• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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The Yard Sale Customer/Vendor Experience

Whatever you call them in your neck of the woods – yard sales, garage sales or tag sales – the dynamic of these sales is pretty unique, isn’t it?  Yard sales are interesting experiences for the “vendors,” who carefully lay out their basement and attic misfits, as well as for the typically eclectic assortment of shoppers, convinced that they’re going to find that long, lost treasure.

A few weeks ago, our subdivision had its neighborhood yard sale.  Every year it seems we have some assortment of stuff to put out for sale (Where does all this “stuff” come from anyway?  Remember comedian George Carlin’s whole bit about “stuff?”)  We decided to participate and schlep our knick-knacks and unwanted items out into the driveway on a scorching Saturday as we have in past years.  And as in past years, I continue to be fascinated by what unfolds.

Each yard sale seems to have the usual cast of characters.  There is the “What is this for?” lady.  She makes her way across each table, picking up this item and that and asking about each one, “What is this?” or “What’s this for?”  All the while, she’s making me paranoid that my “stuff” is so weird and odd that people can’t figure out what the items are.  She continued,

“Well, I don’t know where I’d put this…”

I think to myself, “Then don’t buy it.”

“What’s this for?”

“Oh, that’s a roll-top teak box for 3″ diskettes”

“What’s a diskette?  How much do you want for it?”

Again to myself, “Oh c’mon lady, you’re as old as I am.  You must know what a diskette was!”
I explain, “You know, diskettes were used in computers not too long ago.  They were about this big, square, then CD’s and DVD’s took over.  How about two dollars for the box?”

“What would I use that for?

The voice in my head screams, “I don’t know what you’d use it for lady.  I’m not your life coach!”  Pondering, I suggest, “Um, perhaps a sewing box or ..”

“My recipe cards won’t fit in it.  They’re three by five.  I don’t know where I’d put it.”

This little game repeated itself item after item.  She didn’t buy anything.  I was exasperated.

Then there was a very senior couple who pulled up in a nice late model Buick.  She used a cane and he had a walker.  As they ever so slowly made their way from their car, across the sidewalk and toward the sale, I was immediately confused and concerned.  What could I possibly have in my driveway that this old couple needed?  I mean, if I ever make it to their age, I’m going to be divesting myself of as much stuff as possible and not stopping at yard sales dragging more stuff back home.  Why are they still buying things at their age?  Seriously, do they really need anything here?

“Herb, come over here and try on this leather jacket,” she says to her husband.

Oh great.  Now I feel like a horrible person and a quick-to-judge heel.  I don’t think they could possibly need anything that I’ve got and the poor old guy needs a new jacket to keep warm this winter.

To me he says, “Hi there young fella.  You know I had three of these at home.  Gave them all away.”

So apparently, Herb had previously accumulated three leather jackets and gave them all away to…?  Sons…?  Grandsons…?.  Why buy another?  I was curious but didn’t ask.

“How much for the jacket,” asks Mrs. Herb.

I reply, “How about ten bucks?” thinking this to be very reasonable for a $179 slightly used leather jacket.  Mrs. Herb drives a hard bargain.  “Will you take eight?”  Darn, I knew I should have asked for twenty.  It wouldn’t have mattered.

Which leads me to yard sale pricing for a moment.  I don’t believe in actually marking things with prices in a yard sale.  What I want for the item isn’t really what’s important, is it?  What will you pay me for it?  That’s what really matters.  But there are always those savvy shoppers like Mrs. Herb that no matter what the price, they’ll always shave 20% off and ask if you’ll take that instead.  “Ten bucks.”  “Will you take eight?”  “Five bucks.”  “Will you take four?”  I know, here.  Why don’t you just take it and go!

So Mr. Herb got himself a fourth leather jacket to take home and give away along with a very nice sweater.  “Three bucks.”  “Will you take two?”  “Oh sure, you’re a good customer!”

Later that afternoon, there was the young gal who quickly eyed what was left on our tables and bought all six wooden plate stands for a couple dollars.  I wonder what she’s going to do with those.  Not use them for plates I suspect.  Then, the youngish grandfather who bought an old train set to add to his collection, hesitated when I offered to throw in the race car set.  “My whole basement is full of trains, wall-to-wall.”  Goodness gracious, God bless you and your patient wife, I thought to myself.

I’ve also learned this lesson – don’t pre-judge what people will or won’t buy at a garage sale.  About ten years ago, we were cleaning out the 115 year old historic home we had purchased in west Cincinnati.  The home had remained in one family for eighty-five years and when we took possession, the attic and basement were still filled with stuff.  In the end, we nearly filled two forty-yard dumpsters and yet we had plenty of wares to stage a well stocked yard sale.

In one corner of the attic was a dust coated plastic rubber tree.  Or was it a rubber plastic tree?  No, no it was a fake houseplant made of plastic and made to look like a rubber tree.  My significant other says, “That can go in the sale.”  “Are you kidding?” I asked insultingly.  “We are not putting that pathetic thing in the yard sale!  Who would buy it?  No one will buy that,” I countered with the confidence of a seasoned merchant.  We had just moved into this old neighborhood and I was imagining the painful embarrassment I would endure in front of my new neighbors by putting this disgusting, dirty fake plant in my yard sale.

Well, of course I was wrong.  Around mid-afternoon that particular day, a woman pointed to the plastic rubber tree and asked, “How much?”  You’ve got to be kidding, I thought to myself.  You’re not really going to buy that thing.  “Um, how about five bucks?”  “Deal,” she shouts!  “I’m just going to take that home, hose it off and it’ll look great on my lanai.”  The use of the word “lanai” in Cincinnati should have been a tip-off but I proceeded to ask anyway, “Oh, do you live around here?” “Oh, heavens no, no. I’m just visiting up here.  I live in Florida.  So not only was this woman buying my dirty old fake rubber plant, she was planning to drive it all the way back to Florida!

Which just goes to show you that when it comes to yard sales, sometimes the experience should be an adventure!

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