The good, the scary and the funny of our garage sale in Fiji
Holding a garage sale in Fiji is not only a good pocket-money spinner for the kids, but it is also heaps of fun. Most expats in Fiji don't normally hold a garage/yard sale until it's time for departure from the country. It's an easy and fun way to avoid excess baggage on the trip home.
Shopping is pretty dismal in Fiji at the best of times, especially for quality household items. So, it is at these sales, where expats and locals can be found fighting it out for the best 2nd hand items, especially when they may be quality items from overseas.
The last time my kids convinced me to hold a garage sale, we got ourselves in big trouble. But more of that story toward the end of this post.
Here are some tips to holding a good garage sale when living in Fiji.
GARAGE SALE TIPS
To make a garage sale successful, you need to advertise. Word-of-mouth or the 'Coconut Wireless' is the best form of advertising in Fiji, however if you aren't fond of standing at Suva Market and shouting it from the roof-top (which I wouldn't recommend anyway in this situation), put up a quick ad on local Buy/Swap/Sell pages on Facebook. If you have one or two items only, you can list them on here too, instead of holding a garage sale.
Some pages on facebook to advertise on are:
Or you could place a classified ad in the Fiji Sun, or Fiji Times.
1) Do not advertise your actual address, rather your general location, and phone number to call for an address
WHY: Advertising your address is like waving a red cloth to a bull, for would-be-thieves, especially if it is on a weekend when thieves know you will be unable to bank any cash you make. We made this mistake!
2) Do not accept people saying 'sold' on facebook images, rather make it clear that it is 'first in, best dressed, in person'
WHY: In my experience (in either Australia or Fiji) people tend to get excited at the prospect of buying a 'set of drawers' and quickly say "SOLD!", but the logistics of then picking it up and paying for it quickly become too hard.
It is uncommon for Fijian locals to have their own transport, especially transport capable of hauling large pieces of furniture. This means they will need to organise a carrier truck or van. When it all gets too hard, their natural instinct is to 'not disappoint you', so instead of telling you, they will ignore you. I've had it happen too many times to recount. By which point you decide to relist and you could have sold it five times over.
3) Put clear/concise information about what you'll have for sale including it's condition and size ie. beds, kitchen appliances, dvds etc
WHY? It just saves everyone a lot of hassle and bother. I once bought brand new plastic drawers from Cost-U-Less in Suva. The type Australians would buy from the cheap shop for $20AUD. They were $80FJD, which had I been in Australia would not have paid that much for, but like I've said before, quality items are hard to come by in Fiji. For whatever reasons, we decided to sell them less than a week later and I listed them on facebook for $40FJD (bargain!!! half price!!).
Side note: If I were starting a new business in Fiji, I would so be starting up a 'plastic drawer' shop. We had so many calls about these drawers, even weeks later.
We promised them to one man who came to pick them after four days of non-returned phone calls (see Point No.2). He took them home to his wife who promptly made him return back saying they were too small. For that price she expected them to be large. Sorry lady. (In my defence there was a pic on fb, but perhaps not one showing the scale!)
I digress a little but have to tell you a funny story about these same drawers. When we relisted them for sale, a lady called me to put aside for her. I did so, and later that afternoon, two big burly Fijian men showed up at our door. I thought they were from the local Water Authority because they got out of a big WAF truck. They stood there for a while just staring at me (you will also find this happens) waiting for me to start the conversation.
"Bula Mam, We are here to pick up the cupboard"
Me: "I don't have any cupboards here" genuinely confused.
Men continue to stand there silent.
I continue to stand there confused.
Men: "Bula Mam, our Aunty sent us to pick up the cupboard"
Me: "I don't have any cupboards to be picked up" genuinely confused and getting a bit anxious at this point.
This went on for 5 minutes back and forth (I swear to you). Then I thought to ask what their Aunty's name was. At this point, I broke down in hilarious laughter. You know the type that you can't stop, or get a word out.
Those poor two Fijian men didn't know what to do. They probably wanted to have me committed to St.Giles (the local mental health facility).
When I finally managed to get words out, I told them to follow me to look at the cupboard to see if they could manage it themselves, or needed to bring in more people. They thought I was a genuine nutter, suddenly remembering that 'yes I do have a cupboard' and 'how wouldn't they be able to manage it?' They were big, strong, proud Fijian men. Then I showed them the cupboard... (this image is similar to the the actual drawers, in fact they were even smaller!)
That was one of the funniest moments I have witnessed in Fiji.
"Oi lei" said the first man.
"Oi lei" said the second one in reply.
"Oi lei" is a Fijian slang term which roughly translated means something like exasperation, or a sudden understanding, or like an 'oh man'.
Then laughter from us all for five minutes. My 7 year old carried the drawers outside to their big truck. I laughed for days about that one.
4) Choose your set up location wisely.
WHY? We started our last garage sale on the road side of a very busy road (out the front of our house). A council car drove past three times trying to work out what these strange 'kavilagi's' (word for white person in Fiji) were actually doing. The third time, they pulled up and did an 'inspection' - after buying a good chunk of random stuff, they told us we were breaking the law and had to have a permit. Perhaps wanting a 'fine' from us on the spot, I convinced them that it was just the kids having fun and not meaning to break the law. I promised them to move it into our driveway immediately.
This is where the next issue arose. It got so busy at one point, that people started walking into our house randomly looking for more things they may like to buy. Luckily my Hubby was inside working so he sent them on their way, without drama. (Or so we thought!)
A tip I want to mention at this point is when your sale is going on outside, make sure you lock your doors, and close your curtains to avoid any nosey would-be thieves from taking a sticky beak at potential items to steal.
5) Have fun!
Don't take it too seriously. If you don't want the item anyway and are prepared to get rid of it, don't stress about the bartering that will occur. Have fun with the bartering, and my instinct in Fiji is to sell it for what they want to pay (unless it is really unreasonable!). Or add a 'bonus' in like a couple of books, or a pair of shoes. Make someone's day!
I met my Best Friend Forever at our last garage sale. Granted she doesn't know we're BFF's (yet!), but if we got the chance we so would have been. She was so fun, and so much like me! My daughter whispered to me at the time "Mum, if you were Fijian, you would be that lady!", we gave her some earrings and she bought a dress, then as fast as she arrived in my life, she hopped on the bus across the road and waved goodbye right out of my life. Sadly, I never even got to know her name. If one day she ends up reading this blog, contact me Bestie.
The Trouble We Got Ourselves Into
After a pretty successful and fun garage sale, and a lot of cash made to line the kids piggy banks, we called our friend from around the corner to come and pick up whatever was left that she wanted for free (she took it all, lol). We hopped in a taxi to MHCC for dinner. All was well in our world.
Australia was playing in a big rugby match that night, so my Hubby stayed up really late and decided to sleep in the lounge room to avoid disturbing us. This meant the kids took the opportunity to bunk in with me (of course!).
It was around 3am and Hubby was just drifting off to sleep on the lounge after an exciting game. He heard a noise at the front door but thought it must of been a cat. He heard it again so opened his eyes, and in the dim light from the street lamp, he saw a hand coming through the louvre window and opening the front door from inside. He yelled something I won't repeat. And the curtain pulled back from outside to reveal a man staring right back at him, shocked.
The man bolted. Fast. He climbed the wire fence and jumped off it, falling down at least 4 meters to the concrete pathway below. How he didn't break any bones is beyond me? Perhaps he did!
He had broke two of the louvres, in their position in their frame, to enable him to pull them out quietly, and gain enough space for his arm to go through.
A big thanks must go to the Wallabies for playing the All Blacks that night. Had my Hubby not been in the lounge room, we probably would not have heard anything until it was too late. The three scary things about it were:
(a) The same guy was at the garage sale earlier that day, obviously scoping out our place - that's a scary thought!
(b) The cash from the garage sale (as well as a huge sum -in the thousands of dollars- that I had withdrawn from the bank to pay for something else) was in my handbag next to my head on the bed. I cant imagine waking up to see someone at my bed.
(c) It was revealed later that the would-be thief had looked through our bedroom window and seen a lot of bodies in the bed, probably assuming we were all in there so it was safe to go through the front door into the lounge room. The thought that someone was watching us sleep gives me shudders.
Lessons we learned that night and ones that our local neighbor was very quick to reiterate to us the next day (pays to listen to the locals, they know their area better than anyone else!):
* Don't hold a garage sale on a weekend - it is very obvious that you will have cash lying around your house because the banks won't be open
* Don't be obvious targets - it was pretty stupid of me to allow my two 'kavilagi' kids to be on the roadside selling. They were the proverbial red flag to the bull. I shudder to think if that same guy had tried to grab the full money bag off one of them! Lucky myself and my neighbour was sitting down there watching
* Don't get carried away in the moment - we got so excited at all the 'customers' and the fun we were having that we didn't realise when people started walking into our house
* Choose your location wisely - at one point we had some of our sale goods up on our balcony, which gave the Creep a genuine opportunity to get closer to the house and see the layout. From the balcony, my bedroom window was wide open and in full view of anyone
* Don't assume everyone is like you (except for my BFF of course!) - we are pretty decent, and genuine people who would never think of robbing anyone, but don't be naive like we were. There are dangerous creeps out there in the big bad world
So in summary, have fun with your garage sale in Fiji, but take smart precautions. We didn't and the situation could have ended very badly. I would definitely hold another sale, but would be more careful.
And, if you're a new expat in Fiji or looking to move to Fiji in the future, don't forget the potential bargain to be found via expats moving on. Their sadness at leaving the island nation will be your furniture gain!
Have you scored any really good bargains at a garage sale? Or have any stories to share? Please share below in the comments... you will make my day!
Until next time, moce friends XO