Tag/Estate Sale Ethics: A Manifesto. Make sure to follow number 4 above all else.

Guidelines every tag sale company should be following.
  1. Make fair prices for both clients and buyers.
  2. Protect/secure any off-limits areas/items.
  3. Research market value on the stuff you don't know.
  4. Do not misrepresent any items. Disclose any imperfections or problems you're aware of in an item and encourage buyers to carefully examine anything they're buying.
  5. Control the number of people in the home and make sure everyone leaves with what was paid for.
  6. Do not sell any items you cannot legally sell.
  7. Manage your clients' expectations. Make them aware of fair market value for their items and help them understand what will go on inside their homes.
  8. Accurately advertise items for sale.
  9. Remove all conflicts of interest related to purchasing items from your own sale. (This one was supplied by Bronwyn at Fine Design LLC. Thanks, Bronwyn!)
  10. Make sure you have enough staff covering areas crowded with small items. (Suggested by Lisa of Antique Revival Sales. Awesome, Lisa.)
  11. Do not disappoint shoppers by advertising/picturing items you have sold in advance. Make sure everything you advertise is there for the day of the sale. (Emailed in by Heidi of Sweet & Harding. Getting this right can make or break your business - excellent, Heidi.)
  12. Be transparent about how unsold items will be disposed of. Avoid conflicts of interest and suspicion that items aren't selling so you can claim them free of charge later. (From comment by Richard at Estate Services. Such an important one. Thanks!)
Have something to add? Tell us what else would be on your manifesto in the comments or by emailing If we agree, we'll add it on!

Think it's all been covered? Feel free to just pledge to follow these rules by leaving your company name and link in the comments below.

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  1. I think 7 may be the hardest to follow

  2. Haha, yes, so true. We can only try our best on that one.

  3. One of the most difficult issues for those of us who hold tag sales is how unsold items are handled. There is a tremendous potential for unethical behavior (or accusations of such) if disposal of these items is left to the discretion of the tag sale company (want something for free, just price it too high to sell). Thus the contract should clearly state that the client has the option to review, and may choose to retain, any of the unsold items.

  4. WE adhere to the above policies and have since early in our business life. The most difficult to manage is #7. Emotional attachment is difficult to put a price on. in regard to #4, when there is an item that has a flaw, we put our price tag pointing at the flaw to help the customer identify that there indeed is a reason for the inexpensive price. #12:End Buyers make our job so much easier! Great List!

  5. Many good points here, and I have a few thoughts as well.

    On #1, we strive to be fair with our pricing, but my first obligation is to the client. Is it a sale to settle an estate, and do I have carte blanche by the executor to negotiate down on everything to clear it all out, or are there items on which we are dealing with a reserve price, where an heir is going to retain or buy said item if it does not go for a minimum price, or is the item to be donated somewhere for a tax write-off? This all impacts the level at which I can price. I sometimes have to remind our customers that the items are not my personal goods to give away at pennies on the dollar.

    #3-Though we strive for this, it is not always possible given the short lead times of some jobs. We did one sale in which we got into the house at 9PM to price and stage, and opened at 10 the next morning. Sometimes you just have to go with your cumulative previous knowledge.

    #4-Any items sold at any estate should be expected buy buyers to be in "as is" condition, and anything with damage other than that that such as general wear or patina of age, such as a crack in a piece of glass, we call out on our price tag. The shoppers have all day to view the items before buying, and to inspect them in a non-destructive manner (use of UV lights, personal magnification devices, etc.), and are under no circumstances to compel them to buy any items from us. In the case of motor vehicles and such, we tell people they are welcome to bring their mechanic with them for inspection.

    #6-We firmly adhere to this-no alcohol, tobacco, or non-antique qualified firearms.

    #7-I agree with Carole, this is one thing you just have to keep repeating to some clients until they get it. I had one client who could not grasp that just because a decorator had been used to purchase furniture, that did not add value back to the sale of those pieces 25 years later. I keep stressing "fair market value" as a best case pricing scenario when dealing with general household goods which are in many homes. Designer garments in excellent condition, luxury handbags, cars, high end electronics, and fine antiques instead of the contents of an average middle-class home? Now we are talking another level of pricing.

    #8-We do put a lot of effort into our advertising, and are rewarded by shoppers willing to travel a good distance because we give them much in the way of specifics on the contents. Contrary to this, I have heard other companies say that too much information makes it unnecessary for the shoppers to actually show up to see the items in person. I personally have not found this to be the case.

    #9-We tell all potential clients that various companies offer different services, and we do not buy complete contents, as do some other companies and auctioneers. If they are seeking a buy-out as opposed to an estate sale, we may point them in another direction. If on the off chance there were a collection of something they wanted to sell and in which I were interested, I would make an offer to purchase as a buyer-but tell them that this would preclude them from contracting me to do a sale for them.

    #11-Though we give customers lots of info in advance, we do not get into pricing specifics, and there is no prior sale, so no chance of disappointing anyone in that manner.

    #12-My clients know up front that an and all unsold goods remain their property. How they choose to dispose or sell off those items is their decision. Many times customers will ask what will happen with any goods that remain, and I tell the the same thing.

  6. Thanks so much for stopping by, Carole. Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job yourself. :)

  7. Awesome, detailed response, Andrea. Thanks! I want to especially say that your response about #1 highlights how difficult it can be to follow, too. It's not any easier to get a client away from emotional pricing of an item than it is to get an insistent shopper away from a price too far below fair market value. Our first obligation is to our client, absolutely, but a client with too many unrealistic expectations about prices may be a client we shouldn't pursue. The items belong to the client and they should definitely feel free and safe putting a price restriction on a couple of items they can still love and use, but we do need to guide them toward fair prices for buyers on the majority of items or we'll lose our buyers. Don't you agree?

  8. We continue to strive for a happy medium on pricing. I always bring up the topic with potential clients at our initial meeting, discussing whether their planning, or lack thereof, leading up to this has left them in a position where they may be able to receive fair market value for their items, versus having backed themselves into a corner and being in the unenviable position of having a forced sale.

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