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Central California Life Magazine

Geri and Ann: Out on the hunt with The Shopping Ladies

Apr 20, 2015 07:07PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine

Ann (left) and Geri in October 2010. For years, they rode their Yamahas from garage sale to garage sale for years, looking for steals.

Geri and Ann: Out on the hunt with The Shopping Ladies                         

Story and photos by Bud Elliott

Ever heard the one about the lady who bought a leather recliner at a garage sale for $20 and found a gold bracelet under the cushion?

How about the lucky shopper who shelled out $5 for a wristwatch and later had it appraised at $2,500? 

Urban legends? 


Tall tales? 


Outright lies? 

No way! 

No, just a couple of incredible finds by a north Fresno garage sale shopper named Ann, who, along with her long-time bargain hunting companion, Geri, has taken the fine art of shopping and lifted it into the realm of, well, junk science.  And luck. 

Most serious Saturday garage sale shoppers have a well-developed, time-tested, surefire method of sniffing out bargains and grabbing them quick. Ann and Geri have been perfecting their strategy for years – you might call them garage sale guerrilla gals because they are stealthy in their approach, incredibly focused and absolutely ruthless when they move in for the kill.

"We try to identify the best prospects before we ever leave the house. We map out our route and then hit the road at 6:45 every Saturday morning," explains Ann, before Geri chimes in, "It's absolutely essential that we get to the first couple of sales before anybody else does, and that means arriving at 7 o' clock sharp." 

And how do they identify the best prospects? 

"Secret," Ann says. "Lots of research, sure, but the actual process? Top secret. I can't tell you, because, well, it's secret."

On a warm Saturday morning in November, Geri scores first. Five minutes into the first stop she spots a nearly-new leather coat, easily worth $40 or $50 dollars.  Another shopper is moving closer.

"How much?" Geri asks quickly as she hefts the coat. 

"Five dollars," the lady selling it says.

"How 'bout three?" Geri counters. 

"Sure, why not." 

Geri counts out three crisp one dollar bills and hands them over.

Game on. 

"What about this?" It's a nearly new bedspread easily worth $100.

"That's $15 dollars," the lady says.          

"Will you take 10?" Geri flashes cash and the deal is done. 

Ann and Geri have been fast friends and stalwart shoppers for 10 years or more.  Both are widows with grown children. Both love the chase. That gold bracelet Ann found? Actually, she's found two others over the years. Bargain hunting has its rewards. Success loves success.

Driveway merchants love to see them coming. For many years, the two ladies were famous for scooting from sale to sale on twin Yamaha motor bikes. One summer they logged more than 2,000 miles on those little rascals. That is, until the law caught up with them. 

"Our scooters have 125-cc motors," Geri explains. "Well, guess what, you can't drive on the freeway with anything smaller than a 150-cc bike, which more than one traffic officer was happy to explain to us." 

"And so, we had to access the other side of town the back way, by using about an eighth of a mile of bike trail near Woodward Park," Ann says. 

"That got us busted, too! No motorized bikes. Period." 

Ann, a former deputy sheriff, reluctantly retired her scooter. Geri thought about going rogue – after all, she paid $40 for a motorcycle license, $30 for a bike parking license and $2,500 for the bike itself. In the end, she followed suit. Now they drive from sale to sale in Ann's SUV.

So, while some of the charm of two nice ladies riding shiny new Yamaha motor bikes from driveway to driveway early Saturday mornings has been erased from the Fresno-Clovis landscape forever, the ladies themselves have not given up the hunt. 

Far from it. 

At the second stop of the morning, Ann spots a set of two wrought-iron side tables. "Perfect for plants on the patio," she says. 

She turns to the lady, "How much?”

"Oh, $5," the homeowner says.           

"Will you take three?" (It’s worth a try. It worked for Geri, after all.)


Just that quick.         

Ann started an in-home dog-sitting business awhile ago. It’s called Riverside Pup Paradise. Now she's got her hands full with visiting pups of all sizes and shapes.  Some Saturdays she takes the whole crew garage hopping. Other days she just stays home. But one thing is certain: The two gals plan a shopping road trip to Kingsburg in the near future. The say they'll ride their Yamahas. Stealthily, under the radar. Side streets and country roads. Legal and lethal. 

It's all about the hunt, remember.  

Ann says she's pretty sure there is another gold bracelet stuck under the cushions of some sofa or love seat out there in somebody's garage right now.  It's her duty to go out and find it. 

Bud Elliott retired in May 2014 from a broadcast journalism career that spanned 49 years, including 27 years at KSEE-TV in Fresno. He is currently a freelance writer.

"Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase." - Erma Bombec