Invasion of the estate pickers – part 3: It’s time for you to go home. Now.

One would imagine that people who are smart enough to find estate sale listings on the internet can also obey parking laws. But maybe the laws don't apply to pickers.

As you know, I’ve been following the estate sale next door because I’ve never seen one before, and since it affects me directly I wanted to write as the sale progressed.

As a recap – people started lining up on Wednesday afternoon to sleep in their cars for a sale that started on Thursday morning. ( I buddied up to them (after I called the cops because they were freaking me out, and found out they were estate sale buyers) and spent time talking to them that night and all the next day. I was fascinated and horrified, and by today, I’m disgusted.

The second day of the sale was calmer on the street, at least right off the bat. No one slept overnight that I could tell, although I fully expected it because everything was 50% off today. I went over to see if I could pick up something that would remind me of Wayne, something he’d told me a story about, something I knew he’d get a kick out of me having on a shelf. I picked up three old history books, nothing special or of value, but Wayne and I were both trivia fans, history lovers, and pack rats. I also grabbed his old Kodak Pony camera, although knowing Wayne’s appetite for … er …. girlie magazines and his penchant for nudist camps, I’m not sure I want to know what photos have been taken with that camera.

The folks running the estate sale ranged in personality from very aloof (one might even say cold) to fantastically friendly. They were, for the record, all very, very nice. But I wouldn’t necessarily invite all of them over for tea, if that makes sense. I imagine, though, they are really good at what they do, since it requires a level of detatchment and objectivity a family (or neighbor) can’t reach. So a business like this needs employees at all ends of the personality spectrum.

But the pickers today? Vultures. They weren’t the professional buyers, scroungers and pickers to go to things like this to supply their businesses. Not that they weren’t without problems. But some of the people today are showing up fantastically well-dressed (furs, suits, driving expensive cars) who completely ignore the parking laws and the people in the neighborhood.

As you recall, when I voiced a concern Wednesday night to the ER officer about the fuss the dogs make when there are cars on the street all  night with people sleeping in them, he told me to put the dogs in the house. (He also tried to pet a barking dog and acted like there was something wrong with me when I warned him that would result in a bite.) And while my dogs definitely barked when they were outside, at least when they were inside the fuss outside disappeared.

Until today’s round of estate sale vultures started  parking on both sides of the street, facing whichever direction they wanted, regardless of the side of the road they were on. The cars in front of the sale were obviously there to load furniture, etc. But as the day wore on it became clear people were treating our street like a parking lot on Black Friday – just what the police officer predicted.

The barking inside was as bad as the barking outside. And keep in mind that on our street alone I count, off the top of my head, about 15 dogs. For about 20 houses. That’s not counting the streets behind us on either side, which adds about 15 more dogs. So when one barks, they all bark. It’s a bark fest of epic proportions, much like the chain of barking in the original “101 Dalmations”, a barking information network that stretches from here to Fairport Road.

So I went out and put a “no parking” sign on the sidewalk in front of my house. If the dogs are outside, I expect barking as people walk by, and quite honestly I’ve been pretty impressed Bandit and Bailey weren’t total maniacs, barking through the hedge, since the people going to see the stuff in Wayne’s garage are literally feet away. (When I went to check out the sale, Bandit did bark like a maniac. He could hear me but not see me.)

There is no parking on this side of the street, and since estate sale pickers can't read I thought I'd make a bigger sign. Turns out the bigger the truck the more they can't read. (And you wonder why my dogs have been going bonkers all day?)

I was in a dilemma; I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I really wanted these morons to move their cars. If we have to follow the parking laws on my street, and I live here and pay taxes, then these idiots should have to as well. So I called the non-emergency number for the local PD; while this is an annoying situation, it’s not an emergency. (Although in a village that is about 2 miles by 2 miles, with, according to the ERPD website, 14 officers, a LT and a Chief of Police, I can’t imagine what else they were doing.) Except that there was no answer at the desk, and the website said that if you needed a car to come you have to call 9-1-1.

I’m not calling 9-1-1 for an idiot parked on my front yard. I’d much rather go out and take a picture!

Proof that estate sale pickers can't - or won't - read.

I did, however, leave a nice, long voice mail message for the Chief, because I want to know why the parking laws weren’t enforced. Why cars parked overnight with people in them are not “parked,” and therefore  not violations of the parking code, and why cars parked with people sleeping in them with engines running isn’t considering loitering. (The officer I spoke with on Wed said it’s not illegal, that private investigators, for example, do that. Methinks that’s a stretch … )

(UPDATE: I spoke with Janice later and she assured me the police were in kind of the same quandry we were. They pickers weren’t violating any specific laws, although I suggest they violated the spirit of the law. But the cars double parked and on the wrong side of the street? She told me to definitely call 9-1-1 because it’s actually an emergency problem if a fire truck or ambulance can’t get down the street. I still feel horrible about calling 9-1-1 for something that feels not really emergency-ish. But I am SOO glad I talked to her. Now back to my story …)

The pickers told me not all towns allow them to sleep over on the streets. Why does ERPD allow our residents to be annoyed and inconvenienced this way?

Understand, I’m the daughter of a cop, I have friends all over in law enforcement, I am a huge supporter of law enforcement, and I think police do a dangerous, stressful job with not enough pay or support from the community. But in this little town … please don’t blow this complaint off. The standard of living is sliding as it is,  houses are for sale all over and they’re not being sold; this kind of stuff, unchecked, makes it worse – because it gives the impression the police don’t care. And if the police don’t care, then the people don’t care, and if the people don’t care, you end up with slums.   But I digress … because that’s a rant for another day …

As I was out with Bailey (barking, barking) a man came up my driveway to say hello; he was Wayne’s cousin and we’d sat together at Wayne’s memorial service lunch. He had purchased a photo of their old family farm, which used to sit right where Hoselton Auto Mall sits today. It’s where he and Wayne used to collect arrowheads; he told me great stories.

How weird is it that a family member comes in to buy a family memento? When I go, I want anyone in my family and friends to come and take whatever floats your boat. In fact, if you tell me now what you want, I’ll make a list. I want my books, for example, to stay with someone who loves books, who will appreciate the notes I’ve made on pages and understand how the words formed me and my philosophy of life. Not donated to Goodwill. (I saw hundreds of LPs at Wayne’s sale; he LOVED music and it pains me to see something he cared about – something maybe not super valuable monetarily, but  would mean something to someone who collect vinyl – headed for Goodwill tomorrow.)

And I don’t want my family to have to pay $5 for family photo; come and get it now if you want it.

I’ll be glad – oh, so very very glad! – to see this sale over. Not because it’s inconvenient, but because it has violated our sense of community. We like each other here on this street – we’re a weird community of the unemployed, the gainfully employed, the disabled, the active, families and the elderly, artists and military veterans, people who struggled out of high school and college educated folks. We don’t want people sleeping on our streets and parking on our sidewalks to pick through the remains of a dead man’s life. And if they do, we want them to respect us, the neighbors, who lost a friend and member of our community. Good for you, you went home with $10 in old tools. We know the man who used them.

And don’t park on this wrong side of the road. You drive a Lexus; I assume you can read.

* * * * * * *

After experience my first estate sale invasion, I have some questions:

1) What responsibility does the estate sale company have to notify neighbors, local police, etc of the incoming invasion? I was told by pickers that there is no responsibility, they don’t bother a neighborhood, and no one gets hurt. I beg to differ. In fact, on the site for this estate sale, it says:

“Terms and Conditions:Numbers given at 7:45am. Temporary numbers will be accepted. If you are given a temporary number upon early arrival you must stay on-site until you exchange your number with our staff at 7:45am.”

They are, with that statement, not just endorsing but insisting that people sleep in their cars on the streets, and thereby working with the pickers to set up this incredibly annoying and invasive situation. I respectfully suggest they be held accountable to notify neighbors, provide security, and monitor traffic.

2) What responsibility does the police have to make sure people obey parking laws when they are notified that an event, as one officer told me, akin to the night before Black Friday is about to take place on their street? I know for a fact they were notified by one neighbor in advance, and after numerous calls (turns out I’m not the only one who complained) I only saw a cop once since Wednesday afternoon.

3) What rights to homeowners have to not have people loitering for a day (or in some cases, days) on their streets, sleeping in their cars? What rights do we have to not have people parking on the sidewalks, the wrong way on the street, loitering up driveways (as I saw one woman do as she wandered around chatting loudly on her cell phone as she waited for her number to be called).

4) When there are complaints, what responsibility does the estate sale company have to ensure their buyers aren’t being a nusiance? To go out and tell people to park legally, for example, or leave a sign on the door as people come in that says, “No parking this side of the street; if you are blocking a driveway, facing the wrong way, or parked on the wrong side please be considerate and move your car.” I’d be completely satisfied that they’ve done their responsibility.

Instead, I heard a lot of comments from buyers who acted as if we – the  people who live on the street – were wrong to feel invaded by hordes of people sleeping in their cars. Excuse me, but the process is annoying: you drive down the street to park your car at 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM, etc; you then have to get out of your car, walk and ask around until you find the car handing out numbers, get a number, walk back to your car and get in. Believe it or not, on a street like ours, where the houses are on top of each other and the street is just feet away … we hear every move, every car door, the engines running. And you are bothering us.

If you’ve had a problem with an estate sale invasion, I’d love to hear about it. I’m working on a few article pitches and am curious to know how it works in other communities. Or is it just here in ER where people act like we’re insignificant?


9 responses to “Invasion of the estate pickers – part 3: It’s time for you to go home. Now.

  1. I read your article with interest because I run estate sales for a living. I’m sorry you were so inconvenienced by the crowd that gathered. From my experience, you faced an atypical situation. I often have people arriving early for the sale, but I’ve never noticed anyone sleeping in their car over night (though I’ve heard it happening a few times). If you read my blog ( you’ll see that one of the things I stress is that my customers should obey the posted parking signs and they should also be respectful of the neighbors. Some people just don’t get it, unfortunately. Still, it’s usually only so crowded on the first morning. Over the many years I’ve been doing sales, I’ve never had a neighbor complain, though they might have preferred the strangers to stay away. One way that one can look at estate sales to remember that the family has (usually) already removed all that they want from the house and now they would like to sell the rest, that it helps most of those beloved items find new home, that it helps the economy in these trying times by offering goods at greatly reduced prices, that it helps small businesses find goods at low prices that they can resale for a small profit, that it means less stuff is going into the landfill. And if nothing else, the chance that you’ll have another big sale in your neighborhood anytime soon are very slim. You might want to even seek out a few sales in other neighborhoods (remembering to park correctly and to be respectful) so that you can do your own shopping. Estate sales are great places to shop! We usually have lots of interesting and useful stuff, including clothes, cleaning products, appliances, etc.

    • Unfortunately, I was told by the pickers – and the estate sale folks running the sale – that sleeping overnight to get in line IS typical. The estate sale company in fact sets up those terms and conditions when they say that temporary numbers will be honored only if the people remain onsite the entire time in order to get an official number.

      And I did have people telling me “it’s only for a day or two”. But I’m offended by that. As a viable, home owning, tax paying member of my community, you’re saying I should be told to “suck it up” because a horde of people descend unannounced on my street to sleep overnight, park in my front yard (on the wrong side of the street), invited by a for-profit company planning and hosting an event? I don’t think it’s appropriate to annoy and inconvenience a neighborhood that way and then tell me to just deal with it for a few days. The estate company, like anyone else operating an event in a residential neighborhood, should be required to notify the neighbors that people will be coming days in advance, notify the police department that there will be traffic issues, and they should then be required to ensure that people obey the parking laws – even if it means they have to hire an employee to remain on site to do that. Were it any other business operation in a residential area, even temporarily, they’d have to do that.

      As for going to estate sales … I’ve done lots of shopping at antique shops, garage sales, etc. I have, however, never had the horde of estate sale vultures descend on my neighborhood before.


  2. That’s not what I said.

  3. Pingback: The invasion of the estate pickers – part 4: A look at the bigger picture « Notes From The Funny Farm

  4. Pingback: Invasion of the estate pickers – part 5: you forgot your numbers « Notes From The Funny Farm

  5. I agree with the estate sale company’s reply and it holds true, as I have the same business for 12 years now. Some shoppers (they are not all “pickers”…that is a whole different term)…can be rude and ignore parking signs. We often have to make people move their cars, etc but most of the shoppers are great and obey the rules. We have so much work to do to prepare for the sale, there is no way we could “notify” all the neighbors, police, etc. You have made some very rude comments towards estate sale companies and don’t really understand what we do and how we help the families…..we bring income for the famliy who asks us to get them the most profit from their sale and it is usually to pay funeral expenses, bills left behind, and many other things that are needed. We perform a great service for them and most of us put in our Terms and Conditions to be “respectful of the neighbors” but try as much as we do, we cannot control every single shopper. Some people just don’t care. Now that this is over, I wonder what you will spend that much time complaining about ….after your two day adventure.

    • Sara, I appreciate your comment and understand where you’re coming from. And yes, life is back to normal – although we picked up those temporary number from our gardens for a few days, along with cigarette butts left by the overnighters.

      I saw first hand how important the service was to the family – I explored that whole issue in another post on this subject. And I do understand the various terms of pickers and estate shoppers, etc. In the first post I explained that, for simplicity’s sake, I used one term.

      But I’m tired of people telling me that the neighbors on our street didn’t have a valid reason to complain. This estate sale company actually set up the terms of the sale, requiring people to come early to get temporary numbers and then not allowing them to leave, essentially forcing them to sleep in cars on the street (which is apparently the norm, according to the overnighters and the estate sale people), in order to get official numbers in the morning. If you understood how small our streets are, how close the road is to our front door, and how unexpected it all was, you would appreciate why it was so frustrating.

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