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When I walked up to her garage sale, I loved the sight of Lavonne Thorsen sitting at a fold-up TV dinner tray. "I'm having a good time," Lavonne said with a smile.
Lavonne's job was to take care of the cash while her family made sales. She kept the money in a small cardboard box on the TV tray - something that can be quite tempting for people who have more on their mind than scoring a bargain. I know one garage saler who lost more than $400 when she went inside for just a second. "All that hard work for nothing," she told me.
Here's why these things happen. People have yard sales to earn some extra cash, and honest people don't think others could be so cruel. But they can be, and they often work in pairs. One person creates a distraction-falls, breaks something, screams-just long enough for a partner to make off with the funds.
The lesson? When holding a garage sale we should all try and think a little bit like a criminal. At Lavonne's sale the family never even considered something like this happening. I'm not saying she couldn't have protected herself or even the money for that matter-she's pretty feisty. But criminals do work fast, and could fool any of us. It's a good idea to stash most of your earnings from the sale inside, keeping only a few dollars to make change.
Lavonne's daughter, Laura, was glad I stopped by their sale. "I never even gave it a second thought before. It's a garage sale, you know. It's hard to believe someone would take everything," Laura told me. Better safe than sorry.
Garage Sale Gal Lynda Hammond writes a weekly column for The Arizona Republic, and you can find sales and see tips on her site GarageSaleGal.com. Lynda's new book, The Garage Sale Gal's Guide to Making Money Off Your Stuff, is available online and everywhere books are sold.
Have a question about garage or estate sales? E-mail Lynda at Lynda@GarageSaleGal.com. Look for her posts periodically in the AARP Blog to help you make the most of your yard sale pilgrimages.