A show of hands. Who loves treasure hunts? Who loves good deals? Most people know about the obvious flea market rules such as bring cash, come early and do your research. These are things that will raise the odds of you finding something, but they’re not guarantees. The game has changed over the past ten years and thrifting is now a pastime for the masses. People have much more knowledge of what things are worth and many are in to make a buck or complete a precious collection. That’s just the way it is. But there are some things that can still play to your advantage and I thought I’d share some with you. Along the way they’ve also taught me a thing or two about business.
1. Stay cool: Treat the seller with respect. Some buyers start tearing out stuff the minute the seller puts down their box. Don’t be that buyer. Ask the seller nicely about what they have and keep your spot. If you see something you like, pick it up and hold on to it while the seller puts up more things. Don’t seem to happy about the things you find as it’s a clear giveaway that you’ve struck gold. You will often be priced accordingly.
2. It’s a game: It’s both a game of who can get to it first and also who can get it for the least amount of money. Regardless of what people say, bargaining is a part of the flea market culture. But don’t be greedy. I most often pay the asking price and I’ve paid more on many occasions when the price in my opinion has been much too low. If you stay true to rule number one, you have a bigger chance of getting the discount. A good deal is one where both parties walk away happy.
3. Discover the things no one else sees: First off, look at what people are sitting on. I’ve bought a number of Aalto Aalto stools and other design chairs over the years and you would be surprised how often people will sell their seats at the end of the day. Be sure to ask only when the sellers are on their way home as they have brought their seats for a reason. The end of the day is also the time when you can get the best deals. Don’t only go for the things that are trendy right now. Buy what you like and look for the next big thing. Value is based on supply and demand.
4. Scan quickly first, then focus: There are essentially two schools – slow meticulous scouring or fast overviewing. I usually go for alternative two since I enjoy the live flea markets more (as opposed to aisle self serving markets). Sellers put out the obvious things first and that’s what everyone goes for. Get to them first by moving fast. After the obvious things, focus on the hidden things. Most buyers don’t do that.
5. Extra baggage will slow you down: If your hands are tied up with bags, you are at a disadvantage. Bring a backpack or shoulder bag to keep your hands free. When you’re worrying about irrelevant things your focus in on other things than what matters at the moment.
6. When in doubt, ask: If you find one piece of a set, the rest is often nearby. If not, ask.
7. Take advantage of the situation: If you find one good thing at a place that you often visit (Goodwill or similar) and rarely find anything at, chance is that you’ll find other things as well. This usually means that they received a new donation and it hasn’t been picked yet. Keep on looking.
8. No two markets are alike: Look for hard to get to hunting grounds since the fewer people who have found the market, the bigger the chance of success.Untapped markets are the best.
9. Dirt is good: There are places that people don’t go to because of fear, prejudice or laziness. Therein lies opportunity.
10. It’s a journey: Flea markets are a place for serendipity. If you come with a mindset of finding something specific, you will be disappointed. I’m always amazed at how often I come across things that I would never have expected to find. You just need to be persistent and keep on trying. At least you’ll learn something along the way.
These are my rules. What are your rules?