Marketplace Scratch Pad

Cities take a cut of garage sales

Scott Jagow Jun 16, 2009

If you’re in need of a crock pot, a coffee table or a plastic pony, chances are your neighbor is selling them in their yard this weekend. It’s garage sale season, and because of the economy, yard sales are up big time. Cities and towns are not oblivious to this development. Some of them have increased their fees and changed their rules.

Bloomfield, New Jersey has upped its fee from $10 to $25. That’s a pretty hefty take, considering what people usually make on garage sales. I don’t think the city’s trying to balance the budget with this, but cities are scouring for revenue. Last year, Bloomfield made $2,300 on garage sale fees.

Texas City, Texas recently floated the idea of charging a $10 fee, plus another $25 to put up garage sale signs. People got pretty upset, and the idea was tabled. The mayor says the city is still going to do something about the signs, though.

Other towns are keeping garage sale fees in tact. From the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

In Glen Ridge, considered one of New Jersey’s most tax-stressed town, the fee is $2 — something officials don’t expect to increase anytime soon. “Garage sales are not going to be the magic bullet to solving our economic problems,” said Michael Zichelli, the deputy borough administration…

Some places heavily discourage anything more than a single garage sale. In Irvington, the normally $10 fee soars to $89 for each subsequent sale, more than enough to wipe out the revenue from a table of bric-a-brac.

Wausau, Wisconsin is “cracking down” on garage sales too. Looks like the city council will pass a measure that allows each household to only have 16 garage sales a year. Wow, the market for plastic ponies must be pretty strong there in Wausau.

The LA Times says garage sale postings on Craigslist have increased 80% over last year.

Another development — garage sales are covered under a new federal law that prohibits selling recalled products. From the Seattle Times:

Just like megasize toy manufacturers and stores that sell products from China, the notoriously broad and confusing federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act applies to you and your front yard.

Anyone selling products, even used ones, that have been recalled or banned by the act is in violation. The act covers everything from toys with lead paint to cribs that might strangle babies.

“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” warns a 27-page Consumer Product Safety Commission resellers’ handbook, released this month. “But more importantly … you do not want to sell products that have the potential to harm anyone, especially a child.”

If you’re holding a yard sale soon, you might want to check out the CPSC’s handbook.

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