Be safe when you hold a garage sale

It’s the season for garage sales, and if all goes according to plan, you accomplish your goal of cleaning out the house a bit and picking up a little cash at the same time.

Many people look forward to this time of year, not only for the possibility of selling their own goods, but also for the possibility of finding that perfect treasure at someone else’s garage sale.  On the flip side, whether you are a buyer or a seller, if something goes wrong, you could lose more than you ever considered. 

Safety and security is becoming a larger concern in many areas than it has been in the past, and garage sales are no different.  From beginning to end, garage sales open you up to the possibility of theft and other crimes.  The best way to make sure you have a safe garage sale experience is to take a few precautions when planning and conducting your sale experience. 

One of the first things to keep in mind is that thieves often strike at garage sales.  They also use garage sales to case houses to come back later for a bigger score.  You can find out a lot about people by looking at the items for sale in their garage sale.  Because of this, you should carefully consider how you advertise and what the things you sell tell people about you.  Newspapers and large paper signs are easy and inexpensive ways to advertise your garage sale, and are the most often used methods of garage sale advertising.  However, when you advertise, remember that you are not only inviting potential customers to your sale, you are inviting strangers to your home.  In most cases, this is not a problem, and following the suggestions below will help you keep it that way. 

The best way to avoid problems with this is to have a neighborhood garage sale, or if that’s not possible, get one or two neighbors to have a combined sale with you.  Multi-family sales draw larger crowds, which increases sales, and makes it harder for prospective thieves or sexual predators to tell who lives in which house.  In addition, having all your goods in a centralized location adds another layer of security and allows for everyone’s goods to be shown to their best advantage.  This is especially important when you have children’s goods or expensive items for sale.

When your children outgrow their beds and toys and clothes, it’s natural to want to recoup some of what you invested in them.  However, if those are all out in your driveway, or garage, you are telling predators there are children living in the house.  Sharing your garage sale with other families makes it harder for thieves and predators to tell which merchandise belongs to which house.  This is especially important in neighborhoods where there are a number of children.

If you decide to hold the sale at your home, don’t monitor and manage the garage sale alone.  Arrange to have someone stay with you, especially when small children are present in the home.  No matter whether the children are indoors sleeping or playing, or outdoors with you, someone must be available to watch over the sale or help with the children. Choose your helper carefully.  Make sure you choose someone who can handle the necessary tasks responsibly and quickly.  If you have a sitter, ensure that he or she is available for the duration of your sale.

All sale activities should be conducted in full view of others.  Occasionally, large furniture or appliances are offered for sale.  Do not take people inside the home.  Consider photographing the items to show perspective buyers, or make an appointment for viewing, if it is not a piece that can easily be moved outdoors for the sale.  Making an appointment allows you to schedule a second person to be with you if you must invite a stranger into your home.

If someone tries to rob you, the first thing to remember is to give them what they want.  No amount of money is worth your life.  Try to keep some distance between you and the person trying to rob you.  Toss them your cash container.  If you can get a license plate number, great, but do not put yourself at risk to do so.  Your safety, and that of your family, is of primary importance. 

Another way to protect yourself and your family is to do a little research beforehand on the sex offenders in your zip code.  The Denton County website lists the registered sex offenders by zip code at  This site will show you addresses and pictures of the offenders, and sometimes a brief criminal history.  This will give you a frame of reference for who these people are, how close they are, and you will be able to recognize them if anyone from the list shows up at your garage sale.  You can also print this information out, so you will have it to refer to.  If you observe any suspicious behavior, report it to the police immediately.

When you are deciding which merchandise to put in your garage sale, some alternatives to consider for infants and small children’s items are consignment shops or donating them to a local church or charity.  This minimizes the number of age related children’s items you have for sale.

Below are some additional tips to help you have a safe and successful garage sale:

1.    Have only one cashier so no one can claim they paid someone else.

2.    Set up the cashier’s table where they can see anyone leaving the sale

3.    If you are the cashier, have your helper keep an eye out for shoplifters. 

4.    Keep a limited amount of money on you! Don’t keep more than change for a $20 on you at any time.

5.    If someone wants you to break a large bill, like $100, for a small item, simply tell them you will be happy to hold the item if they want to go get change. Don’t open your drawer or pack and check for money in front of them.

6.    Hold the sale out in the open, not in the garage. In the garage, you have limited visibility, and your neighbors or anyone who might be able to assist you has little chance of seeing that you need help if you are in the garage.  Garages also frequently offer an entry to your home, so make sure the door is locked.  If at all possible, shut the garage door, so possible thieves can’t see the tools and equipment you have in the garage.

7.    Make sure all the doors to your home are locked. It’s extremely easy for a person to slip into the house, take whatever they like or look to see what is there for future reference, all while you’re busy helping a customer.

8.    Don’t tempt thieves by having your merchandise too close to the road where they can grab and run or drive off.  Establish a 12-15 foot buffer zone between the road and the very last table.

9.    Sales are a great way to teach monetary values to children, but parents need to be cautious. If your children are setting up a lemonade or soda stand to earn money, be sure it is very close to you.

•    Never let your children set up their stand right next to the street.

•    If your children are very young, make sure you are the one making change.

•    Let them watch you, and perhaps even help you count it out, but don’t give a con artist an opportunity to ruin your child’s day.

10.    Make sure you can see all of your tables from where you sit. Use hanging clothes, if you have any, as an outside perimeter, but don’t allow them to block your view of your house.

11.    Keep your cell phone with you at all times.

Following a few precautions can help you have a safe and successful garage sale.

Contact Denton County Sheriff Will Travis at 940-349-1700.


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