I consider myself an expert on dud sales because I've been to so many of them. For every great sale I've been to, I've probably gone to ten that were terrible. I've never kept track, because it would be too depressing. And even though I've honed my techniques over the years and reduced that ratio, the dud sale is just an inevitability.
I went to two of them this past weekend. I'm only counting one of them, though, because the first one was nearby and pretty much of an excuse to sign up early with Patty and drink coffee. This would be one way to deal with the dud sale: Turn it into a social event.
The second sale I went to probably shouldn't count, either, because I'd never have bothered going if it hadn't been five minutes away and on my (well-worn) route to the grocery store. The advertisement listed a lot of stuff I'm not very interested in (Asian furniture, fine antiques) and, worse, promised "no junk." As if "no junk" is a selling point! Here's how I dealt with that dud sale: I wasted nothing. I didn't waste any time signing up for it, I wasn't there very long, and I didn't spend any money. Sometimes not buying anything is the best you can do.
This is all well and good in early March, when in upstate New York any sale is a bonus and the long, lovely sale season is still a somewhat distant dream. But at some point those of us who want stuff to sell need to have some better ways to cope.
Here's one idea: Dig around somewhere you don't usually dig. In my case, that would be the garage, which is where I found these old brass label plates at a sale last summer. My usual technique is a) quick scan of the kitchen b) head to whichever bedrooms have sewing, linens and holiday, and c) quick scan of the living room on the way to either the attic or the basement, whichever looks best. The garage is usually last on my list, but sometimes there are a few treasures there. (Inexplicably, that's where I found these Shiny Brites.)
If you're at a dud sale, give the garage a try. Give the sorry collection of kids' toys a quick look (really quick, if lots of brightly colored plastic is involved). Are there any old cookbooks worth buying? Sometimes a bad sale is just a bad sale. But as long as you're there - and if you're not trying to get to a more promising sale - you might as well try to find something of value.