On any given Saturday morning spring through fall, weather permitting, as you travel east on the main drag through town, you’ll notice a large hand painted sign on the left. "Honest Joe"*. To the unaware the place looks like any other yard sale. A front yard studded with old ladders, tables filled with stuff, and a friendly guy with a waist bag full of change, ready to say hi.
Actually, "Joe" runs what we call a "perpetual yard sale". Now, I have no problem with someone emptying out his attic, or Grandma’s cellar for that matter, but this guy is hard core. He goes from place to place dickering with unsuspecting yard sale sellers to buy up their wares. I imagine him chuckling into his borsch as he resells what he acquired, at jacked up prices. He can get away with it because he has a great location with lots of parking. It’s perfectly legal and all that, as he’s feet outside the borough’s limits. But it sure looks like a commercial venture on residential property.
Our first summer in the area, I hit his sale, (thinking it was the real deal), and was astounded at the prices he asked. Better than antique stores, but out of my league. After spotting him there every weekend, I realized the ladders were solidly sunk into the front yard soil. Yet because he is still selling seventeen years later, with some variation in table merchandise, I suspect it is profitable.
Is the bohemian in me secretly envious of a guy who can make a buck from other people’s discards? Can yard sales really be considered a commercial venture? The fellow has to eat. It’s not like he’s robbing banks. I have friends who trash pick and erratically resell for side money. Are any of them any different? What about the two guys in their Beverly Hillbilly truck collecting scrap metal early trash day morning? Or us picking up squashed aluminum cans off the road during evening walks? Isn’t it only a matter of degree?
Really, I don’t know.
Our state requires kids to fork over taxes on their earnings no matter what their age or amount, even if it costs more to process the tax than what they owe. One baby sitting eleven year old sent her taxes in cash. The revenue people had to close down shop and count it with a witness present. Well if "Joe" really is an honest Joe, he’s paying his fair share, most likely by check. So should I begrudge his efforts to stabilize government, keep stuff out of landfills, and promote the entrepreneurial spirit? No. I think my nose is out of joint because he talked me into selling him four wooden chairs for $20. I thought I’d given them a good home. Afterwards a neighbor whispered to me, "They aren’t for himself, he’ll just resell. That was 'Honest Joe'".
*His name has been changed.