Types of Customers at Estate Sales


Jan 24, 2012

I love the variety of people that I meet at my estate sales.  There are all types; the dealers, the nosy neighbors, the collectors, the lingerers, and the jerks.  Over the weekend I experienced them all and for those of you who are not familiar with each type I thought I would create a little educational digest.  Enjoy and please let me know what type of buyer you are!

The Dealer:  These types of buyers show up hours early to a sale.  They always pretend that they are not dealers but they can’t hide from me!  Usually one quick look at their car when they load up their purchases reveals it because it is typically still filled up from a previous sale.  Some dealers are nice and some are not. The typically work in teams, and take turns standing by their pile of goodies while the other one shops.  The are experts at packing their cars and from time to time they can assist in creating a sale by oohing and aaahing over items.

At the sale over the weekend I had a couple that arrived bright and early, they were eager to help us set up the sale and were oohing and ahhing at all of the treasures being pulled out of the garage.  This couple was really nice and pleasant to deal with so I opened it up early.  They power shopped for 45 minutes and ended up spending over $700 on 2 car loads of little items.

The Lingerer:  This type of buyer could stay all day if you let them.  They usually show up later in the afternoon and shop for several items.  They like to negotiate the prices as they shop and pay as they go.  I don’t understand this method because it is hard for them to keep track of how much they have spent.

At the sale over the weekend there was a woman who arrived on the second day around noon and she left at 4pm.  If the price tag said $40 she would offer $5 which I wouldn’t take.  I did end up selling her several items over the course of her visit and she probably ended up spending $80-$100 over time.  This is the type of buyer that my husband can’t stand.  If they are nice to me I can tolerate them but sometimes I have to ignore them so they leave.

The Nosy Neighbor:  This type of buyer comes to snoop at what is available, sometimes they call their friends and other neighbors from the sale on their cell phones to gossip about what is being sold.  They usually don’t appreciate antiques and are loud and obnoxious.

At the sale over the weekend there was a neighbor who drove all of us nuts, even my client.  She picked up everything and asked “what is this? how does this work?”  for about 2 hours.  She ended up buying an antique cherry picker and when she cashed out she asked me what is was and how much is was.  I had it priced at $15 so I told her it was a cherry picker and that it was $15.  She looked at me and said, “this is $15, it looks like a piece of junk!”  I responded by tell her that it wasn’t junk, that is was a neat collectible and that someone who came to my sale who remembered picking cherries with her Grandma with a similar item would be thrilled to find it.  She looked at me with the strangest look and ended up trying to get it for $10, I said I was firm on the price and then she handed me a crisp $100 bill and asked for change.  So annoying!  

The Jerk:  This type of buyer thinks that they can win me over with their less than friendly personality.  They put together a pile and they want to know the price, I always add up the price tags and then give them their total and they start to yell at me saying that I am ripping them off.  Sometimes I kick them out of the sale and other time, depending on what they buy I will cut them a deal just so that I can get rid of them.

At the sale over the weekend a big jerk shopped both days, he yelled at me about all of the prices and I couldn’t stand him.  He didn’t speak English very well so it was hard to negotiate but in the end I cut him a deal to get rid of him.  He ended up buying several items that were missing parts and were not in working condition.  I hate this type of buyer.

The Collector:  This type of buyer is usually eclectic and probably drives a vintage car.  They also arrive to the sale early and the suspense over what is inside the sale kills them.  They love the hunt and often only purchase one or two things.

At the sale over the weekend there was a man in his mid 50s, he was the first to arrive and drove up in a vintage mustang.  He was wearing bell bottoms and had his hair slicked back.  He shopped for over an hour and ended up purchasing one item, an old Buick light bulb.  

The Young Collector:  This type of buyer will either contact you before the sale starts looking for particular items or they casually show up on the second day.  They are always nice and fun to work with.  In most cases that I have experienced they are male and they enjoy shopping for old tools, guns, and books.

At the sale over the weekend I had both types, an early bird collector and a casual young collector.  The early bird was looking for tools and I let him come for a preview, he looked around the sale for 2 hours and ended up purchasing a few tools, an old medical lamp, and some maps.  The casual collector arrived on day two with his friend, he shopped for a while and chatted with me and my crew.  He ended up purchasing an antique gun case and 2 steamer trunks (I cut him a deal, buy one get one free).  


  • Jill Quillman

    Ha, ha Amanda! We DEFINITELY saw all those characters at the Watsonville estate sale, ugh! So many nosy neighbors and lingerers. Some people stayed all day both Sat and Sun. PLUS had the gall to come back Sunday night and Monday morning when we were clearly closed and were cleaning to try to get free stuff that we were getting ready to donate. Wish we had more dealers and collectors.

  • Anonymous

    The pictures you used were just perfect.

  • Mark and Ashlie

    Love this! Still trying to decide who my favorite “character” is. Love the picture of the Nosy Neighbor!

  • marissa

    this is great I hope you'll add it to my What We Wore and Made Party over at http://raegunwear.blogspot.com/search/label/WWWMW

  • Kristin

    I put on a large church-wide sale on our property to raise funds for our friends' adoption. There was a lot of stuff and a lot of people, but there were 2 in particular who really irritated me. The wife was here first for a good hour or 2, pouring over the books we had for sale and on the phone the entire time, I assume to check used book values with her husband. The husband came in a little while. They low-balled me on a box of books and even more so on my highest priced books (homeschooling curriculum). I refused their offer on the curriculum and demanded full price (I'm a homeschooler – I know their values well). They actually LAUGHED at me loudly and asked how I'd ever get those prices (“where would you even sell these?” – as if half.com and Amazon are secrets). I refused and sold the books for what I wanted shortly after to other people. It's so annoying when you know people are low-balling you just to make themselves a bigger profit when they resell it later. Urgh!

  • Charlene@APinchofJoy

    I go to a lot of estate sales and have a garage sale at least once a year. Fortunately haven't met any of those kinds of folks. Around here, most estate sales and larger garage sales mark down to 50% on the last day so that really cuts down on hagglers — my personal pet peeve.

  • May

    I recognize everyone of these shoppers! You are a keen observer of people!

  • Cherry Picker Sale

    Go on doing what you do as we enjoy reading your work.

  • Gary

    Great post. I think I've seen more pickers, or people trying to flip their investments, than I've seen collectors at estate sales. Still very interesting thing to do.

Leave a Comment:

Theme by Blogmilk   Coded by Brandi Bernoskie