New situation regarding used stuff
November 28, 2008 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Please give me your tips for conducting a swap meet! This is for children's books, toys, and clothing only...

I'm helping to organize a swap meet for children's stuff (books, toys, and clothing) at my son's school. (I've previously asked another PTA question here). I have never done anything like this before and want to ensure it's as positive an experience as possible for the families.

We plan to set aside all of next week (Dec. 1-5) to accept contributions at the school, then use Dec. 8th and 9th to organize everything -- assess the quality, array clothing by size/gender, etc.). On the 10th, we will open the doors to all the families involved with the school to take what they'd like. We are not requiring that families drop off items in order to be able to shop for themselves. Also, right now we're not planning on limiting how much anyone can take -- is this incredibly naive, to not anticipate that someone may just come in and take off with half the inventory?

The social workers at the school do work closely with the families in greatest financial need, so I am anticipating that we will receive a number of wish lists from them for the neediest families that we can fulfill during the organizing period, before everything goes up for grabs. I have already personally gotten one request to set aside specific kinds items from a mom who knew she wouldn't be able to make it, and I am sure I will get more too.

I should add that this is being publicized as a social event, not a charitable one. But it is an opportunity to assist the school community's families most in need (above and beyond the school's own early childhood services) while letting everyone declutter a bit.

I have listed the categories we're looking for, but are there any limits I should put out there? Are used stuffed animals OK? What about underwear? (I was amazed to find dozens of takers when I listed my son's used underwear on Freecycle after he was toilet-trained and was no longer wetting multiple pairs a day...)

Also, what suggestions do you have for how long to make the event? I am pretty worried about not having collecting enough items to fulfill the demand. I would feel terrible if, say, people rushed over after work only to find empty tables. We would like to open this up in the mid-afternoon -- say, starting around the time that parents who pick up their kids come to the school anyway. But many of the children have bus service, and I anticipate many parents will not be able to come to the school until 6 at the earliest because of their work schedules. Keeping the swap meet open for more than a couple of hours makes me think we'll run into that empty-table scenario, though. If we collect great amounts of stuff, is it best to hold some in reserve at the launch and then replenish the tables and racks once they start to empty?

In other PTA news, we had a very low-cost bake sale that was supposed to run all day, and were cleaned out within 3 hours. We also had a potluck dinner with great turnout that only ran for one-and-a-half hours, and that felt like the perfect length of time to me.

I recently attended a FreeMeet for the first time for ideas, but it was very loosely organized (very few signs, nothing organized by size, etc.). I'm planning on making many signs, providing snacks, and a crafts activity to keep the kids entertained while mom/dad/grandma shops. What else do I need to know? Thank you all so much!
posted by lgandme0717 to Human Relations (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
being publicized as a social event + not collecting enough items to fulfill the demand = make sure people know that new items will be put out throughout the afternoon, and put out a pot of coffee on an honor system. Or, offer some home- bakery type business the chance to sell muffins, etc., with that coffee. People are social, stuff is fairly distributed.
posted by whatzit at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2008

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