Tuesday, June 27, 2023

7 Tips from a Flea Market Pro

 7 Tips From a Flea Market Shopping Pro


Like Edie Brown, the main character in my Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series, I’m a fulltime antique dealer. As such, I go to a lot of flea markets in search of good deals on antiques and art. Below are my top 7 tips for flea market shopping. 


1.     Shop Early. Arrive an hour before the flea market officially opens. Being first in line to get into an indoor flea market means you’ll have a better chance of getting your hands on the best buys. At an outdoor flea market, you may even be able to sneak in early and get to see things as the vendors unpack—aka before the best items are gone.  


2.     Shop Late. If you love something but it’s priced higher than you want to pay, returning a short time before the flea market closes can give you leverage to dicker down a price. But don’t get your heart set on it still being there. Most super popular, low price, or appealing items sell before noon on the first day. 


3.     Cash. Cash is favored by most flea market vendors. But don’t just bring larger denominations: ones, fives, tens, and twenties are preferrable. Cash will also allow you to make a faster transaction (debit and credit card transactions can be slow at remote locations). This will allow you to buy something and quickly move on. Be sure to use precautions to keep your wallet, phone, and credit cards safe from electronic or physical theft. 


4.     Dicker. Dickering over prices is expected. First, if there isn’t a price tag on something you wish to purchase, don’t tell the vendor how much you’re willing to pay—make them name their price first. Once they state a price, make a reasonable but low counteroffer. They’ll counteroffer that amount. Except the price if it’s fair. If it’s not—walk away. If you change your mind, you can go back and accept or ask if they’d reconsider your offer. Also remember that some vendors have firm prices. Respect their right to not dicker. 


5.     Be polite. If the vendor wants to chat, then listen to their stories. If the story is about an item you’re interested in buying, then take it with a huge grain of salt. It could be a total fabrication. Don’t block booths or tables, preventing other shoppers from looking around. This is just plain rude. Don’t act like a know it all—even if your positive a vendor is wrong. People give better deals to people they like.


6.     Clothing and shopping bags. Wear comfortable footwear—no high heels—you’ll be walking on uneven surfaces and perhaps even in mud or soft earth. Carry a shopping bag or backpack. Bring packing materials such as newspaper if you plan on buying breakable items. Don’t assume packing supplies will be offered by vendors. If you hope to buy a lot or heavier items, then a wagon or wheeled shopping cart is a good idea. Have cardboard boxes in your car for transporting items. The benefit of cardboard over plastic is that they can be broken down and laid flat if you start to run out of space in your car. 


7.     Look carefully for repairs, damage, and fakes. The best rule of thumb when looking at a flea market item is to assume there is a problem. Take your time and check closely for damage and sneaky repairs. It’s not uncommon for paint or markers to be used to hide chips or scratches. Similarly, unscrupulous people have been known to use magic markers to color in threadbare areas of rugs and carpets. But don’t rely on just your eyes. Run your hands along an item’s surfaces. Do you feel any roughness that shouldn’t be there? Chips? Cracks? A piece of glassware, pottery, or china should make a sharp ‘ping’ sound when you flick it with your fingers. A dull sound indicates there is damage, even if you can’t see it without the aid of a blacklight. Another rule here is to trust your gut. If it’s telling you something’s wrong, then it probably is. Better to not buy an item than to get it home and then see that you messed up. 


Bonus Tip—Love at first sight is your enemy at the flea market. Falling hard and fast for something you haven’t examined yet is the easiest way to make mistakes. Sure, it’s wise to stake your claim on an item so other buyers will clearly know you found it first and are interested—but take your time while examining it and dicker the price. 


Have fun! I hope these tips help on your next flea market shopping trip. 





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