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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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Column: Market selling left my attic lighter and my pockets heavier (and it's fun, too)

I have to admit, I had reservations about the ‘type’ of person who goes to car boot sales – but I was pleasantly surprised to meet warm, interesting people from all over the world in my quest to declutter my attic, writes Declan Grehan.

Declan Grehan

I DECIDED TO go to a car boot sale on a weekend earlier this month as a seller. ‘What will I take to sell?’  was the first question I asked the person who had advised me to go. ‘Anything and everything’ was the simple reply from this experienced car boot sale advocate.

‘Can you elaborate?’

‘OK. Go to your attic and take all the stuff that has been sitting there gathering dust but has no sentimental value, then put it in your boot. Next gather up all the clothes and shoes you no longer want or wear and put them in too’ he said.

‘No one is going to want my old shoes, surely?’

‘They will’, he said firmly.

Items to be spared the ‘death penalty’

So off I climbed into the attic on Friday evening to sift through the boxes of junk, most of which was ‘waiting on death row’ until the next time we ordered a skip to seal the fate of these unwanted items. Among the many items to be spared the death penalty and make their way into my car boot were: an old travel cot, a baby’s high chair, a toddler’s bike, old children’s toys and books, a rusted bathroom shelf rack, a light fitting and a bunch of DVDs. My stock was complete after I squeezed four refuse sacks of old clothing onto the back seat.

As I finished packing the car late on Friday evening, my brother – who would accompany me to make up the other half of ‘Del Boy n Rodney’ – noticed the rusted bathroom rack and was adamant that no one would buy that, not even ‘the sort’ who go to car boot sales.

His comment the evening before about ‘the sort’ who would attend the event, was on my mind as we travelled up the M50 in silence, as it was only 5.30 am and we were still not fully awake. I was thinking of how we would have to be vigilant today, keep our eyes open for the Oliver Twist style characters who would be out to pick a penny or two. I was worried about the pros who might work in pairs, one distracting me this way while his partner walked of with some item the other way. This was sure to happen I told myself because, after all, if there are going to be people here who will actually buy my old shoes then there are bound to be crooks here too.

We arrived at Tallaght stadium at 6am. It was still cold, dark and wet outside and were greeted at the gate by a cheerful steward who advised us where to park and collected the sellers’ fee of €20. We parked up and, after assembling the picnic tables we brought with us, proceeded to dump the contents of the car on the tables. Recouping our costs was of primary concern so our ‘big ticket’ items like the travel cot, high chair and toddler’s bike were pushed up front. Sale of these items, we hoped, would cover our costs.

I stood tense and alert, waiting on undesirables to pinch the goods

I initially stood there tense and alert, waiting on undesirables to pounce and pinch goods from under my nose. However, my guard was quickly dropped after my first few exchanges with the eager customers. The more the day went on, the more I realised how foolish and naive I was in my prejudice – there was a clear sense of mutual respect and trust between buyers and sellers. The day passed without incident.

I encountered people from all over the world, Europe, Africa and Asia. Some were quiet, unassuming individuals and others were loud and brash, engaging in heartfelt banter (much needed to warm the soul on such a dark and cold morning). I had one particular exchange with a woman who showed keen interest in purchasing travel cot, which understandably, had to be assembled before she would hand over the cash. This filled me with dread, and not because it was faulty – it was a quick assemble/quick fold type of travel cot – but  there was a knack to it that only a woman can master (specifically, my fiancé, who was at home in bed).

Sure as sure can be I assembled the travel cot but could not for the life of me get it back down. Anxious to close the sale I assured the lady there was no problem and that my girlfriend does it all the time. ‘Ring her then’ she replied enthusiastically. It was 6.55am and I had trouble explaining that there would be no dinner for me when I got home if I rang my fiancé. Eventually after some frantic twisting and turning, the cot folded. She happily paid the asking price and went on her way.

This sale coupled with the toddler’s bike and a handful of DVDs recouped our cost and from here on in the rest of our sales would be profit. As it was still only 7.10 we became a little more excited. Sales were good.

I learned a few lessons

From old to young and everything in between, people strolled by for hours. We began the day with four refuse sacks of clothes and finished with one. Not bad, considering we convinced ourselves that bringing them was a waste of time.

A day that started with trepidation and a feeling that I would leave filled with regret, turned into a day when old sayings my father thought me as a young boy rang true. ‘The early bird catches the worm’, ‘Mind the pennies and the pounds will mind themselves’, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and, the most pertinent: ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

In this life there is no room for ill-founded, preconceived ideas. No matter where you are on the socio-economic ladder, it is most likely that you’re there by chance, for you could be born anyone, anywhere.

This new experience taught me a few lessons about myself and other people – and I left happy at the end of the day, with my attic lighter and my pockets heavier.

Declan Greehan is a full-time civil servant and part-time student studying for a degree in Public Management at the IPA.

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Declan Grehan

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