Story of the $25 Garage Sale Bed Skirt

by Katy on August 31, 2010 · 17 comments

I went to a garage sale the other day and came across a cream colored bed skirt that was still pristine in the package. My husband and I switched over to a queen size bed last year, and frankly, the Hollywood frame is as dull as dirt. So I picked up the package, saw that it was unmarked and asked the owner the price.

“Oh, the bed skirt? I paid over $100 for that, so I’m looking to get $25 for it.”

Riiight . . . .

And indeed there was a $170 price tag on the packaging.

She then asked me how much I wanted to pay. I explained that I was thinking more along the lines of $5, so I would have to pass on the bed skirt.

At this point the woman’s friends started ribbing her for paying so much money for a bed skirt:

“How could you pay that much for a bed skirt? It’s not like it even touches your skin!”

But the woman defended her purchase:

“But it matched all my bedding!”

This woman paid waay too much for her purchase, so she thinks it should continue to be worth a lot.

Guess again, lady.

Perceived value and actual garage sale value are not the same thing. Just because she paid $100+ for the bedskirt doesn’t mean it’s worth any more than a $30 bedskirt once it hits the garage sale market.

I did pick up a pair of pillowcases for a cool buck from her garage sale mate. And they look perfect with our green sheets.

Do you have a hard time getting rid of items that you overpaid for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary August 31, 2010 at 5:08 am

Hm…I don’t have too much trouble getting rid of the expensive items, or items I paid too much for. It’s the sentimental items that are a problem for me.


WilliamB August 31, 2010 at 5:41 am

Occasionally. But my biggest problem is things that might be useful someday. And it’s going to get worse: 6 months ago I gave away several boxes of stuff that it *would* be useful to have now.


Joanna @ Starving Student Survivor August 31, 2010 at 6:20 am

Oh, that just makes me sad to think of someone paying so much money for something. And not even really getting much use out of it, if she’s selling it in near-new condition!

I can’t think of too many huge purchases I’ve regretted. I really only regret money spent on stupid things, like late fees. Or buying something I did want or need, but not shopping around very well and finding a better price soon afterward.


Annie Jones August 31, 2010 at 6:35 am

If I have something to sell that I think needs to bring more than “garage sale prices”, I try it on eBay or craigslist first. Sometimes I can get more for an item with those two venues.

If not, then I re-evaluate and decide if I would rather get rid of the item for a lower price or keep it until I can get the higher price (read, indefinitely). Usually I decide that it isn’t doing me any good to keep it around, so I lower the price to get it out of here.

I try not to overpay for items in the first place. So many of the things I sell are things I bought used in the first place. 🙂


Hiptobeme August 31, 2010 at 7:20 am

Oh, regrets, I’ve had a few, but I would never try to recoup my losses at a garage sale, because it’s just not going to happen. She should have taken your fiver and cut her losses. Oh well, maybe she learned a lesson in nonconsumerism 🙂


leslie August 31, 2010 at 10:05 am

Ahh yes! I am busy Ebaying many of the high-dollar items I bought in my last life as a corporate career girl. I’m now an indie record/gift store owner, so the budget has definitely changed. It is a constant learning experience: remembering what I paid and being faced with what the item is actually “worth” or will sell for. Crazy! I’m embarrassed at the amount of money I threw down on silly stuff, but I am very glad to be learning this lesson. I am now a much smarter consumer!


Molly On Money August 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

When I built and sold spec houses I would often furnish them so they showed better. When the house sold I would sell the furnishings. Some items I would get more then I paid and some I would practically give away. I tried not to think about it in detail because as a whole I would break even.


My Roman Apartment August 31, 2010 at 10:26 am

I’ve done the reverse. I bought expensive bedding for $2 a piece at the Pottery Barn outlet and then resold it on Ebay for $30 a piece.

I don’t think the woman was wrong for wanting $25 for a new bedskirt that cost $170 retail. She just chose the wrong sales venue for that item. The price thresholds at garage sales are lower than those on Craigslist or Ebay. She could have gotten her asking price online from someone less savvy than Katy!


Melissa August 31, 2010 at 2:13 pm

That’s probably the perfect way to describe all the Playmobil sets collecting dust in my sons’ room right now. Even the ones I bought second-hand.


Kimberly in So Cal August 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm

For many people letting go of something that you paid too much for but don’t use is like admitting you made a mistake, and the more you can get for it the better you feel. I always try to remember that I pay for the experience of owning something, not the actual item. That way when I sell something for a lot less than I paid for it I can feel happy knowing that I received my experience ~anything I get back is gravy. Of course, in this case the woman didn’t use the experience she paid for, so she feels badly.

I always wonder about those price tags on linens. I have sheet sets that I paid $50 for that came with price tags marked $299. Am I really supposed to believe that the sheets ever sold at that price?


Sandra August 31, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Au contraire…I LIVE for people like this lady — Well, except for the silly $25 price tag.

It’s how I got my pristine, like new dehydrator (I do not believe the previous owner used it ever). My perfect, still in box new-cost-$250 solar oven. Heck, I picked up unused (never opened books) for my kids’ next year history curriculum (we homeschool) cheap last year. The books had never even been opened, much less read.

I have a kitchen stocked with used bakeware…a business furnished with solid wood vintage used furniture I picked up for a tenth of what new (fiberboard) furniture runs.

I have no time or sympathy for the consequences of thoughtless consumption…but our family has learned to benefit from the regrets of others.


Karen August 31, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I guess we need to know the market, as in what price an item will sell for, not just what we’d like to get for it. Supply and demand is what determines the market, not our insistence on selling used or even “in the package” goods for an inflated price.

I have sold a ton of things on ebay in the past ten years, and have found that pricing is an art, not a science. You have to see it from the buyer’s point of view, too. And then you take a stab at it and put a price on it, hoping it’s neither too high or too low.

Each selling venue has its rules. Garage sale prices are more flexible, or should be, in terms of the psychology of buying. Katy, I thought of your post the other day on selling Hanna Andersson goods you bought at a thrift store on Craigslist for a high mark up, but still much cheaper than a person could get them in good shape. When we are the sellers of what we believe to be desirable goods, maybe we at times ask too much. But then when someone pays what we ask, reality shifts. When it comes down to it, there is no “real” price–just what someone will pay.

Seems to me places like Bed, Bath and Beyond, and the others that went under, lost sight of the market: many customers just stopped paying those over-inflated prices on retail linens to begin with. I look at new things like that and wonder, even at half off, is a set of sheets worth 70 bucks?


Martha August 31, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I have a set of sheets that my sister gave me that belonged to a friend of hers…they must be a very high thread count–and they have a great pattern–I LOVE these sheets and they have really held up. I often wonder how much her friend paid for them … I know I would not pay top dollar for sheets but sometimes I chuckle at myself for how much I enjoy these sheets. I guess I am glad whoever bought them paid alot for them! And I am very happy they are mine now.

I don’t tend to spend a lot on things unless it is something I really want and I know it will last a long time or get a lot of use–then I feel fine. Mostly I don’t shop much.


teri August 31, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I don’t have a problem getting rid of things. I figure if I give it away to someone who can use it then I will be blessed in return for “casting my bread upon the waters”.
My husband has issues with getting rid of things he paid for though. He saves old clothes that should be cut into rags or things he has “outgrown” ten years in the past rather than giving them Goodwill. He just cannot bear to give up things that he feels he lost money on.


tonya September 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I’ve always heard the guideline that at a garage sale you can expect to ask about 10% of what the item’s original value was. She probably could have gotten more on Craigslist or Ebay.

I don’t think many people go by the above rule of thumb. The other day I wanted to buy a large, 10″ round Tupperware storage and the seller said she would take $3 for it. I told her I doubted she originally paid $30 for it. She ended up throwing it in as an extra when I bought something else at her sale.


Trish [ modern thrifter ] September 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

My dad was always like that. We used to have to pull the same stuff out of storage each year for the garage sale because it wouldn’t sell the year before. So silly.

Melissa, that’s funny about the playmobil toys. We don’t buy very many new/expensive toys for our kids, but playmobils are always the exception. I always cringe at the price, but then when I see all of the detail and quality put into each one, it seems worth it. My kids play with them all the time, though, so I’m sure that makes a difference.


Tracy Balazy September 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I, like you, would have walked away from that price at the garage sale, Katy. And I agree with everyone here who said the woman needs to post the bed skirt on the proper venue, such as eBay. At a garage sale, no matter what you’re selling, IT’S A GARAGE SALE. YOUR ITEM IS USED. It might be in its original package, but IT’S NOT NEW ANY MORE. (I love garage sales and no longer buy retail, so I benefit by people’s impulse buys.)

I like how Peter Walsh, in his book “It’s All Too Much,” describes the phenomenon of hanging onto items you’re not using because they cost you a lot at some point. Now, he says, you’ve not only wasted your money, but the item is also taking up your valuable SPACE.


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