The down economy has forced many to find income in any way they can. It has made a cottage industry of the once benign spring cleaning activity of holding garage sales. Some municipalities have taken exception and started cracking down on so-called
“extreme” garage sales.
Sales have become about income
According to Tagsellit.com, Americans hold about 45,000 garage sales every weekend. More and more, cash-strapped Americans have been organizing garage sales as a way to raise income rather than as a way to clear out old, unwanted stuff.
Todd Goodsell, an assistant sociology professor at Brigham Young University, said:
“The middle class appears to be shrinking while the lower-classes are growing, and members of the middle class seem to be engaging in thrift behaviors as an adaptive strategy under conditions of downward mobility.”
Cities make no tax revenue
Municipalities don’t get any extra tax revenue from the events, yet city officials are often forced to deal with the traffic and sanitation issues associated with the larger “extreme” sales.
Alexandria, Virginia’s Richard Zambito, a leader of the Parklawn Civic Association, says in the last few years he has seen garage sales go from low-key family affairs with a few card tables of second-hand merchandise to circus atmospheres that feature old cars, used major appliances and gridlock traffic.
“Two weeks ago, I drove by a home and they were having an auto sale, 20 cars parked on the lawn. And I went by another home and saw the yard full of appliances, including vacuum cleaners, washing machines and driers,” Zambito said.
Since then, he has become the city’s unofficial watchdog of out-of-control garage sales. He has been taking pictures — often to the ire of sale organizers — and made careful records to present to county officials in his bid to persuade them to enact more regulation.
Restrictions imposed in some towns
Regulations have been handed down in the Pittsburgh, Pa., borough of South Greensburg. There, the president of the town’s council, Clentin Martin, enacted an ordinance that limits a household to only four garage sales a year, and each one of those requires a payment of $5 to the town.
Many citizens have been vocal in their opposition.
“I’ve gotten more heat on this than anything I’ve ever done,” Martin said.
Dallas, Texas, enacted a similar ordinance last year, but it limits each household to two sales a year and requires a $15 permit for each.
Dallas city council member Dwaine Caraway said:
“It wasn’t about making revenue for the city more than to get something under control that was increasingly growing out of control. People throughout neighborhoods and communities — some people, not all — were taking advantage of it. They’d roll out stuff and roll it back in every weekend. … This stuff was in boxes. Some with tags on them.”
Similar ordinances have been proposed in Tacoma, Wash.; Long Beach, Calif.; Delano, Calif.; Palm Springs, Calif.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Springfield, Mo., and Norfolk, Va. The problem is, these kinds of restrictions target all garage sale organizers, not just the extreme variety.
Restrictions should target abusers
One resident in Delano, Calif. told reporters:
“There’s so many people that take advantage of it. They don’t abide by the laws. It is just not right to those that do abide by the laws.”
Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire”, agrees that those who abuse the privilege at the expense of others should be curtailed. However, he says all garage sale organizers should not be penalized for the reckless habits of a few extremists:
“We should be allowed as Americans to have a garage sales, make a little money, without being permitted and taxed everywhere we go. A normal person would probably have two garage sales a year.”
A ‘green’ activity
LaPedis also mentioned the environmental benefits of recycling items through garage sales:
“Having a garage sale is very green because it recycles items. People are now going to start throwing away stuff.”