Did you know that each summer in Vermont there are over 9,500 yard sales and flea markets? There is no way you could possibly have known this, because I just made it up. However, while I don’t know the actual number of sales, I can safely say there are a whole bunch of them. Vermonters have countless opportunities to pay money to help other residents unload their unwanted crap.
Recently, I was talking to my friend, Scott, about going out for a Saturday morning of residential bargain hunting. During our discussion, Scott pointed out that he never pays full price for a sale item.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I haggle,” he said. “Let me give you an example of how it works.” My friend looked over at the brand new garden rake I had just purchased from the hardware store, which was leaning against the garage door.
“I’ll give you $5 for that rake,” he said.
“I wasn’t planning on selling it,” I responded.
“For the rake? I just bought it for $35.”
“$7, and that’s my final offer.”
As Scott walked down the driveway with my former rake, I stuffed a $5 and two $1s in my wallet. Clearly, I had some work to do before I became proficient with this haggling concept.
When I sat down at my computer to do some research, I found hundreds of websites on the very issue of yard sale negotiations. I landed on “How to Haggle at Flea Markets and Yard Sales” for some practical pointers. After memorizing several negotiating tips, I was prepared to head out and get my haggle on. But first, I had to dress down. “Don’t show up in your designer duds and jewels and expect to get a discount,” the website advised.
I took off my Givenchy jeans, removed the diamond studs from both ears, and stashed my Michael Kors man purse in the closet. Once clad in ratty cargo shorts and an old Grateful Dead T-shirt, I was ready for action. My first stop was an annual flea market held in a neighboring town.
When I arrived, I saw people milling around booths of merchandise set up around a common. In a matter of moments, I was among the crowd perusing the goods. It seemed to me that most everything for sale was old, used stuff. To test the haggling waters, I picked up a rusted screwdriver.
“How much for this?” I asked the gentleman behind the table.
“$20,” he said.
“It’s old and rusted,” I pointed out.
“That’s an antique,” the man sniffed as he took it from me and laid it back down next to an equally rusty hammer.
In addition to tools and kitchen utensils, I noticed many vendors had boxes of license plates for sale. A less-than-honest person might consider buying an “antique” screwdriver, going out to the parking lot, and starting his own collection of license plates for resale.
Before long, I found what I was looking for: used CDs. Tip number two was not to let the person you are haggling with “steamroller over you.”
“Hello,” the woman at the booth said with a smile.
“Excuse me?” I replied defensively. “Are you trying to steamroller over me?”
“Never mind.” I picked up a CD. “How much for this?”
“$3,” she responded.
“I’ll give you $2.”
“$3,” she repeated.
Tip number three was to be patient and play it cool. I found an old rocker and sat down.
“I’m going to be honest,” I said to the vendor, “this chair isn’t very comfortable.”
“Get up!” she yelled. “You’re sitting on an antique doll!”
This wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. Tip number four was to give the person time to ponder your offer. The haggling website even suggested saying you have a dental appointment and will return in an hour.
“$2,” I repeated. “I’ll be back; I have to go to the dentist.”
I walked away, hid behind a food tent for 10 minutes, and then returned to the table.
“Quick appointment?” she said.
“I floss regularly.”
I looked on the table and saw the CD I wanted was gone. But I was determined to haggle. I picked up a different CD, which I had no desire to own. “All right,” I said. “I’ll give you $2.75 for this one.”
“That particular CD is $8.”
“I’ll give you $6.”
“$9,” she countered.
“$8.50 and it’s yours.”
“Deal,” I said. I gave her $9, got 50 cents back, and left a very happy haggler. I really do like my "Raffi Sings Sea Chanties for Children" CD. It skips a bit, but it definitely was worth every penny of the purchase.
Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.