Four Seasons, Missouri is a beautiful community out on Horseshoe Bend that offers a lot of amenities and perks to those who live there. It is also famous for having a home owner’s association that enforces a thick binder of homeowner rules and restrictions that make Singapore seem lax. There are so many rules that most of us residents don’t even know them all. Neighbors sometimes gather on the streets in the quiet evenings and compare notes about them. “I heard you can’t park a work truck in your driveway.” “Somebody told me you’re not allowed to chew gum while you drive down Horseshoe Bend Parkway.” Nobody knows all of the rules, but one of them is NO YARD SALES.
However, twice a year, the Four Seasons Property Owner’s Association unbuttons its collar, loosens its tie, and designates a weekend for the Four Seasons Yard Sale. In typical POA fashion, you submit your address to the association and they assign you a yard sale number. They then publish a list of all the homes that will be living on the edge and placing their cherished belongings out in their driveways so the general public can paw through them.
Monica and I had been eagerly looking forward to this weekend. As usual, I was obsessed with clearing stuff out of the garage. Monica had dreams of earning hundreds of dollars selling off home décor that no longer matched the interior look that she wanted for our house. Let’s hope I still fit in with that interior look.
When that fateful Saturday yard sale morning came, the wife and I hauled out our priceless belongings and placed them in the driveway on folding tables. We printed out a yard sale sign with an arrow on it and I snuck out to the corner and stapled it onto a tree, unsure as I did so what byzantine POA rule I might be breaking. We settled down into our folding chairs with some coffee and waited to see what the next two days of unfettered mercantile freedom would bring. The items were all priced with little sticky notes. We were ready. Or so we thought.
Monica carefully briefed me on which items were made by a magical company called “Pottery Barn” and she made it clear that I needed to describe this provenance to potential buyers so we could get top dollar. I was kind of listening, but I was was really focused on selling some of my books and getting rid of the giant, old dining room table that took up a quarter of my garage space. I don’t think we realized what we were getting into.
Because this isn’t your typical yard sale. Apparently, treasure hunters come from hours away to shop their way through Four Seasons, address list in hand, and bring back their loot to their unsuspecting spouses. Our neighbor noticed what we were doing and when she realized that it was the yard sale weekend, she opened her garage door and started hauling out her stuff to sell also. Great. We had competition across the street.
Our first buyer was a real pro. He pulled up in a truck, assessed our wares, and in a cold, calculating manner, quickly stacked up the items he wanted. When he left, we were pretty sure we may have been a little low on the pricing.
And then the crowds arrived. I’ve had a few yard sales before but we were unprepared for the amount of traffic that came through that morning. Some cars would just slowly drive by, assessing our sale through their car windows while they decided if it was worth their time to get out. Most of them dismounted and started shopping.
The first thing to know about Missourians is that they don’t just shop at a yard sale. Missourians will use any excuse to do something that we call “Visiting.” Scientists have proven through numerous studies that it is statistically impossible to have a conversation shorter than twenty minutes with a Missourian who is visiting. We usually enjoy this part of the sale more than the actual selling. We heard stories about grandkids, today’s weather, gossip, politics, my truck, their truck, tomorrow’s weather, and the like. During the Civil War, I’ve read that Missouri tied down almost 120,000 Union troops purely through visiting. The Yankees just couldn’t get away. Check the history books if you don’t believe me, kids.
It was a whirlwind of making change, visiting, answering questions, and just plain meeting people.
We were regaled by men who told us carefully curated tales that they had told thousands of times to hundreds of people while their wives carefully selected books to purchase as if each book represented a week’s worth of precious peace and quiet.
I was thoroughly interrogated by gentlemen about the particular qualities of each book as they thumbed through its pages, checking the pages of the book the way one might examine a car before buying it. Had I read the book myself? I assured them I had read them all. Assuaged by my answers, they would then carefully count out five dimes and buy it.
One sweet elderly couple came in holding hands. The husband carefully looked over the books while I offered my reviews of the contents. Normally, I don’t want to hover but our buyers appeared to expect some interaction. His wife came up to me and said she was going to buy him a book he had become attached to because in her words, “it seems like he’s already started reading it.”
Groups of gals would stop by and it looked like they made a fun day of it by shopping through the sales with girlfriends, just having fun being together and looking at all of the items. I made sure to carefully point out the various “Pottery Barn” items just like I had been taught by the floor manager.
Three ladies approached me and started asking me questions about some of the items. Monica had run inside for a bit so I wasn’t sure of all of my answers to their inquiries. One of them mentioned that they love it when it’s just the husbands running the sale because the men just want to get rid of everything. Ouch. Too true. Monica came out through the garage door just then and they scattered, flying away up to the tree branches. I could feel them watching me. Waiting for the perfect moment when I would be left alone again.
Some men would wander up the driveway and look longingly into our open garage door. They would gaze into the garage, convinced that the garage must be where we were keeping the really good merchandise. The champagne room of the yard sale.
One woman showed up and she had three specific items she was looking for. We didn’t have them and she promptly left. Very efficient.
I suspect our prices were too low because not one person haggled on price with us, but that wasn’t the point. A free mattress and box spring like new for a mother’s young child? Sold. Books to be read instead of being thrown away or burned? Sold.
By the early afternoon, we had been thoroughly picked over. We enjoyed talking to everybody. Monica and I had been able to spend time with each other all morning while we sipped coffee. We had made some cash but more importantly, we had given things we no longer needed to people who could have some use for them. My wife is infamously clean so everything but me is in great condition.
The only major item left was that damn dining room table.
Fewer cars were stopping and we were getting more slow drive-bys so we decided to close up shop. We were worn out. We dragged in everything except the table. I was hoping it might catch on fire.
Later in the afternoon, we had a knock at our door. It was a lady asking if we were still selling things as she clutched the Four Seasons yard sale address list in her clenched fist. My wife is a saint so she opened the garage door so the lady and her friend could see what was in the garage. After ten minutes, I finally walked in there in time to see her haggling with Monica over the last of the Pottery Barn décor. Our first haggler. Hilarious. And she asked if we could wrap it in paper for her. This isn’t Nordstrom’s, lady! Monica wrapped it for her while I rolled my eyes.
As they were negotiating, a woman who saw our garage door was open pulled into our driveway and walked into the garage. She also wanted to take a look at what we had. At this point, I assumed my role as bouncer and announced that the garage sale was officially over. Somebody had to put a stop to the thing. Everyone was herded out of the garage, I helpfully mentioned that the 400 pound table outside was still for sale and I went back to watching the ball game.
I put a “Free” sign out on the table but when I checked in the evening, it was still there. Dang it.
Later that evening, I got a Facebook message about the table. I think we paid $800 for it and I had marked it down to free. At this point, I might have paid for someone to take it.
This is your typical Facebook transaction message conversation:
Buyer: “Is the table still available?”
Me: “It is. It’s in great shape.”
Buyer: “Can you hold it for me? I can come by tomorrow evening when my husband gets off from work and pick it up.”
Me: “Sounds great. Here’s my address.”
Buyer: “Thank you so much. We can really use it.”
Me: “Perfect. You’ll love it.”
Next evening (I’m starting to get worried that once the official yard sale turns back into a pumpkin Sunday night, I might get hauled off to POA jail for having a table in my driveway.)
Me: “What time do you think you might come by?”
Buyer: “It’s actually probably going to be tomorrow evening.”
Me: “No worries.”
Me: “Any ETA on picking up the table?”
Two days later.
Buyer: “Sorry, we can’t come to pick it up. A meteor hit my husband’s pickup truck and totaled it. My kids all had pediatric appointments. We’re moving to Hawaii, Missouri tonight.”
Me: “Sounds good.”
Until the Spring Four Seasons Yard Sale, I am the proud owner of a “new” workbench in my garage. I tell people it’s from Pottery Barn.