If you have been following this series of articles, I hope you’ve enjoyed our previous stories: Part 1: The Collector, Part 2: The Dead-End Road, Part 3: The Collapsing Barn, Part 4: The Cat Lady House, Part 5: The Garage Sale, Part 6: The Root Cellar, Part 7: The Parade of Chairs, Part 8: The Followers, and Part 9: The Cabinet Card. These stories are all about the shopping adventures that my family and I have had while out sourcing vintage treasures for our shop.
Join us on yet another vintage treasure hunting adventure in Part 10 of this series of articles…
The Over-Crowded Estate Sale
Do you like crowds? I mean really really LARGE crowds?
How about really really large crowds, all crammed together into a really small house?
Ugh! Not me!
We go to a lot of estate sales, but I have never experienced an estate sale quite like this one. And I honestly hope I never have this experience again!
We arrived early to an estate sale that was held in an older neighborhood in South Minneapolis. The ad for the sale mentioned “50+ years of collecting” and “lots of vintage and antique items”. We were excited we made the long drive, and we were looking forward to this sale. There was a line of people outside in front of the house, waiting to get inside. Numbers had already been handed out, and apparently all those people were already in the house shopping. It was lightly raining, but that didn’t stop people from waiting outside. We noticed the people running the estate sale had let another couple inside, so the line moved slightly. Shortly after that couple went in, another two couples were let in. We were talking while waiting in line, so I admit, I wasn’t paying too much attention to how many people were coming out of the house, if any. After a couple of minutes went by, there were about six of us still in line outside. The door opened, and we were all invited in.
As soon as we entered the house, we were surprised by the number of people inside! The first room is where the estate sale people had set up their tables to check people out, and the checkout line was long. I figured most of the crowd at that point was just due to people waiting in line to checkout. As we shuffled inch-by-inch further into the house, I realized just how wrong that assumption was! This small house was PACKED with people! There were so many people, you simply could NOT move until the crowd moved. You could not squeeze between people to make your way further into the house, there just wasn’t enough room to do that. We SHOULD have made our way back to the entrance at that point to get out. But even that would have been difficult. We shuffled on with the pack.
I felt like we were in a tightly packed school of fish. We really had no choice where we wanted to go – we just had to move with the crowd.
Move about 3 inches and stop. Wait.
Move another 3 inches and stop. Wait.
The crowd eventually made it into the first room. Only the people on the outsides of the crowd could see the items that were laid out on the tables at the perimeter of the room. All we could do was wait and shuffle a few inches so people could sort of move around. While I could kind of peer around other people to see some of the items on the tables, there was no way for me to reach anything to get a close-up look – much less pick up anything to purchase.
With that many people in the house, it was pretty warm. And did I mention it was raining out? You can likely imagine how humid a house packed full of wet people might be, and you may imagine what that might smell like. And you would be 100% correct! My youngest son was only about 5 feet tall at the time, so I think he suffered through that ordeal more than the taller adults. Neither of us were enjoying this “adventure”, and started making plans to gravitate towards the (one) exit… to freedom! I also realized what a safety hazard this was, and I just really wanted to leave.
At that point, there was a woman in the room next to the one we were in (I’m pretty sure they were the bedrooms), who was having a panic attack. She was desperately trying to push her way through people to get to the door to get out. She kept saying “I have to get out! I have to get out! Please! I have to get out!” I felt so bad for her as I could see how desperate she was to get to that front door. People were trying to move to allow her to pass, but there Just. Wasn’t. Enough. Room!
We knew at that point we were done, too. I am not claustrophobic, nor do I panic in situations like this one, but there really was NO point in staying inside that house.
The person who had let everyone in was standing at the front door. He was encouraging people to step outside, but by now it was raining harder and people didn’t want to go out! Can you believe it?!?! I am NOT exaggerating when I say how crowded this house was, yet people wouldn’t step outside! This woman was still panicking and we just wanted to help her. We did our best to push through the crowd – we had only made it maybe 15 feet inside the house since we entered, but it STILL took us about 10 minutes just to squeeze through people, leading the panicking woman as we went. As I type about this experience, I still shudder about it!
By the time we got outside, that poor woman was in tears. She stood there trembling and we tried to calm her down to help her back to her car. After a few minutes, she calmed down… and then she was mad as a hornet! She started yelling at the people who were running the sale, saying they never should have let that many people inside at one time. She was right. She stormed away saying she was going to call the fire department to report this place as a fire and safety hazard. We didn’t stick around to see if the fire department eventually showed up, or what may have happened next. We were just glad to leave there! The drive to the cities for this sale was about 90 minutes one way. I hated to leave empty handed after driving so far, but we found a nice place to stop and have lunch, then made our way back home.
Boy! Did we learn a lesson from this sale! We won’t be making that mistake again!
The Lesson? If you attend an estate sale held in a small house, and you see they are letting more people IN than are coming OUT, that is your first sign to wait it out! If that first sign didn’t convince you to wait, once you step inside and realize you cannot move 10-inches further into the room because there are so many people there, turn around QUICKLY and head back OUT the door before you become trapped in the crowd and can’t get out!
There you have it! Another shopping adventure with my family. Check back for more stories in this series of articles!
Do you have a favorite vintage shopping adventure story? We’d love to hear it! Share the details in a comment below.