The Value of Things

6:30am on Saturday morning, my dad pulls out of my driveway to start our “Give Away Day” adventure in downtown Kingston. This is the day that the city permits anyone to leave unwanted items on their property by the sidewalk for anyone to take. This is hugely popular in the student ghetto where sometimes you can find great things that they do not want to move. Two hours later we returned empty handed and rather disheartened. Every year we either miss it due to very poor advertising on the city’s part (take this year for example, my mom happened to see a friend on Facebook “like” the article) or we are too late in the day and everything is picked over. In recent years we realized that the local “pickers” would go during the night with their trucks and load everything up. I guess you can’t stop them but its a tad unfair to the rest of us.

We drove to every residential suburb from one side to the other and lawns looked cleaner than usual. A few possibilities – the weather has been horrible for so long no one has done any cleaning of house until this weekend where it was suddenly 15 degrees and sunny. We thought we might have been too early, but I got reports from other people that tried later on in the day and they found absolutely nothing on the roadside as well. Perhaps a picker went all over town and cleared everything away before anyone else saw it. Maybe no one put items outside. It was a very strange experience.

On our way home we stopped at a church that was hosting a yard sale… which brings me to my next thought: what are used goods actually worth? What people are willing to pay for them? Under $10? 50% of what the original value was? How does one define what an object is worth? This yard sale in question made me wonder. The only things that were selling were what people were bartering for… no one was paying the actual prices, to be honest, because most were outrageous. They had framed prints labelled as “Large Oil Paintings $30” “Small Oil Paintings $20” *head scratch* rows of puzzles $5… puzzles you have no way to know if all the pieces are even in the box…

The first thing that caught my eye and the same rack that made me lose complete interest was a garment rack they had sectioned off, you could still look at the items but they weren’t easily accessible. They were new formal dresses from a store with brand new tags hanging down. I thought well can’t go wrong with a black sequined dress *jaw drop* at $70 a pop. You’re donating items to a church fundraiser and yet you’re still asking retail value. I realize that they are new, but like cars, once they are taken out of the context of their original store environment, they lose their value. The odds of selling a formal cocktail dress for $70 at a yard sale, brand new or not, is pretty far fetched.

Much like Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace is becoming a more up and coming way to sell items you no longer want. I have attempted to sell a few things myself, some with great success, others were I would make an effort to meet the person only for them to cancel, not show up or walk away after seeing it in person. What might bother me most is people offering a lower price without having seen the item. It just feels low and cheap. I have since learned to put the price higher than I actually want, so then when they offer me a lower price, its closer to what I wanted to get in the first place. I had a solid wood coffee table in beautiful condition I was trying to sell, one person offered me $20 when I was asking $60. Comparable units were listed over $100 so I thought $60 was more than fair. Then you get that low baller that makes your blood boil. But I suppose, like bartering in general, you don’t know unless you try.

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