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"The Price Isn't Right"

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Get-rich-quick schemes are a dime a dozen, which means you'd have to have dozens of them to get rich.

But my wife, Sue, and I recently came up with a get-poor-quick scheme: We had a tag sale. There were plenty of tags but not many sales. To make matters worse, we actually lost money. And our garage is still full of stuff.

To run a tag sale, you need two things: stuff and Bloody Marys. We had a lot more stuff than we had Bloody Marys, but the Bloody Marys went faster than the stuff.

Joining us in this disastrous venture was our younger daughter, Lauren, who had a lot of her own stuff in our garage and brought over even more stuff from her apartment. Lauren's husband, Guillaume, wisely spent most of the day inside, going through a baseball card collection that is probably worth more than all of our stuff combined.

Among the items we put out in the driveway and on the front lawn were: two pairs of crutches ($5 and $10), the Bubble Mate Foot Bubbler ($10), a wok ($5), a dog crate ($20), a pair of ice skates ($5), two artificial Christmas trees ($10 and $20) and a painting of two barns in a field ($15), plus lots of clothes (reasonably priced) and costume jewelry (ditto).

The sale began at 10 a.m. Sue, Lauren and I sat on chairs in the driveway with a cash box (empty) and glasses of Bloody Marys (full), ready to do a brisk business.

At 11 a.m., a guy named Marty came by. "Times must be tough if you're having a tag sale," he said.

"Not at all," I replied. "I'm dependently wealthy."

"What do you mean?" Marty asked.

"I'm depending on you to make me wealthy," I said.

Marty left without buying anything.

"You're driving customers away," Sue told me.

"We'll have to sell you," Lauren chimed in.

"And take a loss," Sue said.

"Who loses money at their own tag sale?" Lauren wondered.

"We do," Sue noted.

"It's pathetic," said Lauren, adding, "Who wants another Bloody Mary?"

At 11:30, we made our first sale. A woman named Rosa admired the watercolor of the barns. "I painted it myself," I said.

"Really?" Rosa chirped.

"No," I admitted.

"Ten dollars," she offered. It was five bucks less than the price on the tag. I drive a hard bargain, so I said, "Sold!"

A man named J.R. drove up with his children, Ana, 5, and James, 3, who wanted Lauren's art set. I played hide-and-seek with the kids as J.R. handed Lauren $10, which she put in the cash box.

"Bye, Jerry!" the kids shouted from the car as J.R. drove away.

A woman who stopped with her adult daughter told us that she had recently been in a car accident. "If you get into another one," I said helpfully, "we have crutches."

No sale.

A young guy showed up to look at the jewelry. "I made it when I was in prison," I told him.

"You did a nice job," he said.

"I had a lot of time," I replied.

"Prisoners generally do," said the guy, who bought $12 worth of rings and earrings for his wife.

By 3 p.m., the official end of the sale, there was $55 in the cash box. We lugged most of the unsold stuff back into the garage and sent out for dinner, which came to $67.

"Next time we have a tag sale," Lauren said, "we should give Bloody Marys to the customers. Maybe then we'll make a profit."

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima