How to Bargain

If you have a truly unique, or offbeat, sense of fashion or decorating, you’re nostalgic, or you’re tired of the current trends, you’ll love shopping at flea markets.Somewhere along the line, someone decided that the word “vintage” was a synonym for “cool,” which is why we have legions of women dressing like grandmothers and decorating with needlepoint pillows.

But regardless of how many old-timey pieces you want to pick up when you’re cruising the flea market circuit, your ultimate goal is to get a good deal. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s worth a million dollars, right? So, how can you be sure that you’re going to walk away with the best deal upon leaving your favorite flea market?

Consider the following:

Bargain by… Knowing Where You Are

Flea markets are like snowflakes: No two are alike. “Think about the market’s overall vibe: Is it aiming to be some D-list joint, shilling sunglasses, socks and cheap clock radios, or does it feature things you’d find on Etsy?” says Ashlea Halpern, a New York City-based freelance editor. “I could spend hours wandering the latter, but if I’ve stumbled across the former, I eat some funnel cake and get out.”


Bargain by… Shopping Around

Your mama told you right. When it comes to flea markets, you better shop around. Remember that just because something is “vintage” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s one-of-a-kind. “Always walk once all the way through the market before making any purchases,” Halpern advises. “I was so annoyed at one market last year when I dropped $18 on what I thought was a rad copper octopus pendant, only to discover an even radder copper octopus pendant for $15 two booths over.” Unless you’ve fallen completely and totally in love with an item right on the spot (if so, get a grip), it may be better to assess what’s on offer at other booths before making a deal.

Bargain by… Remembering This is Somebody’s Job

While some people exhibit at flea markets as a weekend hobby, others do it as their full-time job. Joanne Adler — a 35-year flea market veteran based out of the massive Rose Bowl Market in California — says that’s a huge factor on whether or not you’ll be able to get the price of an item down. “What I’m selling is not my only source of income, so I don’t have to sell something if I don’t think I’m getting the right price for it,” Adler says. Other people who depend on what they sell at the market that day to support themselves may be more willing to deal.

Bargain by… Being Polite

Sellers expect you to try to haggle with them — it’s part of the whole flea market experience. What they don’t like is you rolling up to your booth like you’re the only person in the place with a $20 bill in your pocket. “As far as I’m concerned, customers are doing me a favor by coming by my booth, so I don’t have a problem with them trying to negotiate prices,” says Adler. “What really makes me angry is when someone will start an offer out with, ‘I’ll give you…'” In this scenario, you’re dictating the worth of a seller’s item to them, and guess what? That’s rude. “I’m much more likely to deal if someone says, ‘I really love this piece, but it’s more than I can afford’ and then make me an offer from there.” Adjust your attitude and throw out a compliment. You’ll be surprised how far it gets you.


Bargain by… Remembering That Timing is Everything

Never underestimate the innate laziness that lurks in all of us. “Most sellers get more desperate as the day wears on,” says Halpern. “If you shop closer to dusk/close, they’re going to be more likely to bargain, because whatever you buy is just one less thing they’ll have to pack up and drag home.”

Haggle on, dealmeister, haggle on. And make sure to tell us in the comments about the best deal you’ve ever haggled?

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