Economists have a lot of ways to measure how the economy is doing. I’ve got a measure of my own — at least about the local economy of my neighborhood and a few surrounding areas. It’s the number of yard sales every weekend, and the kind of things being offered.
Yard sales hereabouts used to be an adult version of kids’ lemonade stands. They were basically just fun affairs, a chance to sit around with friends for a few hours on a sunny weekend, and in the adult version, maybe unload a few items that had accumulated for heaven knows how long in the attic or garage. Items that if not bought for pennies by a passing stranger, often got dumped into the trash, rather than being hauled back into the house.
The yard sales I’m seeing in the last couple of weekends are of a different order.
These seem to be larger than in past years. Not only are more things being put out for sale, the quality of offerings seems to be better, too, things one might actually want to buy instead of castaways that can be packaged as a Christmas gift for one’s least favorite aunt.
Prices of goods are higher as well. And there’s a definite difference in the bargaining. Again, in years past, if the first price noted was a dollar, a prospective buyer might offer fifty cents, and a few minutes of jocular haggling would follow over whether the end price would be 70 or 80 cents. Now the sellers are bargaining harder for money rather than for fun’s sake.
So what is my personal neighborhood Yard Sale Economic Index saying this year compared to years past? The middle class squeeze is getting tighter. Every penny means more to more people. Local impulse buying is less in evidence. Both sellers and buyers look like they’re having less fun in a formerly fun-based exercise. And the recession continues to drag along in ever more painful ways in the part of the world where I live.
Official “recovery” nattering notwithstanding, I suspect these observations, and their import, hold true in most places.