Are all adults this skilled at taking advantage of children?

It happens one morning each summer. One of the kids wakes us early on a Saturday, dressed, pepped and ready: It’s Neighborhood Garage Sale Day!

This year, it was Middle who was prepared. He had collected old toys and clothing in boxes and on Friday night placed them all by the door. We put him to bed that night, hoping he’d oversleep or forget.

But forget he didn’t, and he was ready to sell about 2 hours before the official beginning to Neighborhood Garage Sale Day.

Big joined in. He collected books that he felt the family was finished with. Figuring “why not?” I grabbed some old, unused items from around the house and put them outside.

This year, I explained to the boys, was their year. This year they’d run the show, and I’d only be there to chaperone. All pricing was for them to decide. Additionally, they were responsible for negotiating, money collecting and inventory.

As a reward, they were collecting 100% of the profit.

Glancing both ways down the street at the neighboring sales, I knew they were driven.

They grabbed post-its and a marker and quickly labeled prices, discussing as they worked. They even had me check a few new in box items on Shop Savvy to determine actual MSRP.

The morning started slow. They sat behind their brightly colored toys and watched as pick-up trucks, beat-up boats cars and minivans barreled down the road, slowing down at our home, but stopping about 4 houses down. After around 30 minutes of hanging in, they had their first customers: a couple who immediately went to the Children’s Books bucket.

It was priced a bit over what I would have posted, at $2 per book.

The woman went straight to the chunky ABC books. You know the ones: they usually come as a collection, perfect for babies.

She looked at me and asked, “How much per book?”

“Actually,” I replied, “it’s not my sale. The kids are in charge.”

Big looked at me. “$2?” he said.

“It’s up to you,” I shrugged. Then I added, quietly, “but you may want to consider $1 each for those books.”

He nodded. “Okay. $1.”

“EACH?” she questioned, looking more at me. “It’s a set. If I get the whole set, you want $1 each?!”

Big looked back to me. “It’s really their sale,” I said. “They’re selling the products, running the sale and keeping the money. Hmmm, Big? Would you be willing to make that a little less if they get the whole set?” I looked to the “customer”.  “How many are in the set,” I asked her. “Six?”

“Right. 6.” She replied.

“Well…” Big looked at me and shrugged.

“So,” I said to Big. “It’s up to you. Would you take $.50 a book if she buys all 6 books from the set?”

“For $3. Okay.” Big said.

“Well. I’ll give you $1 for the set.” she said, and waited, holding the dollar bill as bait as my 7-year-old looked around.

Big shrugged again. “Okay, I guess.” He took the dollar.

And then.

Oh. How I cringe.

Then she picked up 8 books, reading out the alphabet to make sure she had the whole set and ran to her car.

Eight books. EIGHT.

Sure. They were books that were rarely read or played with.  They were baby books. But that lady took clear advantage of a child. She had no interest in what she was doing to him as she “negotiated.” She only thought of the bottom line. And got, possibly, the garage sale deal of the century. An offer that, initially, would have helped my son collect $16, she walked away spending only $1.

There’s a certain point where, garage sale or no, people need to learn and express dignity and respect. Even for children.

Should I have spoken up? Should I have stopped the conversation mid way? I’m still questioning that and I have been all day. Was I wrong to show my children that I trusted them and their judgement, offering them the first say to the last say in their garage sale today?

I don’t think so. I’m so proud of my kids for organizing, setting prices (that made sense to them) and officiating the sale.

I’m so proud that they sat (for most of the time) talking to customers, discussing their income and learning to run a store.

I’m so proud that they were respectful of each other and of their customers.

I’m so proud of them.

I’m still not sure if I’m proud of me. True, we likely would have donated those books to a school or recycled them, but I’m still wondering if I should have stepped in and told the lady that she was taking this too far. My children were so excited to have their first sale, to feel the linen of a dollar smoothly slide between their fingers, they may not have realized how much they were taken advantage. Should I have said anything?

As she peeled off, likely laughing a Wicked Witch of the West laugh, I pulled the boys aside for a pep talk. While congratulating them on their first sale, I pointed out that they have control. That they can say “no” when they don’t like the offer their given and that offering other amounts that they think sound about right is okay.

Tonight, as I stew in thoughts of what I should have said, I’m comforted by this hope that she is losing sleep tonight for taking such unfair advantage of two little boys who were just out having fun, learning economics, and earning a little extra spending money to run down the street and buy a Pokemon card or two from a neighbor.



mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2011, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    I think you did the exact perfect thing. This was a wonderful learning experience for them. I hate to say this, but this world sucks and this was a really easy way for them to learn that people can be mean. I think you gave them a wonderful opportunity to learn that people are not always good and they need to watch out for ways that people take advantage. You also gave them faith in themselves, taught them they can belief in themself as right, not always having to give in to others. What a super awesome learning experience!! (I know it sucked so bad watching this, but you did A+!)

    • says

      Awww. thanks Annie! I know they learned a lot yesterday. It’s just so tough being a parent when you witness stuff like this. My husband is now teaching the kids “the art of negotiation.” This MIGHT come back to bite us later.

  2. says

    Oh, that’s awful. You just know she was congratulating herself on such a great deal.

    I probably would have been so taken aback that I would have been speechless.

  3. says

    Oh she makes me MAD! Who takes advantage of a child like that?
    You did the right thing. You gave him the win of his first sale without intervention. That was well worth $15.

  4. says

    I would have been too shocked to say something, which is I think what you felt. But even if I had come up with a response, I would definitely use it as a jumping off point for a conversation about being taken advantage of.

    In the end, though, it was their sale, and it was probably difficult for them to grasp how much they were taken advantage of. In fact I’m guessing they didn’t even notice.

    That woman should be ashamed of herself. We recently stopped by a neighbor’s lemonade stand and paid him $5 for 4 glasses of lemonade. Well above his pricing, since we know how tough it can be.

  5. says

    I think it’s a tough call. I would find it hard to say something to the woman if she took 8 books instead of the 6, though I have a friend who would have no problem saying something. That’s the kind of person she is.

    The other side is that it was a small amount of money, and you were there to witness it and then talk about it with your son later. I think God meant for you to see it happen in a small way so that you could prepare your son to handle a bigger situation next time.

    It’s still stinky what she did. :(

  6. says

    I agree with Annie – i’m certian this lesson will stick with them because they likely felt ripped off. If you’d stepped in, they might not remember that feeling

  7. says

    The last time I went to a garage sale, I bought webkinz from the lady for my daughter and I paid $2 each. But because I knew that her little girl was the one collecting the profits, and they were nearly brand new… I deliberately paid over what I wanted to pay because it was for a kid.
    Apparently some people have it backwards.

  8. says

    I can’t believe how cruel some people can be to take advantage of a child.

    You have more will power than I do. I would have taken those books from her and bought them from my child myself and donated them or taken them to the nearest goodwill center.

  9. says

    Myself? I am the type of person who would have called her out on it. However, my girl? Wouldn’t have given me a chance. She is more outgoing than most children. When it comes to money? The kid is a shark, and probably would have told her “that’s ok, I’ll wait for the next buyer who will pay more. Have a nice day”. Yeah, my girl loves money, saving and spending, and won’t take less than she feels is fair.

    • says

      can your girl come here and give my kids some lessons?

      But, really. I think we’re taking this as a learning lesson. Plus, they got a lot out of having their first sale. That was pretty spectacular for them.

      • says

        LOL. She’d be all over that! Sad part is? When I’m ready to spend on something. She will look at me and say, “Do we really need that?” The kid is 10. I’m in SO much trouble.

        I agree! The first sale is awesome! They must have been very proud of themselves, as they should be!

  10. says

    Garage sales are my least favorite way to raise money. I would much rather consign our stuff or give it away. I’ve made a sizable amount of money consigning books, DVDs, CDs, toys, clothes, and even boots. I sometimes let my kids keep the money from the consignment sale if the toy was something that they were reluctant to part with. Or I buy books, DVDs, games that we might want from the consignment store. The kids get a kick out of a “new” DVD or book.

    As for your garage sale customer. That’s really a low class thing to do. I can equate it to when I go to a lemonade stand and pay 50 cents or even a $1 for a glass of watery lemonade. It’s just so cute for kids to be entrepreneurs. Our neighborhood has an unwritten policy that if I stop at your child;s lemonade stand you will stop sat my child’s stand! Your customer should have given him $2 at the very least.

    • says

      thanks Jill. I agree, Garage sales are a waste and, generally, rarely make money. But they are also a lot easier than hauling all your stuff to the (picky) consignment shop. Plus, the kids learn a lot more hosting a garage sale than taking to a consign.

      I love your neighborhood policy. hmmm. maybe we’ll do a lemonade stand today!


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