Separate your bills! I am always hoping for a great find when I go to yard sales, so I plan accordingly with the cash I bring. However before I even get out of the car, I make sure to put a $5 bill and 5 ones in my pocket. That way, you can give exact change. Little bothers me more than someone trying to talk me down on something, and then pulling a $20 out of their wallet to pay for it. I have even seen people reach into their wallets or purses, having to fish past the hundred dollar bills to get to a smaller bill! It is just insulting. Speaking of…
Don’t be afraid to ask! Some people are intimidated by asking for a better price, but what’s the worst that happens? They say no. Most places, even antique malls that have multiple vendors under one roof, have either a standard permission from vendors to give 10-25% off, or they will call the vendor to find out if they are willing to give a better price.
Do not be insulting with your offer! If you see an item that you want for $20, do not by any means offer $5 for it! That will get you an immediate and resounding NO (at least from me anyway). Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Be fair! If a price is affordable, sometimes I don’t even bother to haggle at all. I usually won’t offer any less that half, and even half is pushing it. I have been known to offer $12 to $15 for a $20 item, depending on what it is.
Point out flaws in the item! “Excuse me, I am interested in this, but I noticed it has a scratch on the top. Is your price flexible?” Sometimes it will be an imperfection the seller didn’t even notice, and will (or should) be willing to deduct the price. Note: This works in regular commercial retail environments as well! I have gotten discounts at big store retailers because items were scratched, dented, or damaged.
Carefully inspect your prospective purchase! Most places have an “As-Is” and/or an “All Sales Final” policy, so make sure you look over your acquisition closely to avoid future disappointment. If you are looking for antiques, make sure the item in question is authentic, not a reproduction. If you are like me, you will buy purely on the kitsch factor, and not for any antique value.
I bought an awesome coloured glass wrought iron lantern at an antique mart out west, and inspected it carefully for any cracks or blemishes in the glass before a kind older woman came up to ask me if I would like her to place it up front for me. I happily agreed, and did not bother to double check it before I paid for it and left. To my dismay, I realised when I got home (when I was washing it and sliced my hand open) that from the time it left my hands initially to the time I paid for it, it had gotten broken and there was a large chunk of glass missing!
Do your homework! It is good to have some antique or collectible knowledge under your belt before you head out. In this day and age of smart phones, it is reasonably easy to get on the interweb and do some research before buying that special piece. For the most part, sellers and vendors are an honest bunch. This can be foiled by a few dealers that ruin the harmony of flea markets by intentionally misrepresenting items. There are plenty of reproductions and reissues out there so knowledge is your friend, here. Keep in mind, mistakes do happen.
I bought an “antique” Ogee mirror at a rummage sale once only to find out that it was not 100% authentic, because the mirror itself had been replaced. So essentially I overpaid for an Ogee frame. In selling, I will say, “I think this is an Ogee, but I am not completely sure, so if you have any question you may want to look it up.” Some people will flat out appreciate your honesty.
“Bundle” items together! Collect a bevy of goodies, then go to the seller, “I have all these items that add up to $100, I was wondering if you would take $75?” Odds are good that they will accept, they may have wanted top dollar for one or two items, but are not so concerned with the rest.
If you are planning on making a day of it, make sure to bring some drinks and snacks, especially if you are bringing the kids along! Also, layer up… if it is cool in the morning you may want a sweatshirt, but by mid afternoon you will want to ditch that frock in a hurry! Sunscreen, bug spray, an umbrella or rain jacket, tissues, and hand sanitizer may be things you want to toss in the car, just in case!
Most importantly have fun! Keep a positive attitude, smile, laugh! After all, you are bargain shopping, what could be better?