Most people aren’t comfortable negotiating with shopkeepers, but flea markets were made for scoring good deals. Vendors expect haggling, and most allow for some wiggle room when pricing their wares. You may not get the exact price you want, but you should be able to get some sort of discount. So how can you be sure that you’re walking away with the best deal? Here are eight tips to keep in mind:
1. Consider the Vibe
No two flea markets are alike. Are most vendors featuring items than you might find on Etsy for global reach or BartDay for local community focus, or is the place filled with cheap sunglasses and clock radios? If you find yourself in the former, you can likely spend hours browsing the merchandise. But if you’re in the midst of the latter, move on quickly.
2. Do a Once Over
Resist the urge to buy something on the spot because you may find the same item two booths down for less. Always walk through the entire market first. You’d be surprised how many “one-of-a-kind” items are being offered by more than one seller, at considerably different price points. So before trying to make a deal, be sure you’ve checked out the competition. But don’t dilly-dally. Swiftly move through the market because there is always a risk that a piece you love won’t be there for long!
3. Size up the Seller
Some sellers set up shop part-time on the weekends, as a hobby, while others are selling daily as a means of full-time income. Those who rely on daily sales may be more willing to negotiate than those whose sales are not their only source of income. In the latter case, sellers often choose not to sell an item unless it’s for the price they’ve set. To get a bargain, look for sellers who depend on what they make at the market that day in order to support themselves.
4. Be Polite
Never start a conversation with, “I’ll give you [insert dollar amount] for this,” as if you’re the only one with a $20 dollar bill in your pocket. Sellers expect that you’ll negotiate, but a flippant attitude implies that you are better at discerning the worth of an item than the seller, which won’t win you friends or influence people. Always greet the seller. And if you’re interested in an item, begin with a compliment. Then add, “I love this item but it’s a bit more expensive than I can afford.” tip: be sure you dress down or a seller won’t believe you when you say you can’t afford something.
5. Timing is Everything
As the day wears on, sellers are more anxious to move their wares. Shopping later in the day means one less item a seller must pack up and bring home, and sellers always save the best deals for last. Strike while the iron’s hot, but also keep in mind that early buyers may walk away with the best finds.
6. Bring Cash
At large outdoor markets, many vendors accept cash only and, anyway, it’s much easier to bargain with a wad of cash in your pocket than a credit card that makes a seller incur annoying fees. Also consider bringing a variety of small bills because sellers may not have enough change to break a $20 for a $4 silk tie.
7. Have a Game Plan
Vintage finds abound at flea markets, and sellers have already done the leg work of selecting the most interesting items. But just because something is old, doesn’t mean it should cost a fortune (unless it’s an antique, of course). If you’re looking for vintage, shop for vintage only, or you’ll easily become overwhelmed. If you’re looking for silverware, zoom in on cutlery only. Similarly, if you’re looking to accessorize one room, go to the market with your color scheme and theme foremost in your mind. You’ll be in a much better position to negotiate when you know exactly what you’re looking for.
8. Don’t be Afraid of Shipping
Don’t avoid unique or original items that you can’t walk away with. Most sellers are happy to ship or deliver larger items. Not only will you score most things below market value, vendors also offer lower shipping and delivery fees than big box stores.
Now that you know how to approach your flea market bargains, do a quick search for flea markets in your area, and get shopping!
This feature is written by Hollie Jones.