The Focus Group’s Transcript for My Prospective Garage Sale.
FACILITATOR: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to help us out here today. We’ll start off with a couple easy ones. Which term do you prefer: “garage sale” or “yard sale” or “attic sale”?
General consensus: “garage sale.”
FACILITATOR: Would you be more inclined or less inclined to go to a garage sale that was advertised as an “estate sale”?
General consensus: more inclined.
FACILITATOR: If you discovered no one had, in fact, died in the family having the “estate sale,” would you be more inclined to buy, less inclined, or no difference?
After asking for clarification on “died,” general consensus: less inclined.
FACILITATOR: To be successful, can a garage sale start at noon, instead of some ungodly hour like 7 or 8 in the morning? Yes, no, or no difference?
General consensus: no.
FACILITATOR: Now we are going to show you a series of items and get your feedback on them. First, this elephant-ear jade bonsai has seen better days but is a fighter. The question is would you pay more, less, or no difference if you knew the provenance of this item? It was a gift from an abusive ex-girlfriend, to make up for using the TV remote to bludgeon the seller repeatedly in the head.
General consensus: no difference.
FACILITATOR: The second item is an abstract painting, mixed media with oil on a cardboard ad for Moxie. We will be turning it several times during this question so you can get a full sense of its artistry. Would you be willing to pay more, less, or no difference if you knew the artist was the seller’s ex-girlfriend, who has sold several pieces for a few hundred dollars at local galleries, and that the seller would not be parting with this one were it not for his current girlfriend, who one day realized the name in his phone was the same as the signature on the painting and demanded an answer?
After some discussion, split between more and no difference.
FACILITATOR: The next item consists of seven pocket New Testaments given to the seller over the years, and, though he is not particularly religious, he was raised on Hell, and figures, if there is such a place, you surely go there for throwing away Bibles. Would you, as the seller, sell them at the garage sale, leave them in public places around town, or donate them to Goodwill?
General murmuring. Those who answer suggest Goodwill.
FACILITATOR: This political placard, “Bush/Quayle ’92,” is from the seller’s druggy days of college, when he mistakenly joined the Young Republicans. The seller’s current girlfriend found this collectible while “organizing” his closet for the sale and now wants to know if he has betrayed her by hiding his past party affiliation. Would you suggest the seller sell the placard at the garage sale, destroy it in front of his girlfriend, or rehide it?
Mass grumbling: no consensus.
FACILITATOR: We’re all tired, but please bear with us. The seller’s current girlfriend has been pressuring him to get a cat. In fact, the current girlfriend would like to use the proceeds of the garage sale to buy said cat. The seller, however, is worried about what this would mean for the relationship. Also, the seller doesn’t really care for cats and worries about the transmission of diseases through cat scratches. Would you agree, disagree, or have no opinion about whether a garage sale is a good place to meet new potential girlfriends?
Some shuffling of chairs, but mostly silence.
FACILITATOR: We want to thank you for your participation today. Please accept these gift bags. Each bag contains, among other things, Reader’s Digest books, nonsequential National Geographics, and a novelty coffee mug.
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