How to be a Picker at the Flea Market (and get great deals!)
Oct 27, 2013 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
We’ve all been inspired by the thrill of the hunt – finding that diamond in the rough. But how can you make the most out of picking your way through a flea market? Cause A Frockus reached out to a legendary institution to learn some tricks of the trade…
We talked with Suzanne, co-owner of Picc-A-Dilly Flea Market in Eugene, Oregon. While she’s been involved with Picc-A-Dilly for 18 years, she first fell in love with picking during swap meet trips in California about 40 years ago. Why does she love a good flea market?
“It’s a treasure hunt and each market is going to be different. You can’t go into any kind of store and get the kind of great deals you get at a flea market.”
Suzanne’s Best Flea Market Tips
- Set your budget and goals before you go to the market.
- Carry cash in small bills.
- Get there early to watch the sellers set up and get a first hand look at their items.
- This is great to do if you are buying for your own shop’s inventory or you have something very specific in mind.
- Getting there early means you won’t have to hassle with competition, but it may also mean you will be paying a higher price.
- You will often times have to pay an increased entrance fee to have the privelege of the first look – check with your local markets.
- Don’t worry if it’s mid-afternoon and you’re just arriving at the market! You can still find great things and get deals in the final hours or moments of the market.
- Make it time well spent:
- Take advantage of the information booth. For example, the booth at Picc-A-Dilly is a cornucopia of knowledge that helps buyers and sellers. Be sure to check it out!
- Befriend vendors and other buyers. You hear it all the time in the business world: networking. In a flea market setting it means good old fashioned chit chat; getting to know people is mutually beneficial and for many people in the picking community, it can lead to real friendship.
- Remember to pace yourself and look carefully. It may take you a couple of passes to take it all in.
- Bring reusable bags with you so you can carry your treasures around easily. If you’ve made a big purchase, most sellers will keep your items behind the counter until the end of the shopping day. Be sure to collect them before you leave!
How to Negotiate Prices at the Flea Market
- Keep in mind that most vendors are almost always willing to talk about money.
- A great way to start a price discussion is to ask “can you come down on this?” Remember, the worst that they can say is no, but most people are willing to make the sale.
- You have a better chance of getting a bigger deal later in the day.
- If you have a few items you like, bundle them! Often times you’ll get a better deal using this technique. For example, if they have two $5 pieces, ask if they would do both for $7.
- Always ask – never just get out your money and pay unless you feel the price is already low enough.
Cause A Frockus would like to thank our tremendous resources: Suzanne and Pic-A-Dilly Flea Market in Eugene: http://www.piccadillyflea.com/ and the wonderful people who post their imagery on Wikipedia Commons without restriction.
For our readers:
As Suzanne says “Keep in mind that once you’re hooked on flea markets, it becomes part of your routine.” Remember these tips next time you’re ready to pick your next treasure. Have any tips or stories you’d like to share with us? Tell us in the comments!