Local knowledge, inside information, community building (part 1)


Part 1: Yard sales, garage sales, moving sales, open house

Newcomers without affiliation or local connections, such as tourists or short-term visitors to Maui, depend on published and public information to get around. They pay the highest prices for the fewest choices. Locals know where to do their shopping, when to avoid the queues, and how to negotiate the best deals. Newcomers don’t have that advantage.

Public and published sources such as newspapers, free ad-based bulletins and magazines, posters, and online websites are not the earliest or most comprehensive broadcasters of information. There is an inverse relationship between information availability and value — the more available it is, the less valuable.  I don’t know how true this is, but I’m finding out on this island of Maui.

This morning we woke up early to drive to a Yard Sale.  Also known as garage sale, it is a popular American phenomenon but very uncommon in the Netherlands. In the latter, it’s a national activity conducted on one day of the year — Queen’s Birthday on 30th April.

In the USA, people open up their garages or spill over to their front gardens and sell anything or everything, whether they are leaving home or not. You can spend your weekends on a yard sale shopping spree, the way the English do pub crawling on a Friday night. Some people make a habit of visiting yard sales, often queuing with other fanatics before the doors open at 7 am. Some of these folks resell the items at their own yard sales.

Freshly brewed coffee and well-marked signs (mentioned in Craigslist website) lured us to upcountry Wailuku. I had expected a lot more items on sale. We were a day too late. The sale started yesterday morning. Only motorcycles, martial arts tools, DVDs, and other items I did not need were left. While trying in vain to find something I wanted to make the uphill drive worthwhile, I overheard Robert asking about good beaches for surfing. I was curious how the family made a living on the island, given the high cost of living and the downturn in the economy. As nobody else was about, we learned a lot from chatting with the owners who had moved to the island 4 years ago.

We left with a desk lamp for $7 and a snorkeling set (flippers, snorkels, mask, and shoulder bag) for $5.

On the way back, we spotted two boxes on both sides of the road: MOVING SALE. Again, we were too late. Most of the things had gone the day before. But this did not stop us from making conversation with the owner who told us the importance of filtering our water and other local matters.

One can see that a yard sale is not just about the quick disposal of possessions at a discount. It’s also a way for newcomers to find out things that are not mentioned in guidebooks such as shopping tips to save money in a place where it could easily become unaffordable. The average price of petrol at $4 per gallon is considered the highest in the USA, despite being only half of what we used to pay in the Netherlands ($8 per gallon).

Like house concerts, yard sales are places where people gather and chat. Information is exchanged. Communities are built at a very local level. Of course, this would be less likely if the seller is moving and leaving the place for good.

I am reminded of my own attempt to declutter and empty my home in London to move to the Netherlands years ago. I baked cakes and cookies to lure people to visit and stay. Not everything was sold or given away. I got to know my neighbours better. Letting go was the hardest part. Perhaps that’s why I still keep the photos online.

Declutter sale - open house

Declutter sale - open house

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6 Comments

Filed under concert, economics, travel

6 responses to “Local knowledge, inside information, community building (part 1)

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