Often, I talk with people afraid of the flea market. The unknown world of haggling and bargaining and purchasing is too much for them. “I don’t know how to do it!”, they say. Well, fear no more. Today I have your top ten tips for flea marketing, garage saling, estate saling, or any other market you can dream of. Interspersed throughout the post will be some of my favorite shots from the Chelsea Flea Market in NYC.
1. Be Nice.
It’s true, a smile and a few kind words can get you a long way. Are you in a booth with items you really like? Tell the owner! Frequently, the items these people sell are from their own collections. Booth owners can be personally attached to their things at times. Being rude and scoffing at prices, or talking bad about what someone is selling will get you nowhere!
2. Build Relationships.
If you live in an area with a regular flea market, get to know the booth owners. Look them in the eye, ask them how they are doing, etc. I cannot tell you how often I have heard the line, “I wouldn’t do this for anyone but you, but I will sell this for ___”. If you are a frequent visitor and you show you like what the owner is selling, you are more likely to get a great deal when you find something you can’t live without.
3. The Earlier, The Better.
Arrive when the flea market opens for the best items. Not only does it show you are eager and excited to see what is offered, typically, the best stuff goes fast. Usually, I do a semi-quick look around the whole flea market when it opens to see if I spot anything awesome. After I feel assured I saw everything and didn’t miss anything really special, I start at the beginning again, and slowly walk through the booths.
4. It Matters What You Are Wearing.
Do not take this to mean “dress to the nines” when you are flea marketing. Many a time I have seen someone walk in a booth with six-inch Jimmy Choo heels carrying a Louis Vuitton bag, haggling with someone over five or ten dollars. It will never happen! The woman walks away frustrated, and the owner is left muttering about how “surely she has the money to give, look how she is dressed!” Dress for the occasion. Flea markets are often hot, dusty, and dirty. Wear your tennies and comfortable clothes.
5. Always Ask Before You…
take pictures. Booth owners are very protective of their items and generally distrust anyone taking pictures. It may seem silly, but several vendors have told me people take pictures of their booth only to come back later and use the photos against them. “Oh, I know this hasn’t sold, it has been here since __, sell it to me for __ price.” I have been guilty of taking photos in the past without permission and irked people. You live, you learn!
6. Bring A Tape Measure.
So you are flea marketing, and you see the perfect dresser for your daughter’s room! It looks like it will fit, but you need to measure it. The owner doesn’t have a tape measure, you don’t have a tape measure, no one has a tape measure. Not wanting to risk it, you go home, get a tape measure, and go back later. The dresser is gone. Ugh. This may or may not have happened to me. (wink, wink) Bottom line: always bring a tape measure. That is not something booth owners think of very often, it’s up to you!
7. Bring Cash.
Most flea market vendors do not accept credit cards, you must bring cash. It can also help when you are bargaining with someone if you can say, “I have the cash right now!” Sellers often get irritated if you have worked out a price, and then you tell them, “Hold on, I need to go get cash.” They wonder if you were just toying with them, and generally, they distrust you will come back with the money. Take the moolah with you!
8. How To Bargain.
You found something you love, but you know if you bring that item home at that price, your hubby will be less than thrilled. Here’s what to do: 1. Step away from the booth., 2. If possible, do a quick Ebay search on your phone for the item. Ebay is a great way to figure out the market price for something., 3. Go back to the booth and tell the owner you really like ___, what is their best price? If they quote you something too high, tell them, “I can get it on Ebay for this amount, can you do better? I would really prefer to buy this locally.” If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, express your disappointment, thank them, and walk away. Remember the most important factor in the art of the deal: get the other person to talk more than you do. If you throw a number out there, count in your head at least eight seconds (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.) to let them respond. It feels long and awkward at times – don’t worry, that’s the name of the game!
9. When You Really Love Something…
If there is something at the flea market you are dying over, and you have not been able to work something out with the seller, I have used the following tactic with success. Go back to the flea market right before it closes, and try to negotiate with the seller again. Often, these vendors have to pack up their items at the end of every flea market weekend. They would rather not bring items home if they don’t have to. It never hurts to try, what do you have to lose?
10. Other Little Tidbits.
* Bring one of those reusable grocery bags if you think you will be hauling things home. Flea markets will frequently give you flimsy plastic grocery bags to put items in, and they can break easily.
* Don’t forget water. Bringing a bottle of water is a good idea since flea markets can be expansive and involve a lot of walking.
* Bring your own snacks unless you are into consuming a lot of junk food. Flea market food (if yours has it, not all flea markets do) is typically not the healthiest and/or conducive to refueling your body after lots of walking. Stash some healthy snacks in your purse in case you stay longer than originally intended.
* If you have a cute baby, bring him or her. You are probably laughing right now, but I am convinced cute little babies bring better prices. Try it, you’ll see!
Hope you benefit from these tips! I am always interested in hearing your thoughts and comments! Feel free to post them in the comments section, or email me at submissions @ AStoriedStyle .com.