To be clear, the act of haggling itself isn’t rude. Jon clarifies that “it’s part of the business, but it has to be done respectfully.” In fact, Dee points out that many sellers set their prices for flea markets and antique shows with the understanding that haggling will take place, noting that the practice is “an agreed-upon and mutually satisfying game.”
So what, exactly, does polite haggling look like? When in doubt, Jon says that simply asking how much an item costs is a good way to get the ball rolling. If you’re really serious about it, he suggests following that up with, “What’s your best price?”
Another option is approaching a vendor with the item you’re interested in and asking, “Would you be insulted if I made you an offer?” According to Jon, if they say that the price is firm, then that’s it, and you shouldn’t push it. “If they say [that they’re open to offers], you can go ahead and make them an offer while still being polite and respectful,” he says.
This brings up another huge mistake that Jon has frequently witnessed at flea markets and antique shows. “If you make an offer, and the vendor accepts it, you need to be prepared to buy the item,” he says. “Don’t talk them down to a price and then say that you have to think about it. It would be like asking somebody out on a date, they say yes, and then you saying, ‘Well, let me get back to you on that.’”
Expecting all merchandise to be a steal
Don’t assume that everything you find is a bargain. “[Products sold at] flea markets aren’t always the cheapest,” Rick says, noting that if you’re shopping for new items, it’s a good idea to look up what they’re being sold for in stores before making a purchase.
Along the same lines, he cautions that “if the deal’s too good, sometimes it is,” explaining that as hard as event organizers work to keep counterfeit merchandise from being sold, it’s possible for it to slip through. The same is true of reproductions at antique shows.
Harassing a dealer for a lower price
Some people are so convinced that they can—and, for some reason, are entitled to—get an item at a deep discount, that they keep trying to push the seller to reduce the price even if they’ve already said that they can’t go any lower. In addition to being annoying, it also takes up the vendor’s time, and, potentially, their chance to make other sales.
“The best way to actually play hardball is to just leave,” Dee says. “If the vendor has already given you their best price, you can say, ‘Well, I can’t do that,’ which is a polite way to say ‘Your item is good, but I can’t pay that.’ If they’re willing to go lower, they’ll let you know.” Otherwise, move on.
Making an offensively low offer
One of the fastest ways to get on a vendor’s bad side is to make them an offer that’s so low, it’s offensive. “You’ve got to respect the fact that these people have put in a lot of time and energy and effort,” Jon emphasizes. “Merchandise isn’t free.”