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When does “bargaining” become “taking advantage of?”

by J. Money on Monday, April 4, 2011

liberty silver dollarI woke up this morning feeling pretty bad about something. You’re going to laugh your a$$ off when I tell you what it is, but I really can’t help what pops in my head ;)  You just never know what you’re gonna get with that brain of mine sometimes! Haha…  Okay, so here’s what came to mind just a little bit ago:

“I think I ripped that girl off at the yard sale last year”

Haha… WHAT?  Why am I just NOW thinking about that? :) And why didn’t it come to me DURING that yard sale last year? I have no idea, but let me give you the quick scoop so I can get y’alls thoughts on it.

Last year when we were traveling around Seattle and parts of Victoria, BC (where I fell in love with my house boats!) we had a couple hours to kill so we decided to go yard sale’ing.  We’ve been doing this since I was just a wee little kid, and any chance we have to do it together again as a family we jump on it ;) At one of these sales I came across this little bag of weird lookin’ (fake) coins that had a sticker of only like 25 cents on it or something.  I don’t know why I picked it up in the first place, but the second I put it down I noticed that it had a much heavier, cooler, lookin’ coin hangin’ out at the bottom of the bag.

So I took it out, and after a few seconds of looking it over I realized that this was a) not a very fake coin at all, actually, and b) was most DEF worth more than 25 cents!  I didn’t know exactly how much at the time, but I knew I had my iPhone in the car and could find out in about 2.3 seconds.  And this is where my feeling bad comes in – only to fester for 8 months apparently, and then have me wake up in the morning to it :) These were the next few thoughts outta my head:

  1. Pretend you didn’t know you just came across something valuable  (which would have been a lot easier had I not picked it out and yelled “Mom!  Look at this!”)
  2. Hurry up and pay for it so you can hightail it outta there!
  3. And lastly, make sure to pay MORE than 25 cents for it.

That last part was me justifying the sale so I wouldn’t feel *as* bad later ;) I think I ended up giving her a dollar. Which, interestingly enough, was exactly what I had found – a 1 troy ounce of silver, otherwise known as a silver dollar!  (That exact one I found is pictured above)

Now, it wasn’t worth as much as I had thought it was gonna be (I was hoping for $50-$80 since it was 25 years old and looked “antique-like” haha), but it is valued anywhere from $13-$20, depending on what silver’s going for that day.  And either way, worth MUCH more than the 25 cents it was originally labeled for.

So the question this brings up today is this: At what point does a “bargain” become “taking advantage of?” Is there a certain threshold that would change your mind one way or the other? (For example, the difference between the value of this coin and what I paid for it was roughly about $14, or 1400% more. But would it have made a difference if it was worth $1,000 instead?) And does it really matter anyways since all parties agreed to the deal in the first place?

Obviously for me *something* mattered or else I wouldn’t have woken up feeling bad about it this morning ;) But I’m curious to see what you all think. I don’t know how I would have changed this looking back, other than offering more money since I knew it was worth a lot more, but then again that’s why you go to yard sales to begin with, right? To get a steal? And I’ve been rockin’ deals my entire life, so that’s surely not going to change. I dunno… I guess for me it has more to do with the fact that I KNEW it wasn’t a silly little coin, and the seller did not – even though we all walked away happier. Maybe I shoulda just told her that?


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ginger April 4, 2011 at 7:31 am

If you talked her down on the price severely, that’s one thing. If she wasn’t aware, perhaps consider it was on sale for her to get rid of. Of course, you could have always offered her the option of taking it to a dealer, but more importantly, she was purging her house, not necessarily aiming for the highest profits.

(You can also consider that if she sold it for 25 cents, she didn’t care as long as it left!

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2 sarah oneill April 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

I wouldn’t worry about it too much, even though chances are they had no idea it was valuable or even in there in the first place. People get taken advantage of all the time at yard sales. The whole point of a yard sale is to sell it for less then it’s worth. That way everyone leaves happy, the seller for making a little cash and cleaning up and the buyer who gets useful items (to them) at a bargain price, it’s a win win. If every seller took the time to research an items true “worth” it would defeat the purpose of a yard sale!

Take for example, a few years ago, a young neighborhood couple was helping their grandparents with a yard sale. They put out a griswold skillet (which are collectible and valuable) for $3, which could easily be valued at $100 or more.

Don’t let this keep you up at night, here’s a fellow yard sale vet letting you know… it’s ok :)

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3 Niki April 4, 2011 at 7:58 am

I thought this is why people yard sale, to find things cheaply and to find items for prices below their value. I don’t think you ripped her off at all. I believe you did the right thing by giving her a dollar. She has a responsibility to know the value of the items she is selling, I understand you feel guilty, but you didn’t do anything wrong. She has the burden here.

Did you keep the coin?

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4 Sense April 4, 2011 at 8:07 am

Several disjointed thoughts:

How ‘Antiques Roadshow’ of you to spot a diamond in the rough!

How on Earth did you justify paying 75c MORE for a 25c item at a yard sale without explaining it?!

This is just a karmic dilemma in the end. I mean, if you bought it and taken it home and THEN discovered the coin…no guilty conscience, right? You are right: both parties agreed to the sale. You didn’t steal it. End of story. Maybe she put it in there to give someone a thrill…I’ve done stuff like that before. No matter what it was worth, it was for sale. It might be different if she was a little kid who didn’t know better, but she had access to the same websites that you did to look up its value. Fair’s fair: seller beware.

It is so funny what our brains dwell on, only to come up at weird times…because of that, I often make decisions on how I think I’ll feel about it later. Sometimes emotional baggage is more costly and time-consuming than just paying a bit more! (Not that you should have paid more here–but this is a good example of the kind of thing I hate hanging over my head! :). )

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5 Steph April 4, 2011 at 8:19 am

Maybe that coin should go into the swear jar so you can get this off your conscious.

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6 Molly On Money April 4, 2011 at 8:26 am

I’m with Ginger on this one. I’ve let go of items for cheap or nothin’ because I didn’t want to deal with the rig-a-maroar of making some extra cash on them. I deal with this daily in my job. I’m trying to get the best price without sacrificing quality (which will = more headaches for me down the line!)

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7 Tea April 4, 2011 at 8:31 am

I don’t have a problem with bargain hunting–that is what garage sales are for. However, I do think there is a line you can cross where the bargain, is no longer just a bargain and crosses the line into plain greed. I do think you should take in consideration the condition of the seller, is this someone who is just clearing the junk out of their house, or is this someone who is selling their last possessions to put food on the table or pay the rent? If the person appeared to be in desperate need of money, I would have to think twice about taking advantage of her lack of knowledge regarding her item for sale. I do think in any negotiations, there is a point where both parties can make money, and walk away feeling good about the deal. While I am a frugal person and like to save money, I am not one who wants to go to the “good” pizza place in my neighborhood, where they use better ingredients and pay their labor more, and beat them down to the $5 chain pizza price. I want the owner to make a fair profit, and stay in business. While we would all like to save money, we don’t want to drive our suppliers out of business.

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8 kh April 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

I think I would have at least pointed it out to her. Something along the lines of “Hey … I noticed this coin in this bag and it doesn’t appear to be junk like the rest. Did you know it was here?” That way she has the option to pull it out and price it differently or to say “I don’t care.”

While I get that the point of a garage/yard sale is to sell things for less than they’re worth to get rid of them, I think that saying “she has a responsibility to know” is justifying bad behavior. Sure, people have a responsibility to know, but when you’re talking about a bag of items, where one has obviously been overlooked, taking advantage of that is, IMO, wrong.

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9 Ashley @ Money Talks April 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

You can stop feeling guilty. Even on that show “Pickers” they try to pay about half of what they can sell it for. So let’s say you were trying to sell it. If it’s worth $15 you could probably get, say, $12. So you “should” have paid $6 and you paid $1.

I don’t think $5 is worth a year’s worth of guilt. :)

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10 Robert Muir April 4, 2011 at 10:36 am

What you did was legal, but not so moral. Would I do that now, no. Would I have done it at your age, probably.

You walk out of the store and as you’re putting the change in your wallet, you notice that the clerk gave you a $20 bill when it should have been a $10 bill. Do you walk back in the store to give back the money or do you keep going, telling yourself that the clerk deserves the lesson?

It would be one thing to find a valuable coin mixed in with not so valuable coins. It’s another to find a real coin mixed in with fake coins. In the first case, the seller is just too lazy or thinks it’s not worth it to determine the value of all the coins. In the second case, the seller doesn’t even know there’s a coin there at all.

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11 slug April 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

How fortunate that this is the best your unconscious can come up with in terms of a guilt trip!

The point has been made that this is the point of going to yard sales, and I agree. The seller establishes a value, you can either pay that price or negotiate. If other markets beyond that yard value an item differently, it’s up to both seller and buyer to do their due diligence.

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12 Trinnie April 4, 2011 at 11:10 am

First of all–lovin’ that you have a conscious! Makes me like you and respect you that much more!

As a person who used to do lots of yard sales and vintage hunting (especially for 1940s/1950s schtuff), I never felt bad if I found a screamin’ deal…I chalked it up to “do your research! if it looks old, it prolly has some value, don’t charge a quarter!”

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13 Emily D. April 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

That’s what yard sales are for! You go to find bargains. I always wish I would come across great deals like that. The seller obviously saw no value in it.

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14 Leslie April 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I just found this article today, and it surprisingly relevant:
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/03/28/2179580/liberty-dollar-producer-found.html

Looks like yours isn’t one of those, since it’s a 1986, and he started in 1998.
Crazy, eh?

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15 Erin April 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Don’t feel bad. If you have an uneducated seller, that’s THEIR problem, not yours. They set the price, you paid it in full. They got what they wanted, as did you.

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16 retirebyforty April 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Yeah, just sleep it off. Life is full of regrets. haha. :D

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17 BoomChakaLaka April 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Are you serious? We’re getting “ripped off” every day anytime we purchase anything. It’s the difference between the wholesale price and the suggested retail price. You didn’t rip her off at all! Usually, people put on yard sales because they need the money. Any amount of money will do, they just need to liquidate those physical assets. If anything, J Money, I believe she ripped you off!

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18 Jon | Free Money Wisdom April 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

It never matters, it’s all part of the business world. In real life, if both parties agree, even if one person is getting ripped off, that person didn’t do their due diligence, it’s a risk they’re taking by not researching. I used to feel guilty about this, but haven’t ever since I learned this in college :)

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19 Beth April 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Well if that is all you have to feel bad about, you are doing well. :)

Yeah, it was just a little sleazy, (although completely legal), especially if she was pretty young. If you run into this in the future, you can ask “Is this coin part of the set?” Then you can feel fine about the outcome because you called attention to it. If they are really young, you might want to point it out more directly. Sellers need to do their do-diligence though, and something like a coin is very easily googled.

Although with all the shenanigans I have heard of people pulling at yard sales – your incident was doesn’t even qualify for the list of bad shopper behavior (heck you even offered more than what was asked, that should have been a red flag for the seller). So don’t beat yourself up about it.

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20 Sassy April 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I guess I am greedy. LOL I go to yard sales and garage sales and dicker down the prices all the time.

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21 wldflr April 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Hey jmoney,

Last summer I went to a house sale and picked up a copy of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” off a bookshelf. It looked old and at the time I couldn’t tell exactly how old but I liked it cause it had several lovely illustrations in it (and those drawings were each covered with tissue paper)…this is a nice copy. So I’m thinking it’s worth more than the 50 cents they were selling each of the books for. Also bought a set of children’s books too. Two days later I discovered that my story of Scrooge was published in 1890 and is worth at least $700! And the kid’s books? From 1937 and worth about $40.

I kick myself for not buying more that day! So don’t feel too bad about your “find.”

I once sold a piece of art at a garage sale I held that I knew was worth a bit more than the $5 I was asking for it, but I wanted it outta my house in the worst way (gift from the in-laws — LOL!)…so someone got a bargain off me!

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22 Wade April 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I agree with the people above that you have no reason to feel guilty about it. You did not know the full value of a 25 year old coin and you paid face value for it. These types of bargains are the reason that some people go to yard sales. Heck, it is stories like this that allow shows like “Antiques Roadshow” to exist.

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23 Hunter April 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I’m with Ginger, & several others: Shame on the seller if they don’t know the market value. No need for guilt complex.

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24 L.G. April 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I stole a cupcake when I was 7..

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25 Rafiki April 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm

That is a tough one. On one hand, I to would feel like I kind of ripped her off but on the other hand it is a yard sale. Maybe you should have informed her, maybe you could just consider it a deal, maybe someday you may see her again and if it makes you feel better you can offer her some more cash. I wouldn’t like if that had happen to me….. This story reminds me of toy story 2 when that chicken guy found woody in the yard sale lol

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26 becky April 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm

My tag is a master of yard sales and has his own philosophy on your situation. He figures if they don’t know what they are selling, then it is their own stupid fault!

A few years ago he went to a yard sale held by a man who was moving into a retirement home because he could no longer take care of himself (his kid’s were running the yard sale). My dad was flipping through a basically worthless book of stamps and came across an autographed picture of babe ruth.

My dad flipped shut the book, paid the 2-3 bucks they were asking for, and that was that. He then went home, sent the picture off for authentication (it was legit) and sold it on ebay for a couple hundred dollars.

So I think my dad woke up 8 months later quite smug in how observant he was. But I also know he wakes up in fear because he knows that someday his kids (that would be me!) will just sell all his ‘junk’ for a couple of bucks at a yard sale and someone ELSE will be getting the good deal.

I consider it the vicious circle of life in the yard sale world.

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27 mike April 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I honor your questioning what happened.

What is most important in a person–being smart, hard-working or good? I want to be a good person.

On the other side of the coin, years ago I went to a garage sale to get clothes for my baby. I (being extremely poor at the time) asked the lady how much for the socks–”Oh, they’re free”. How much for the pants-”Oh, they’re free too”. Of course she was a special woman, and dumb me, it took me awhile to realize the kindness this lady showed me.

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28 Bryan April 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm

My thinking is that as long as there is an agreement between both buyer and seller then there’s no need to feel any guilt. . .

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29 Amy Saves April 5, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Yeah, I agree with Bryan. She went along with the deal so it wasn’t like you ripped her off. But, your post is funny. :) It’s good to know there are people out there with a conscience.

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30 Dr Dean April 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm

It really doesn’t matter what any of us think, although you did ask. It matters what your complex tangled web of neurons chemically come up with in the middle of the night…

What will you do to calm them down-make restitution, give a little extra this week, or have a beer???

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31 Andrea @ NickelByNickel.com April 6, 2011 at 12:04 am

Well if it is 1 oz of .999 silver it’s a bit more than $20 since silver spot price is ahhhh $39.38 at the moment :)

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32 J. Money April 6, 2011 at 1:15 am

I just realized that this lady was trying to sell me a $1.00 coin for 25 cents!!! hahaha… why am I just thinking about this now? Been so caught up in the $15-$20 pricepoint that I missed the funniness about it all :) Not that I knew it was a silver dollar in the beginning anyways… but still – $1.00 coin for 25 cents! hahahahaa…

@Ginger – Yeah, she didn’t seem to really care all that much, but then again I didn’t really go out of my way to excite her ;)
@sarah oneill – haha, thanks. all good points!
@Niki – It’s right next to me as I type! ;)
@Sense – Well, after I wrote all this I started feeling MUCH much better about it, haha… like I “got it all out there” or something, not that I have been dwelling over it or anything. Oh, and I just told her I thought it was worth more than 25 cents but wasn’t sure how much. Which I honestly didn’t, even though I was secretly hoping for a million dollars ;) Imagine how bad I’d have felt THEN?!
@Steph – Ahahhahahahaa… I’m not that nice ;)
@Molly On Money – Yeah that’s true. I do the same thing with some things like old records and other antique-like things that I genuinely don’t care about. It’s very possible she just thought it was ugly and wanted it out!
@Tea – Yup! I totally agree. And I def. don’t think this lady was hard up for cash, although looks can certainly be deceiving (aka people who “look” like millionaires but are actually the opposite).
@kh – Yeah, looking back I should have made more of an effort. We grow every week!
@Ashley @ Money Talks – Haha, I like your analysis ;)
@Robert Muir – Well, I def. speak up in terms of getting more money by accident in stores (which happens all the time to me for some reason), but I guess it’s harder for me to categorize this same situation in there. Good things to think about though.
@slug – I wonder what I would have done if I found a gold bar? haha…
@Trinnie – haha, yeah – and actually 99.9% of the times it really ISN’T worth anything. which could have been the case for me here too, but luckily it wasn’t ;) and also I would have only lost a dollar. meh.
@Emily D. – Either that or she didn’t care as others mentioned :)
@Leslie – HAH!!! Well, he could have been making fake OLD coins, right? and then who’d be the chump! (me)
@Erin – Well, not sure I agree with that 100% of the way, but I do see what you’re saying :)
@retirebyforty – done and done!
@BoomChakaLaka – haahahaa… man, you all are funny today!
@Jon | Free Money Wisdom – Still not sure it’s the “nice” thing to do though :) I feel like people always have to come first over business, which is why I was upset with myself for a bit.
@Beth – Oh man, if she was a little girl? I think I’d be going to hell, haha… she was an older lady though.
@Sassy – Oh, me too! But this was a case where it was lower because she didn’t realize (i don’t think anyways) what she was selling. I didn’t get her down from $10 to $1 ;)
@wldflr – Interesting! Man, what a bargain too – good for you. And yet I don’t think you did anything wrong at all here. How weird is that? Maybe cuz it was books and not actual MONEY you were buying? haha… i mean think about it, she tried to sell me a $1.00 coin for 25 cents! hahahaahaha…. why I’m just now thinking this I don’t know.
@Wade – True dat. Although I didn’t pay $1.00 cuz it was face value, I paid it cuz I felt bad :)
@Hunter – I’m slowly feeling less guilty – woo!
@L.G. – hahahhahaha… I’m not sure if you’re being funny or serious, but that cracked me up like crazy. haha..
@Rafiki – awwwwww, I don’t remember Toy Story II all that well but I’m envisioning it :)
@becky – Man! What a find!! Wow. I don’t think I’d have the balls to do that one actually… although I could see me offering like $20 for it to ease my guilt ;) but that’s the old me now… haha…
@mike – Awwww, that is a most wonderful woman indeed. And I agree – I’d pick “good” too :)
@Bryan – Yeah, in theory at least.
@Amy Saves – I did get a nice post out of it, huh? :) thanks!
@Dr Dean – Haha… I’m already better! posting about this cured me up just fine :) and beer always helps too.
@Andrea @ NickelByNickel.com – oooh la la! that would be nice.

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