The Table Top Nearly New Sale

Saturday morning and a room full of parents set up tables in the local scout hall. They bring bags and bags of their children's belongings from the car. They have clothes their children have grown out of and toys which have lost favour but they've still had to smuggle out of the house. You can't let the children see which old toys you are taking, I've made that mistake before. It doesn't matter if they are too old for the toys, it doesn't matter if they haven't played with them for months or even years. Suddenly that toy is their favourite and can't possibly be sold.

A view from the corner of the scout hall looking out towards lots of tables piled high with second hand children's clothes and toys

Mum's work together to try and assemble a hanging rail, "I'm sure this went in there", "Why is it falling over?”, "I've got a spanner" and ”Anyone for a cup of tea?”.

"How much are you selling that Booster seat for? I'm selling one too". You wonder whether they are asking to undercut you or so they can price match. How cut throat will these people be? Everyone wants to make money, no one wants to take things home again and the customers will only come with so much money.

Then everyone is set up and we sit and wait for the doors to open. People peak out the windows, "the queue isn't very long", "do you think we will sell enough?”. The worries creep in.

The customers arrive. Less than we'd like, but they arrive. What do you do when they come to your table? Should you smile? Make eye contact? Chat? I don't want to scare anyone off, but I don't want to appear rude either. Friendly, but not intimidating. I know how hard it is for sales assistants in shops now, I almost find myself asking “Can I help you?”.

A slow trickle of bargain hunters poke around before walking away from my table. Have I not displayed things well enough? Are my prices too high? Are they not here to buy? Come on customers, try harder, there are bargains to be had. 

Close up of some money including the new £5 note and new pound coins

Two mums stand in front of my table and have a chat stopping anyone else from viewing it. I want to ask them to move, but I don’t want to make a scene. This is not a social event!

A young child wonders over, parents distracted. She pokes everything. I see the same child ten minutes later after going to the cake stall, she is now covered in icing and crumbs. I’m grateful that it’s no longer my items she is poking.

The minutes tick by, the hall gets quieter, but the tables are still piled high. Is anyone else going to come? Is this it? Still an hour to go, but there are few customers left. Stall holders drink tea, eat cake and browse the other stalls spending what precious money they have earned. I wonder how many will be taking home more than they brought. I mostly manage to resist, but I do get a few items of clothes heavily discounted as the lady is about to pack them away.

“The sale was a success” the organisers will shout. With the fees sellers paying for their tables, the entrance fee for customers, fees charged for handing out flyers to customers and the cake stall they will have made a good amount. 

The stall holders ask each other how they did while trying to work out what they'll do with everything. Should they try eBay again or maybe just hand it all over to the local charity shop? For now it will all go home again. This time they sneak everything back into the house to hide from their partner rather than their children: unsold goods and new purchases. He was hoping for more space. Maybe next time.

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