U.S. Gov’t to Crackdown on Garage Sales?

U.S. Gov’t to Crackdown on Garage Sales?

Flea Markets Targeted, Consumers Suffer

Flea Markets Targeted, Consumers Suffer

When I read the headline to this McClatchy News Service Article I just about blew my top. What is it about those meddling bunglers in Washington that makes them so eager to regulate every activity (including that of the sun)?

James Rosen writes: “If you’re planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you’d best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products.”

I was raised with this universal maxim in mind: ‘Caveat Emptor’ (buyer beware). Apparently the Federal Government doesn’t want you to consider the quality of items you purchase, even when you are buying said items second hand!

“The crackdown affects sellers ranging from major thrift-store operators such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army to everyday Americans cleaning out their attics for yard sales, church bazaars or — increasingly — digital hawking on eBay, Craigslist and other Web sites.”

Under this law, those that buy second hand goods are disincentivized from doing the due diligence necessary to ensure that the smurf doll that was bought at a garage sale is safe.  Big Brother has made it illegal for dangerous toys to be sold second hand.  When your kid breaks the arm off of Papa Smurf, puts it into his or her gobb and chokes to death on it, it’s not YOUR fault for letting the kid eat the toy, it’s the fault of the person that sold you a thirty year old plastic communist indoctrination tool.

“Even before this law, we had good mechanisms in place for pulling recalled products,” said Jim Gibbons, the chief executive of Goodwill. “The law just kicks it up a notch, so Goodwills around the country will continue to improve our process.”

Now we get into the economics of the situation. Thrift store operators spend time and resources (including money) to pull recalled products. These costs will undoubtedly increase as Federal Trade Commission increases penalties on the enterprising people running thrift stores.  Thus the toys and other products in the store cost more for people seeking a better value than can even be had at a discount chain store, or even the local dollar store. This causes the overhead costs of the thrift store to be higher than they otherwise would be. Resale Roundup causes second hand retailers to charge more to their patrons on the products they can legally offer.

“Gibbons said the nonprofit group was accustomed to inspectors from the Consumer Product Safety Commission making unannounced visits to its store”

So Gibbons said that Goodwill was accustomed to his chairtable organization getting the high hard one from the man on a regular basis, and passing the costs on to the customers.

“Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the agency [the Federal Trade Commission], said it wouldn’t be dispatching bureaucratic storm troopers into private homes to see whether people were selling recalled products from their garages, yards or churches.

“We’re not looking to come across as being heavy-handed,” he said. “We want to make sure that everybody knows what the rules of engagement are to help spur greater compliance, so that enforcement becomes less of an issue. But we’re still going to enforce.”

Of course the thugs aren’t looking to come across as being heavy-handed. No one wants to look like a bully. They might not be sending thugs to your house, but if you have a table at a flea market, or have donated to your church thrift store, you can expect the goons to be dispatched to those locations immediately.

There was already a strong effort by many in the second hand retailing sector to pull recalled items from the shelf (or even keep them from ever reaching the shelves). This law isn’t even necessary! Many outlets that sell second hand goods voluntarily subscribe to a professional association that requires them to do what the new law DEMANDS!

Adele Meyer is the executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, which represents more than 1,100 store owners.

“Even before it was criminal to resell recalled goods, our members have always been diligent because children’s safety is always foremost in their minds,” she said. “But having consumers look out for recalled products that are sold at garage sales and flea markets, that is a problem, and hopefully this law will help.”

The story goes on to detail how a mother and 12 year old daughter reacted when informed of their status as potential criminals because of their attempt to sell the girls unwanted doll collection. In order to be in compliance with the statute,

…Nancy and Laura Lothrop must do a painstaking inventory of her collection, searching for tiny model numbers to see whether they match any of the recalled items. If they find matches, they’ll pull the recalled dolls and accessories from the group that they’re selling.”

What a pain in the behind!

Nancy Lothrop really gets what is going on here, by recognizing the fact that this law is an arbitrary and unecessary intrusion into the financial activities of her family.

“Many toys have small pieces that could be dangerous,” she said.  ”My son played with army men, Lego blocks, all kinds of things with little parts. A toddler can put anything in his mouth. Parents need to have common sense. Ultimately, the parent needs to really evaluate and be watchful of what the child is playing with. We as consumers have to be careful. It really comes back to us.”

It seems to me that Ms. Lothrop sees that thugs calling themselves “the government” are interfering in what was one of the last vestiges of the free market.

Kudos to James Rosen, and to his editors and publishers at McClatchy for running this excellent piece.

Photo credit: The Lorain County, Ohio Visitors Bureau Consider visiting Lorain County Ohio. It seems like a wonderful place. They have a big flea market there.

About the Author

FURB is a pragmatic anarchist working in insurance in Salt Lake City. He is the founder and managing editor of freedombookclub.com, and a frequent contributor to the Liberty Conspiracy. FURB previously worked in the hospitality industry, serving fifteen years in restaurants, including time spent as an executive chef and general manager.