Third Party & Independents Archives

The City Department of Garage Sale Regulation & Appeals

A consumer-product safety law signed last year makes it illegal to sell “recalled” products—and that applies to second-hand stuff proffered on Internet sites such as Craigslist or ebay, resale shops such as Goodwill—and my personal favorite—yard sales and flea markets.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with enforcing the law, acknowledges that it doesn’t have the resources actually to police yard sales, tag sales, garage sales, stoop sales, church sales, rummage sales, white elephant sales, and the like. So there’s nothing to worry about.

You won’t be arrested or harassed any time soon for proffering something that your kid used for five years but is now considered lethal unbeknownst to you. It’s still a fine day in the neighborhood for vending those vintage Lawn Darts to that incorrigible rapscallion next door.


In many enlightened venues across America, you already need a license or permit to conduct a yard sale—which is good, because otherwise people would be wantonly exposed to all the possible potential dangers of unlicensed yard sales.

So a mechanism already exists in many places for making sure you don’t sell non-government-approved chotchkies to your neighbors—and fining you if you do. The City Department of Garage Sale Regulation & Appeals only needs more funds, more people, and more power to do what needs to be done to you for your own good and that of your next-door neighbor.

In the meantime, there’s always selective enforcement.

The more rules & regulations there are—enforceable or not—the more opportunities there are for petty tyrants to harass you for reasons that are not so manifest. Are you an uppity homeboy playing Hip Hop on your lawn? No rule against that. However, this play crib was “recalled” in 1997.

When does it end? When do we finally scream in these people’s faces, “Stop it! Enough! This is supposed to be America, dammit!”

Probably never. It’s too much trouble. So we just shrug our shoulders, bear the humiliation in front of our spouses and children, and slink our way through the airport shoeless in our stocking feet.

Then one day you turn around and notice that almost everything you do is under the scrutiny of petty tyrants whose government-funded livelihoods depend upon enforcing the myriad of teeny tiny rules, laws, regulations that always sound like a good idea for controlling the behavior of someone else—not you.

But how can you complain? After all, they’re just doing their jobs

Posted by Stephen G. Barone at July 13, 2009 11:28 AM
Comment #284414

This is why homeowner’s associations should be illegal, period.

Posted by: D at July 13, 2009 1:34 PM
Comment #284416

Yeah, knowingly selling defective products being criminalized. Where’s Irwin Mainway when you need him?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 13, 2009 1:43 PM
Comment #284423

stephen g

good topic. unfortunately no one seems to see the slippery slope until it’s to late. garage sales….., ah yes those diabolical things that allow people to profit off thier own stuff without paying any taxes. before to long i can see obama appointing a yard sale czar. BTW where can you find those lawn darts? let me know i’ll hide’m with the guns,ammo, and trans fat.

Posted by: dbs at July 13, 2009 8:39 PM
Comment #284424

This is a little silly. Alright, a lot silly. It’s one thing to sell enriched uranium out of your garage to the shady-looking Koreans next door, but it’s entirely another thing to peddle a viewfinder from the 80’s that may or may not have been recalled because of a loose spring that popped out and took out three toddlers eyes twenty-six years ago.

I guess it’s illegal to sell CD’s and old records because the companies and artists aren’t getting royalties. And it’s probably illegal to sell your grandfather’s pipe collection—well, at least without a proof of age.

I can’t wait till my next garage sale: I’m saving up used scratch-off lottery tickets that I’m going to cover up with glue mixed with silver paint!!!

Posted by: Mike Falino at July 13, 2009 8:48 PM
Comment #284432

Stephen G,
Why I agree that our elected officials should not make such rules easily; however, when confronted with citizens who fail to use common sense to govern their own actions than what are they to do?

For example; are you willing to have your road constantly blocked by someone down the street running an endless yard sale becaue they don’t want to buy space at the local flea mall or pay taxes?

Or how about next door where daily late night parties keep your family up all night as the home owner runs an illegal nightclub.

Yes, forcing the average citizen to get permits to do things our parents and grandparents use to do using common sense (i.e. being considerate of others) may seem bad; however, given the fact that some fools believe that having Guaranteed Civil and Constitutional Rights mean that they can be ignorant of others leave our elected officials no alternative, but to enact rules and regulations that can deal with such stupidity.

And yes, I do bewlieve the HOA’s that try to tell you that the grass has to be an inch high is also extreme in their view of Authority, but considering some people would allow their yard to look more like a field and a junk yard than a well kept lawn. What is the proper height of the grass in the neighborhood?

For if one house on the block can cause every other home to loss $1,000.00 in value just because the homeowner is lazy or believes he has the right to have a toxic dump nect to a million dollar estate. Who is to protect your right to live in a safe home and get the most out of your investment?

Mike Falino,
You might want to check the lottery tickets before use try and resale them. Something about the fine print might say that glueing them with silver paint is a form of abuse, etc..

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 13, 2009 11:40 PM
Comment #284453

Gee, a lot of red herrings in here. Anyone got more than herrings? I’m tired of Fish and it’s not even Friday.

Posted by: gergle at July 14, 2009 11:38 AM
Comment #284458

Mike, You got me curious about selling or buying CD’s Quote “” The record industry lost a landmark battle last spring, when a court said that merely printing “not for resale” on an unsolicited promo CD does not prevent you from reselling it — and certainly does not prevent me from buying it. The judgement establishes that “first sale” — the legal doctrine that says that once you buy something, it’s yours — is still alive and well. This The Legality article unpacks it all for you:”” So buy or sell away ! Now about USED Cars why does the consumer take the hit ;)

Posted by: Rodney Brown at July 14, 2009 1:35 PM
Comment #284459

A dump next your house causing me to lose thousands of dollars in property values is a sad, sad thing. It’s a real shame that some people are neglectful of their lawns and the look of their houses and I sure wish they would clean it up. In fact I could even ask that person to clean it up or *gasp* talk to my neighbor for a reason other than to bitch about him or her. Maybe with a relationship I could convince him that it’s in his best interest to clean up his lawn instead of filing a lawsuit at him. But why should I go through all the trouble? It’s a travesty that I should even have to talk to my neighbor’s when I could just be talking to his or her lawyer. = I mean, what gives him the right to treat his property like it’s HIS property? Where in this country is it written that people have the right to do with their possesions what they will? Why should people be allowed to have late visitors when it clearly shames the house next to them? Why should I be shackled with the horrificly under-constrained disturbing the peace laws when the kids next door jumping on a trampoline at 11 is clearly too loud for a decent naighborhood and we should have no part of it? Who in their right mind would do something so stupid as to guarantee freedom, of all things, to more than one or two people in a 600 person subdivision? These things are so wild and impermissable I can’t even believe some homeowners have the imputence to parade around as if they have the right to do what they want; it is utterly unacceptable.

Posted by: Doug at July 14, 2009 1:56 PM
Comment #284463

The code enforcement is pretty tough up here in the town, Overall I think there fair though about keeping up on lawns and debris and the paint ect on houses and structures, Before i moved up here the weeds in the front had overgrown i thought a cousin’s husband you know how that goes :) The town came by and mowed and removed the weeds and called me they did not charge me i was very lucky a one time shot i hired a lawn guy until i got up here, There is a very good volunteer system here neighbors look out and help the boy scouts and girl scouts and other groups and clubs mow and pick up for the old and needy and even paint for some, that’s what is missing in Cali.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at July 14, 2009 4:04 PM
Comment #284473

Why you do have the Right to do what you want as a Lady or a Gentleman, the line is clearly drawn at someone being a Bonehead.

Yes, most laws are not made because someone might be Stupid or a Tyrant, but when you neighbor will not listen and respect your Rights than what should the Rule of Law do other than allow the neighborhood to take the person out back and do things that you cannot do in the Wood Shed?

Rodney Brown,
Your right about being lucky. In North Carolina I heard of one HOA that would fine you a $1,000.00 if the grass got higher than am inch and a quarter. Sad part about that is the Idiot in Charge would actual go around measuring lawns to make sure the homeowners kept in compliance.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 14, 2009 6:32 PM
Comment #284481


I generally agree with your assessment. We have to have some measure to deal with these issues at the local level. However, when we move them to the Federal level and they are written in a completely unenforceable manner then we just invite our citizens to decide that it is not a big deal to follow the law because the laws are stupid.


It is not the retailing provisions that seem to be in question, it is the resaling provisions at a personal level.

Btw, you are obviously not a parent. My wife and I just went through a major cleaning out of my sons baby toys. The result filled five 30 gallon trash bags. I have no idea how many of these were recalled, but I’m sure at least a few were. Had I sold them, I would have been violating this law. Instead I gave them to a charity who funds services to Kidney patients from their sales. How much will their overhead increase from this law? How many services will their clients not be able to have if they choose to follow it?

Posted by: Rob at July 14, 2009 7:54 PM
Comment #284589

Limited to a Laymans’ Point of View, I think what confuses many people (to include lawyers) is that the Federal Laws are guidelines made out of intent and pegholes. The problem begins when our elected officials or those seeking those offices fail to learn how to properly read them and rely on others to tell them their opinion or what they have learned from others.

For example; if a federal law says a lawn should be well kept. Than it should be within the measure of the local authorities to establish what a well kept lawn in their community looks like. However, stating that you have to buy bluegrass from x.y. and z should send up red flags if not tempers. Because why not all grass is the same, finding one at a cheaper price that meets all the other requirements should carry more weight.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 16, 2009 12:11 PM
Comment #284654

Folks, can we be serious here? First, the author provides absolute no evidence that the law is either meant or enforced this way. The main thrust of the article is increased knowledge and awareness on the seller’s and consumers part. They don’t say word one about hauling off people holding garage sales off to jail.

This is a slippery slope argument without a plausible slippery slope. A common occurence nowadays, as Republicans and Right Wingers seek to panic people into opposition to reasonable laws

Mike Falino-
Rodney’s right about it being legal to sell a copy of your music, in vinyl or on CD. But he got the first sale doctrine wrong.

First sale is a copyright exception. It’s not simply that once you buy it, it’s yours. It’s that once you buy it, the copyright holder can’t sue you or file charges against you for violating their copyright if you choose to resell it, that is, to pass your copy on to somebody else. It would even apply to the resale of a hard copy of a downloaded album, I think, provided you destroyed your copy. The key is, you’re passing on something that the copyright holder has already been fairly compensated for, rather than becoming an unauthorized distributor of such material yourself to multiple others, while keeping the material yourself.

What give the person the right to treat his or her property as his or her property? I would imagine the deed, which is enforced under state, local, and federal laws, not to mention the contract that the deed often represents.

Without that enforcement, somebody could move onto your property, kick you out by force, and simply address any challenge by asserting that he’s free to do that. You would have to defend what you believed to be yours by equal or greater force, and if you couldn’t, you’d be screwed.

Property rights proceed from the law. It is therefore reasonable for the government to set limits on those rights. You can’t walk around nude on your front lawn, unless the local and state laws are okay with that, or you’re not visible from public property. If somebody had to bust through rows of obscuring hedges and hike a mile in order to see you accidentally, or without their permission in that state, you’re not guilty of indecent exposure, they’re guilty of trespass and invading your privacy.

The same goes for other kinds of actions on your property. Nuisance and eyesore laws are common on the local books. You don’t need a federal act of Congress in order to see governments limiting what you can do with your property.

The law also allows people to search and seize your property, provided they have a valid warrant to that effect.

The law (constitutional law, in this case) also permits the regulation of interstate commerce, which in the end recall orders and commerce over the internet almost invariably involve.

No, I am not a parent, but I’ve got little cause to doubt what you’re saying is true. But what I also don’t doubt is that it’s unlikely that what the blog entry author’s threatening as a slippery slope is ever likely to happen.

As for the company, the Federal government gives resellers a resource online to determine whether a product falls under that recall. I suppose you could probably just do a general search for recalls on the item, and see if anything comes up. You can say, we made a good faith effort to make sure this wasn’t bad.

There’s a point at which we’re letting things occur that are far more invasive and harmful to our lives, just to avoid the Federal Governments involvement in them. I think that’s silly. I think it’s fallacy to argue against all Federal intervention on the basis of some federal interventions that overstep the bounds, and that we should try arguing against those abuses first, rather than claim that Government should be wholesale straitjacketed.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 18, 2009 9:59 AM
Comment #284750

It’s all in the interpretation Stephen D, I’m not a Lawyer though.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at July 20, 2009 8:23 PM
Comment #299050
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