Junk or Treasure? Bargain or Rip-Off? This is what I ask myself while browsing the isles at flea markets. My husband and I have been avid flea market shoppers for about ten years now. The challenge/quest to find that item that will either save us money or is a one of a kind deal has become a favorite means of entertainment.
The Webster’s dictionary says a flea market is an open-air market for secondhand articles and antiques. In times past, this was true but today one might find a lot of new mechandise too. Edibles and office supplies that have been salvaged from overstock or is about to expire are “hot items”. “As Seen On T.V.” products and collectables, like; Bean Babies, baseball cards, coins, stamps, dolls, books plus special crafts, such as; flower arrangements, quilts, leather goods, wood creations and jewlery all fall under the “new category”. It is no surprise with the variety of old and new merchandise, that a flea market is able to entice clientle from all income levels.
I have purchased everthing from a custom designed sofa to a small mace sprayer for my purse at flea markets. I figure I have saved several hundred dollars over the years by bickering and bargaining with their vendors. Most of my choices have been good ones, however, one time I royally screwed-up. We were in ft. Lauderdale, Florida on vacation. My husband did a search on our GPS for flea markets in the area and it found a place claiming to have over a thousand booths. We were estatic and could not wait to check it out.
The first thing we saw was the parking lot that spanned over a full city block. I initially thought they should have had a shuttle service but that would cause a fee and that defeats the whole bargain idea. So we hiked happily up and across the street skyway bridge over to the huge auditorium. There were two massive levels of booths and kiosks housing the various vendor wares. The lower level exited to the outdoor portion that covered still another area larger than a football field. It took us two full days to see it all. On the first day, we found a bargain on a suitcase that retailed for $89.00 but only cost us $15.00.
Later in the day, I found my favorite perfume for $10.00 that back home would have cost $50.00. The second day we finally reached the point of exiting the building where there were boxes and boxes of $1.00 household items sitting everywhere. About a third of the way through, my husband found an antique wooden golf club for his collection of old golf relics and was able to bicker the seller down to a bargain price of $25.00.
Later, we came to a setup where the vendor had several tables covered with new and used electronic items. On one table was a DVD player still in its’ original box, marked $199.00. We had been looking for a DVD player for a while. We wanted to use it on our vacation trips but with that only being once a year, we couldn’t justify the cost of a new one.
The vendor noticed we were both staring at the DVD player and quickly said, “Hi there, I can make you a real good deal on that DVD player.”
“On no, no, that’s ok. We were just looking but thanks anyway,” my husband answered.
We started to walk away when the vendor looked at me and said, “I’ll let it go for $150.00. You won’t find it any cheaper anywhere,” he continued.
At that, I knew we would save about a hundred dollars but I still needed more incentive…. “No…that’s alright, I better not spend the money right now,” I replied.
“O-o-okay, What would you say if I told you…you could have it for $99.00?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
I looked at my husband and he gave me that look…that look, which said, “Girl you better take that before he changes his mind.” At that stage of the bargaining process, I went into my (there is a possible chance that I may buy) mode that usually gets the vendor to drop to his very lowest offer.
“Wel-l-l…I don’t know…is it used or new?” I asked.
He quickly turned the box to show me that the player and all of the accessories were still in the original plastic baggies and were nestled in the contours of the packaging like they were straight from the manufacture.
“Uhhh…Ho-w, how much is the sales tax on that?” I asked.
“Nothing…nothing at all. I…I’ll take care of that too. You just pay me $99.00 that’s all!” he said, with a hopeful expression.
“$99.00? …. Well…okay then, I’ll take it!” I said it as if I was doing him a big favor but I felt like I was actually taking advantage of his need for the sell.
When we were back in the car, I could not help giggling, as I said to my husband,”Wow! What a bargain. We saved over half on that player.”
After we got home from our vacation and got the chance to test our new DVD player, we discovered that the player was not new and that the LCD screen would not show a picture. There was audio but no video. My husband fiddled around with it for a while and ended up calling the manufacturer, only to find out that the player was out of warranty. Most flea market vendors are good honest folks but the buyer must beware….”What we think is a bargain could be a RIP-OFF!”