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Turning junk into treasure

It’s fair to say trading second-hand goodies has a certain magnetic appeal to those living off the smell of an oily rag. Firstly it’s an easy way to turn unwanted stuff into much-needed cash. Secondly, you can save heaps when buying.

One oily ragger recently told us about a street garage sale. A dozen or so houses in the same street held garage sales on the same day. It was a huge success as eager buyers were drawn to the convenience of a large number of sales within strolling distance. He happened to be pretty pleased with himself because he picked up an oil heater for $5 that would have cost $150 new! They are setting up house and have saved thousands of dollars buying second hand.

 And we keep getting good-news stories from readers buying online. A reader writes, “I wanted to buy a gift for someone but being of a frugal disposition was a bit put off by the $24.95 price tag of a new one. So I checked out an internet trading site and bought a like-new one for $6.50, including postage!”

A business owner writes, “We are beating the downturn by buying better. We just bought some stationery on Trademe for $7 that would have cost $125 from my normal supplier! And we are using online trading sites to dispose of surplus stock. We can discount the price heavily and still make a profit.”

Nearly half the goods listed on online trade sites are new. It’s one very large shop! There are lots of tricks to Trademe trade – here are a few:

  • Most of the trading action happens within the last ten minutes of an auction closing so the best time to schedule a listing to close is when the most people are online, which happens to be Monday between 8-9pm.
  • Make sure you describe the item’s features clearly and make the offer attractive. Use good quality photos. As politicians know, a good photo is essential when selling (even to the extent of airbrushing away the decades!).
  • No reserve auctions get the most hits but try having a low starting bid with a reserve price or a high starting bid with no reserve price.
  • If you have more than one listing on the go mention the other listings in your ad.

Despite all the good things going for internet trading sites, there are, as always, some cautionary messages. Although online auction sites are called “auctions” the sites are not auctioneers and therefore are not regulated by the Auctioneers Act 1928. The transaction is also not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 which specifically excludes goods bought by auction, by tender, or from a private seller. In other words, you have no protection regarding the legitimate ownership of any item, the quality of the goods, the accuracy or truthfulness of the statements made by the seller, or payment. You are on your own and are buying the goods as is, where is.
Have you got some good news (or not so good news stories) about garage sales and online trading? Share them with others in the comments below. 

Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at