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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Flea Market Shopping Tips

Having done my fair share of shopping at the Rose Bowl Flea Market over the years, I've learned a few things along the way. While browsing the flea market, I've come acros a wide array of items, with everything from dishes and furniture to brooches and vintage work boots. I thought I'd share a few tips for those readers who are interested in knowing how to make the most of shopping at flea markets.

1. The early bird catches the worm - Get there early to enjoy the best selection of merchandise. I've read that some of the Rose Bowl shoppers arrive at the crack of dawn and pay higher admission prices in order to beat the rush and have a go at the merchandise before the masses arrive.

2. Bring your poker face - If you really like something, don't show your excitement to the vendor. I once made this mistake at the Old Spitalfields Market in London and the vendor was unwilling to bargain. If you act like you could take it or leave it, the vendor may be more likely to negotiate a price with you. Act too anxious, and you look like an easy sell. As a rule, don't go down more than 10% on the price of most items. I usually ask vendors politely if what they're asking is the best price they can do. Furthermore, if you buy more than one item, they are sometimes more willing to give you a deal. It's also wise to have an idea in your head of how much the item is worth or how much you're willing to pay for it. (FYI - the Rose Bowl isn't always the best place for bargains, as the merchandise can be quite pricey at times. I've even seen a few rock stars and actors shopping there.)

3. Paper over plastic - Many of the vendors do not accept credit or debit cards, so make sure you pick plenty of green off of the money tree before you go shopping. Some flea markets may have those portable ATM machines, but you may end up paying an extra fee to use it.

4. Be prepared - As many flea markets are held outdoors, know what the weather will be like so you can dress accordingly and shop comfortably. My Nike Shox, oversized sunglasses, and hat always come in handy on hot summer days.

5. Bag it - It's a good idea to bring shopping bags or a roomy handbag to hold your purchases. I like to stuff small items in a large handbag which I carry on my shoulder, as it frees up my hands. Many people at the Rose Bowl push those wire carts, which are convenient for larger/heavier purchases. Also make sure you have room in your vehicle if you're buying larger pieces of furniture. Last weekend I saw a man getting frustrated as he tried to cram a chair into the backseat of his Buick.

6. Keep an eye out - I like to make a mental list of items that I'm looking for before I go to a flea market. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of merchandise that's available. I admit it's hard to find particular items sometimes, but I don't want to get distracted and lose focus. There have been occasions where I've found great things that weren't on my list, and that's always exciting, but I prefer to have an idea of what I want when I'm shopping at the Rose Bowl. Some people thrive on the thrill of the hunt and the fun of flea market shopping lies in finding that special something that catches your eye. I wish I had the patience!

7. Buyer be-wear - Be sure to carefully inspect the goods before you buy. Look for stains, holes, and other possible damage. Once you buy something and take it home, you probably cannot return it. Last weekend I saw a great pair of high-waisted jeans from the 1970s that had a stain on the pocket. Not sure whether the stain would come out, I decided not to buy.

And that wraps up my flea market shopping tips. Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips to share?