sales are a suburban, small town, and countryside experience. There are no garage/yard sales on Madison Avenue.

Forgetting my disagreement with some of the suggestions in the first three sections of Horovitz’s article, I want to focus on the fourth section “Use Letgo Instead.” It reads: “A garage sale is an antiquated way to get rid of stuff. [This sentence alone was enough to p--- me off.] Unless you enjoy sitting outside with a shoebox all day, take your 10 most valuable items and post them on the free Letgo app, where potential buyers can easily find them. Have a special blender? Include the model number in your post. Then you won’t have to haggle face to face.” If the person who offered this pile of useless advice is not on the take from the Letgo app, he should be.

A garage/yard sale is and remains a viable method of disposing of recyclable household goods ranging from children’s clothes to household accessories. Linda and I live in the Villas at Bailey’s Grove, a subdivision within the larger Bailey’s Grove development in Kentwood, Michigan. The Bailey’s Grove Property Owners Association holds two community garage sales a year. Many of the nearby developments do as well.

My first reaction to the Horovitz article was to launch a strong defense of garage/yard sales as a means of disposing of unwanted material. Garage/yard sales need no such defense. Their success speaks volumes.

Instead, I have chosen to focus my ire on the concept that the only way to survive in the 21st century is to sell one’s soul to the digital age. The digital age is now. Antiques, collectibles, and household goods sales occur regularly on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, and many other internet sites. Although these are viable selling sources, they are not the only selling sources. Direct, face to face sales of antiques, collectibles, and household goods are alive and flourishing.

Consider for a moment that every AARP member who wished to dispose of his/her unwanted goods decided to follow the advice to list their top 10 items on the Letgo app. The first question is: what happens to the dozens or hundreds of other items the person hopes to liquidate? Do they simply discard them? The second point is that listing an item on the Letgo app does not guarantee its sale. If the asking price is too high, it will not sell.

I never heard about the Letgo app until I read this article. “Target Your Customers,” the second section in the Horovitz article, advises: “write multiple ads because you have multiple kinds of buyers.” The information in the fourth section contradicts this. It takes a “put all your marbles in one basket” approach. In terms of selling antiques, collectibles, and household goods, limiting that basket to one app is an invitation to disaster.

Suggesting using the Letgo app assumes three false criteria: (1) everyone is app literate, (2) everyone has a smart phone or computer, and (3) everyone is checking the Letgo app every hour or at least once a day. I am not app literate, perhaps “addicted” would be a better word. Although I am not app free, I try my best to live an app minimal life. If I asked 100 of my friends if they have a Letgo app on their computer or smart phone, I doubt if I would find one who does. Many of my older friends still have flip phones. Dinosaurs though they may be, I applaud them for their Luddite resistance.

Will everyone who believes everyone owns a computer, put up their hand? Until recently, I would have raised my hand. My computer and smart phone have become such an integral part of my life that I mistakenly assumed the same was true for everyone else. It is not. Two recent experiences helped restore a sense of balance.

During a visit to the Great Smokey Mountains, Asheville, and a side trip to Seagrove, North Carolina, I encountered large areas where I had no cell phone reception. I experienced an extreme case of “I am out of touchness.” I broke out in a sweat and increased my travel speed to expedite my return to the real world as soon as possible. Without realizing it, I have become an instant gratification victim, in this instance an uncontrollable desire to phone a person whenever I want and wherever I am and talk with them or leave a message. I lost my desire for solitude. This is not who I am. It needs to change.

For the past few years, I encouraged listeners to WHATCHA GOT? my syndicated antiques or collectibles call-in radio show to call or send me emails so I can talk about their objects on air. I forgot that since many of my listeners are senior citizens, there is a strong possibility that they do not own a computer or smart phone. When asking a listener to send me an image of an object so that I could research it, her response was “I have to ask a friend [relative] to take the picture. I do not have a smart phone or access to the internet.”

I did not give out a mailing address because I mistakenly assumed that a person who wanted my address would visit my website www.harryrinker.com and obtain it from there. Dumb me. How could someone do that if they did not have computer access? I started providing my mailing address on WHATCHA GOT? a few weeks ago. Much to my surprise, I now receive one to two letters a week.

I live in the digital age. I utilize digital age technology in my work and daily communication. My computer is as much an integral part of travel gear as is my sleep apnea kit. The days of wishing it was not so have passed.

At the moment, there is not a garage/yard sale software program that allows a seller to list the full garage/yard sale contents on the internet. If anyone is working on one, cease and desist. Garage/yard sales are an adventure. They preserve the love of the hunt and allow for personal interaction. Although garage/yard sales should be conducted on a business basis, they are not a professional business. They are often a once and done or every few years event.

Finally, a piece of advice for sellers who have a few items whose potential value is beyond that which can be achieved at a garage/yard sale, put them on Craigslist if you wish to sell via the internet. Before you ask, I am not on the take from Craigslist. This advice is based on dozens of conversations with people who have used Craigslist and shared their positive results and minimal cost.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Selected letters will be answered in this column.  Harry cannot provide personal answers.  Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned.  Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI  49512.  You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.


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