Are There Garage Sale Ethics?
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
Each year spring ushers in many anticipated and welcome events: the temperatures getting warmer, the amount of daylight increasing, the trees and flowers budding and blooming, the start of baseball season, and the school year nearing its end, to name but a few. 
Along with things like these, spring also brings with it something near and dear to many people’s hearts: rummage sales. 
Whether they’re a part of a charitable fundraiser or just a personal attempt to free oneself of no-longer-used possessions, it’s about this time of year that they begin to show up all around us. Although the descriptive names for these sales may vary (rummage, garage, yard), there’s little variance in their annual popularity.
Admittedly, it may seem a bit odd at first to talk about garage sales in an ethics column (especially with so many other ethical concerns in the world today), but doing so highlights a critical aspect of ethics.Namely, that ethics and morality touch upon every aspect of how we live our lives. 
Most of our moral choices will take place in the ordinary circumstances of our lives — in the midst of those things that are familiar to us. If we want to live a morally upstanding life, then it means that our ethical standards must accompany us wherever we find ourselves, even if that’s in a nearby garage.
There actually can be several moral issues involved in garage sales (I could think of at least 10) and there may be some differences in the ethics involved depending on if one is attending such a sale or hosting one. For purposes here, I’ll focus on just a few. 
To begin with, if I’m hosting a sale, two common moral concerns would likely be safety and honesty. Regarding safety, I would need to ensure that I’ve done my due diligence to ensure that anyone entering my property is not put at undue risk while there.
Along these same lines, it would also mean not selling anything with an undisclosed or hidden danger that I’m aware of. This is also part of the second moral concern for the host, that of honesty. 
In this context honesty might also include disclosing accurate information about what is being sold. If you’re selling a lawn mower that you haven’t been able to start or that’s missing a part, such things should be clearly communicated. Honesty here means more than just avoiding lies or deception, it also means being forthright about information likely important to the buyer.
Being truthful would certainly also apply to those attending a sale. But there can also be other moral concerns that may not be as immediately obvious. One of those could be that of greed. 
Garage sales are often filled with items that are sold very inexpensively. Therefore, it can be very easy to buy all sorts of things that really aren’t needed or would serve very little purpose but are tempting to buy nonetheless because they don’t cost much. 
It’s not necessarily wrong to buy something on these grounds alone. Nevertheless, for some people this might mean acquiring possessions for the sake of acquiring possessions, which could easily become a form of greed, or at least materialism, if not checked. 
Another moral concern that can exist for those attending might be the temptation to buy items very cheaply at one sale and later resell them for a higher price at their own sale. Doing this intentionally might also be motivated by a certain degree of greed. Again, it’s something to be cognizant of in ourselves.
If these simple examples and guidelines seem like basic principles for business ethics, it’s because they are. The ethical demands of doing business with others — whether that’s a part of our profession or just an occasional occurrence — remain the same. Hopefully for us as Catholics, they also describe the things our consciences already alert us to.