Great California Garage Sale opening draws thousand in Sacramento

Larry O. Doss Monday, August 31, 2009

Great California Garage Sale opening draws thousand in Sacramento

Leila Torres stood with two companions Friday across the street from the huge state surplus goods warehouse in North Natomas and surveyed the long line of people waiting to enter the Great California Garage Sale, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest tactic to raise money for the state budget.

The morning was growing warmer, and the line – which already stretched more than a quarter-mile through a business park of low-rise warehouses – was growing longer. And Torres was reconsidering the appeal of a cheap, used computer.

"The line’s too long," said Torres, a 28-year-old Sacramento resident. "It’s not worth it. I’ll go buy a computer for 100 bucks more. You could go to Costco for a brand new one."

The first day of the sale attracted at least 5,000 bargain shoppers, said State and Consumer Services Agency spokeswoman Erin Shaw.

"We’re really thrilled that people are enjoying themselves and purchasing things," Shaw said. "This is extending the life of state-purchased items."

More than 6,000 items were on sale in the warehouse, said Shaw, and 600 cars, including a handful with visors autographed by the governor, were being sold or auctioned as well. As in 2004, when a similar sale took place, some items were also listed on eBay.

According to the Department of General Services’ Web site, sales Friday topped $1 million – just a drop in the $26 billion state budget deficit.

The event attracted shoppers curious to see the odd variety of items that had been collecting dust in state storage rooms, including used office furniture and computer equipment, digital cameras, sets of unused Kenmore washers and dryers, a handful of antique pianos and organs – and a variety of watches, rings and gold chains confiscated by the California Highway Patrol.

Some shoppers were disappointed. "All the good stuff is gone," said Mirela Hrnic, who was sitting on top of a coffee table near the battered old pianos. "We wanted a flat-screen TV. There’s really nothing too interesting here for me."

And despite the low prices, some people still wanted to make a better deal.

"People are asking to reduce prices," said Geoff McLennan, who works for the state and volunteered at the sale. "They think it’s like a garage sale at home."

Lisa Orta picked up a small filing cabinet and a flat-screen computer monitor for a total of $65. Isaiah Heath bought three office chairs and desks for a construction office in Lodi.

On the other hand, a six-color silk-screen printer and dental chairs – "It gives me the creeps just looking at them," said Orta – clearly were intended for niche markets.

And the life-sized statue of Schwarzenegger in "Terminator" garb, standing in a big case just inside the warehouse’s entrance, wasn’t for sale at all.

By 10 a.m. Friday, a case of confiscated jewelry had been picked clean by eager shoppers, as had the selection of cameras, though Shaw said the shelves would be restocked overnight.

"It’s hectic in there," said Edgar Racadio, 28, a Sacramento security guard. "I wanted to get a digital camera, but there’s a mob around that table. You could get to the outer rim, but there’s like three layers of people."

In a parking lot a couple of blocks from the warehouse, Mahmoud Mabrouk and his 17-year-old son, Amir, checked out long rows of Ford and Chevrolet cars that have been retired from the state fleet, weighing the options for Amir’s first vehicle.

"He’s not driving yet," said Mahmoud, a civil engineer who works for the state.

"Almost," said Amir, who attends Franklin High School. "And these are pretty good cars. But they have a lot of highway miles."

Source Sac Bee

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