First, determine if prices are negotiable. Bargaining is a common practice in resale, but some shops do have a set price policy (Junk is one of them). If the tag on the item or a sign on the wall says prices are firm it’s safe to assume prices are indeed firm. No amount of “technique” is going to get you a discount and it might get you thrown out of the shop.
On the other hand, if negotiating is the norm, not asking for a discount means you are paying more than you have to. So how do you get the best price?
To start with, I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret- THE GAME IS RIGGED -- The seller already knows what he wants for the item The first price is intentionally inflated to leave room for negotiating. Or as they say in the trade “Ask 80 take 50”
Consider these three real world scenarios
1- An aggressive unpleasant customer walks into a flea market booth and asks “how much is this chair?” The seller says $80 - the buyer counters with an offer of $40 - The seller says they can do $50. They agree and the chair is sold
2- A friendly pleasant customer walks into the same booth, looks at an identical chair and asks “how much is this chair?” The seller says $80. The buyer says can you do a little better. The seller says they can do $50. They agree and the chair is sold
3- A pleasant experienced buyer comes into the same booth looks at an identical chair and asks “how much is this chair?” The seller says $80. The buyer says can you do a little better if I take three of them . The seller says they can do $150 for the lot. They agree and the chairs are sold
The point is everybody, the tough negotiator, the easy going shopper and the big purchaser , all paid the same price for the chair - $50 . Because that’s what the chairs cost.
Now we all know life is not quite that simple. Lets go back to the same flea market, same vendor, same day. He still has three chairs left.
1- someone walks into the booth and asks “how much is this chair?’ the seller says $80. And the buyer says I’ll take it. The chair is sold
2- another person walks into the booth and asks “how much is this chair?’ the seller says $80. The buyer says will you take $60? They agree and the chair is sold.
The dealer now has one chair left. Hours have passed and no one has asked about this chair.
Finally someone comes into the booth and asks “How much is this chair?” The seller says $80 . The buyer says $40- the vendor says $50 -the buyer says no, $45 - they go back & forth. At last the seller capitulates. They agree on $45. The last chair is sold. The seller gets into his van, drives home, plops down on his couch & has a cold one.
No deal is stuck. , the vendor loads the chair into his van drives home, plops down on the very same couch & pours himself beer . The next week he bring the chair back to the flea market & sells it for $50.
Either way the dealer is ahead. He started out with 8 chairs. He wanted $50 a chair ($400 total). Instead he got $435 (scene 1) or $440 (scene 2). Bargaining is not a consumer friendly practice.
As a buyer, the deck is stacked against you. . You think your talking the seller into a cheaper price, but what your really doing is trying to guess the number the vendor already has in his head. So how do you get him to reveal the (real) lower price?
Start by having some idea of what you want to spend. Then be direct. Usually a simple “Can you do a little better?” is all you need. Most dealers have a standard “discount” rate. - (They say 80 - you say better - they say 50 and a deal is struck. ) Sometimes a second counter offer is required. ( They say 80 -you say better - they say 60 - you say 50 - and a deal is struck)
Whenever possible let the seller give the first & second price. You don’t want to be the person who got the $80 chair for $60 instead of $50
Sometimes the dealer will turn the tables on you - They say 80 - you say better - and they say “What are you looking to spend” If you stand there looking like a deer caught in the headlights, your in trouble. The vendor now knows you have no idea what the item should cost. So be prepared - offer slightly less the you want to pay. The dealer may counter with the real price, or may refuse & toss the ball right back to you, - in that case you offer what you really expect pay.
By now you may be asking yourself - if the vender knows they want $50 for the chair & isn’t going to take less than $50 for it - why do they ask for $80? Are they trying to rip you off? Not at all! They’re just giving you what you want - an opportunity to haggle.
Consider the green young vendor - new to the flea market - he goes out & buys eight beautiful chairs - he pays $25 a piece, hoping to sell them for $50 each. All day long he tells people the chairs are $50 -they counter with an offer of $25 - he declines & at the end of the day packs up his chairs & goes home broke
The next week he brings the same chairs, but now he’s asking $25 a piece , just hoping to recoup his investment - All day long he tells people the chairs are $25 - only this time they counter with an offer of $10
At this point one of two things can happen - the young man sells his chairs at a loss - goes home, ,gets drunk, wakes up the next day & looks for a real job - or
The little light bulb in his brain goes on - he realizes bargaining isn’t about price - it’s about manipulation - he starts telling folks the chairs are $80 & by the end of the day finds he‘s sold every chair - for the price he wanted - $50 each!. Life is good. Our hero switches from PBR in a can to micro-brewed stuff in a bottle. And every week he titillates the public with eight more “$80 chairs” that he lets go for $50 a piece.
Years pass. And here you are, standing in his booth, lusting after one of those chairs. The seller says $80. You know that’s too much. But what is the true price? $60, $50, $40? You’re just not sure!
The good news is, the guy wants to sell the chair. He knows what the real price is & a polite “can you do a little better?” is usually all that’s needed to get him to reveal it. Individuals vary. Some vendors require a few passes before the truth is revealed.
The bad news is, years of dealing with the public has turned your dealer into a cranky old eccentric. Unless he’ retiring tomorrow & moving to Florida he’s not coming down from his base price. And if you act like a jerk he may decide to never tell you what that base price is.
So here are a few things you should never do. They’re common tactics and they don’t work
1- Don’t say “ I’ll give you . . “ Every dealer I know hates this expression . Much better to say “Would you take.. .”
2- Don’t emphasize your offer with the word CASH - 99% of the time cash is the only option at a flea market. Saying it in a shop implies you think the business has shady bookkeeping practices.
3- Don‘t try to get a discount by pointing out the flaws in an item. Once you’ve selected the item, knocking it makes you seem insincere and implies the dealer hasn’t looked it over carefully and isn’t familiar with his own stock.
Trust me - Not only have I been in this business for over 25 years, but almost everyone I know is in this business and when dealers get together in private and grouse about difficult customers - these three scenarios top the list of things that drive them crazy.
Use some common sense. In bargaining, as in most things, positive is better than negative. Flattery is better than insults.
“I love it, but the price is a bit more than I wanted to spend” works much better than “It’s kinda shoddy - can you do better?.”
“ You have the coolest stuff! Would you consider $10?” (for the $15 item) will seal the deal faster than “Your prices are nuts. I’ll give you ten bucks” (for the same $15 item).
I sold in the flea market for years & I never gave anyone a better price because they made an ugly face at me or told me my merchandise sucked
I did give slightly better prices to people who bought from me regularly, always made a point of telling me what great taste I had, and occasionally thought to bring me a cup of coffee or a bottle of water.
I gave my absolute worst prices to people who spent ten minutes chatting me up then turned to the item of interest and said “what can you do for me” as if we were lifetime friends. Personally I found that routine out and out disturbing and the would-be buyer who pulled it never got a deal and never got another ten minutes of my time.
But for the most part I followed the same routine I just described; asked for an inflated first price & quickly negotiated down to the real price. Today I have a fixed price No Haggling shop and I will explain why JUNK has that policy in my post
One last thing(for now) -Suburban flea markets often attract “soccer mom/vendors”; non- professionals who set up a table once or twice a year in an attempt to de-clutter their closets. Usually their prices are very low. So if your at one of those markets and you see one of those vendors and they have an almost new pair of jeans in your size and they ask you for a dollar - just give them the damn dollar! Offers of change are offensive to anyone over the age of five - no matter how polite your tone is.