Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"trashing" in - the ex-pat garage sale

When we left on our ex-pat assignment, we expected to be gone three years. We returned eleven years later. During that time, my company paid an annual fee for many of our things to be stored in the US. The girls were young. Not knowing they would be adults when we moved back - we kept everything. Over the years the company paid approximately $50,000 to store TVs and electrical items that wouldn't work without power adaptors in Japan, the Barbie Jeep, basketball hoop, skis, Beany Babies (we had dozens and took only the favorites), clothes we didn't feel had to go with us, etc etc. In 2011, instead of a Barbie jeep, my elder daughter drives a Toyota Rav 4...... Nobody wants to pay much for an oversized stereo TV that was state of the art in the 90s when the world has moved to flat screen high definition.

Every year when I would see the storage bill on my ex-pat cost statement; I thought I would gladly have gotten rid of all that stuff for what it cost to store for one year, let alone eleven years. About five years into my time overseas as I was agreeing to "another three years", I seriously thought of negotiating to end the storage madness by accepting one years storage cost in exchange for allowing the company to move our goods to the dump or the nearest Goodwill store. Could have.... would have .... should have......

As I write this, most of our "junk" is sitting in our driveway. My wife and daughters are trying to sell it by having a classic Southern "garage sale". For non American readers - the concept of a garage sale is to clean out old stuff from your garage by selling it cheap - usually on a Saturday morning. Garage sales are popular in North Carolina. My wife, a natural marketing expert, had great success in the 1990s convincing people to pay "just a little" more for things we would have donated to Goodwill or had to pay to dispose of if a buyer couldn't be found.

Now that we are settled in our new house; today was the appointed day to sell the stuff from the storage unit that filled our unfinished basement for the last several months.

From first light, cars would drive up and people who had forgone showers, combing their hair or eating breakfast so they could have the first opportunity to turn our trash into their treasures - scanned our driveway full of potential bargains. The American girl doll and accessories went first. We got less than $20 for something we spent about $200 on in the 1990s. A typical garage sale return ratio for something still desirable and in good condition. The basketball hoop went for $10. A dollar here and a dollar there and the driveway began to reappear as the "inventory" went to a new home.

At the end the day, the girls may net $400 from what the company paid $50,000 to store.

Another lesson in ex-pat economics...........