Please consider the following guidelines for garage sales to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19):
Practice safety and social distancing by doing the following:
- Place posters encouraging social distancing for customers to see upon arrival and while shopping.
- Set up tables and chairs within 6 feet apart.
- Use heavy-duty tape to form a flow for customers to follow throughout the sale.
- Ask customers to stand in a line, while spread apart, during a high traffic times.
- Clean all tables and chairs several times throughout the day.
- Make sure all merchandise is washed and dried and/or wiped down with a disinfectant product before placing on a table or chair for sale.
- Wipe down all tables and chairs using disinfectant at the end of the day or in the morning before the next day of the sale starts.
- Wear masks and disposable gloves at all times during the sale.
- Have hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol on tables and other places for customers to use.
How to safely hold a yard sale during the coronavirus pandemic
(Modified from an article originally in the Bangor Daily News by Sam Schipani, June 6, 2020)
Yard sales also have an advantage compared to some other organized gatherings because they are generally held outdoors, which reduces the risk of exposure to respiratory droplets from attendees. However, there are things that yard sale planners — and attendees — can do to make sure their event is pandemic friendly.
One of the most important aspects of a safe yard sale during a pandemic is to have some sort of system for crowd control. Designate at least one person to keep a head count while the yard sale is going on.
“I would make sure [to] have someone standing by to help me keep a rough headcount,” “If there are five people there, ask the sixth and seventh, ‘Hey, can you wait a minute or two?’”Jeff Wallace, director of code enforcement for the city of Bangor, Maine
Bridget Rauscher, chronic disease prevention program manager and local health officer at the Portland public health division, said that yard sale organizers should consider setting and enforcing “early bird” hours for vulnerable individuals.
“That’s also a great option with better chances of fewer people,” she said.
Rauscher also suggested following the lead of many businesses by making markings on the ground — a line of chalk or a strip of tape would suffice — that are six feet apart. Signs might also help remind customers of the rules and recommendations.
“Not that it currently isn’t fresh in everybody’s mind, but having a sign out with a few reminders for distancing and what not would help keep it in people’s mind,” Wallace said.
Yard sale organizers can arrange their items in a way that limits the amount of people that touch them. For example, consider displaying items on tables rather than putting them in boxes for customers to rummage through.
To prevent the touching, consider spreading goods out more. Spread items, especially clothing, out so people can see what they are without touching them.
Make sure your items are cleaned (and disinfected, if recommended and possible) following CDC guidelines before the customers arrive.
“If you’re selling a blender, try to give the blender a wipe down before you set it out on your display table,” Wallace said. “[For] clothes, run them through the washing machine and the dryer before you put them out.”
Have hand sanitizer readily available for customers. Wallace said that customers are going to touch the items regardless, so they might as well have the option to sanitize.
Requesting that customers wear masks — especially if your yard is small and it is difficult to maintain a six foot distance between people — is highly recommended for a pandemic-safe yard sale.
However, Wallace noted that some people have medical conditions that make wearing a mask difficult or unadvisable, so enforcing social distancing is paramount.
If you are holding a yard sale, consider offering free masks or selling masks at the entrance for customers that do not come equipped. (Wallace did, however, advise against selling used masks.)
Payments for yard sale items should be as contactless as possible. Rauscher suggested using Venmo or another payment app when possible and only taking exact change for cash transactions in an effort to limit the back and forth interactions. Venmo, PayPal and Zelle are great options.
Additionally, organizers and customers alike should wash hands or sanitize their hands after handling any sort of payment method.
“Money is one of the dirtiest things out there,” Wallace said. “Have some hand sanitizer readily available so you can do the best you can when you accept the money.”
Yard sale hosts could also take a cue from some farmers markets, who have boxes that customers put money in. That way, the seller only has to touch the change with freshly gloved hands. Sellers may also want to consider using Facebook marketplace for bigger ticket items like furniture.
“I think that’s an adaptation of embracing technology when possible — that’s a great thing,” Wallace said.
Being a good guest
Attendees should use common sense and the CDC guidelines: bring masks, keep your distance and leave if it looks too crowded.
“Be cognizant of your six-foot bubble and others’,” Wallace said. “If it seems like it’s a highly popular yard sale and it seems kind of packed in, maybe it might not be the right time right now to swing in and look for the deals.”
Customers tend to be amenable to the rules. “We talked through encouraging the use of face coverings and social distancing when promoting the sale, as well as being vigilant about limiting the number of shoppers to ten or less,” Rauscher explained. “She followed up and let me know that people were happy to comply and she offered gloves and sanitizer to people to use while they were there.”
Still, Wallace said to expect people to bend the rules — in his words, “people are going to do people things.” If you are not comfortable with this or at risk for the virus, it may be wise to skip yard sale season this year altogether.