*Flea Market Negotiation*
By: Econ
24 July 2008

How many of us have more money that we need and can afford to accept the initial price quoted for the products or services we need? I know I don’t. As such, I have developed a habit of negotiating most of the things I buy. I don’t normally negotiate groceries, fuel prices, or other items I purchase on a regular basis (I do negotiate these items if purchasing in bulk). However, I do negotiate the purchase of cars, computers, clothing (suit and ties), shoes, and other items I purchase on an infrequent basis. I do this not only to save money but to also practice my negotiating skills since this is one of the critical skills I need in my profession as an acquisition specialist. From reading the messages and article I know that most Rubies are money conscious and want to save money whenever possible. Hopefully, this article will provide you some new ways to accomplish this.

Negotiating is not about being confrontational or beating the other side up to get the lowest price. Negotiating is really about open communications and helping both sides to reach an agreement where both achieve some of their goals. While most people may be afraid to negotiate in retail stores or for major purchases, negotiating at a flea market is expected by everyone and provides an excellent opportunity to hone your negotiating skills. As such, this article will discuss how to effectively conduct negotiations at a flea market. These same skills and strategies can be used on other purchases regardless of the value or situation.

The first step in any negotiation is to be prepared. To accomplish this for a flea market you should:

  • Knowledge: Make a list of the things you are shopping for and know what the market prices for these items are.

  • Dress Appropriately: Always dress down when attending a flea market. You want to present an image of someone who has the capability to buy but not an image of someone with a lot of money to spend. Therefore, wear a clean pair of jeans and shirt without tears or spilled paint. Leave designer clothing and most of your jewelry at home. Since you will be on your feet a great deal of the time, wear a comfortable set of shoes. Also, please remember to bring other clothing/items as appropriate to the climate (sun screen, umbrella, jacket).

  • Transportation: Drive an appropriate vehicle. Since most vendors at the flea market do not deliver you need to be prepared to transport anything you purchase. This may require a trailer, special tied down, plastic bags, etc.

  • Funding: Since most flea markets are cash and carry always bring cash and leave your credit cards at home. Your cash should be in small bills from $1-$20. This money should be separated into various amounts and stored in different pockets or locations. After negotiating the price down you do not want to pull a wad of cash out to make the purchase. This will destroy the win-win agreement you worked to achieve. If you need to make a major purchase, leave a deposit and come back later with the appropriate funds. You never want to Vendor to know how much money you have for the purchase.

    After arriving at the flea market do the following:

  • Survey the Area: If possible always arrive early at the flea market. This will give you time to look around and gain information about what is being offered, quality of the products, knowledge level of the vendors and specific items being offered for sale.

  • Build Rapport: Always smile and make eye contact with the vendors you want to do business with. Your job at this point is to develop a rapport with the individual so you become a special person and not just another face in the crowd. If possible, shake hands and make small talk/general conversation.

  • Information Gathering: When making general conversation you are not just passing the time but searching for information which will help you to negotiate more effectively. Remember, you are not interrogating the individual but making general conversation. Interweave your questions as part of other conversation topics. Information that may be important include any of the following:

    a.How far did he/she travel to get to the flea market?
    b.Do they attend these often?
    c.How did they determine the price to set for their products?
    d.What do they plan to do with anything not sold at the end of the day?

  • Negotiating Principles: Below are some of the principles I use to guide me during my negotiations. These include:

    a.Never accept the initial offer
    b.Avoid getting into confrontational negotiations or arguments
    c.Never offer to split the difference
    d.Know when NOT to negotiate
    e.Never trust what the other party tells you unless it can be verified
    f.Use time pressure (deadlines)
    g.Never assume you know what something is worth to the other party

  • Developing Your Negotiating Strategy/Tactics: One you have decided what to purchase from whom you need to develop a negotiating plan that takes advantage of the information you learned about the vendor and their wants/needs. Below are some of the possible negotiating tactics you can use. I have used these same tactics at flea markets and when negotiating multi-million dollar agreements.

    a.Bogey Tactic – This is all the money I have/can afford to spend. Never allow the other party to know (before or after the sale) just how much money you really have to spend.
    b.Reluctant Buyer – Never become excited about any item you wish to purchase. This way the seller does not know if you are committed to buying or if you could easily walk away from the negotiations.
    c.Use “what if” tactic – if the seller will not lower the price begin asking what if questions. What if I purchased two instead of one, what kind of discount would you give me. Throw in other items to form a collective group of items and ask for a discount. Remember the seller may be willing to give you a discount if you take some of the "junk" items in order to get rid of them. This is a very powerful tool since it commits you to nothing but forces the seller to determine various pricing situations.
    d.Use time pressure/deadlines – people are more inclined to negotiate as the deadline for closing (end of flea market) draws near. At flea market most people do not want to repackage and load everything back into their vehicles. They are more agreeable to accepting a lower offer than earlier in the day.
    e.Nibbling – once the other party is psychological committed to selling you the item ask them to throw in some other minor item. For example, when purchasing a shoes ask them to throw in some shoe polish. While I use this tactic on personal negotiations I do not use it on business negotiations since it could threaten the long term working relationship.

  • After the Sale: After the sale change the topic to something else. Do not talk about the negotiation, the items you have purchased or how excited you are. Allow the seller to wrap the items (if appropriate) and leave the area quickly. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen people conclude a sale only to keep talking an eventually say something dump or counterproductive.

    Effective negotiation is a skill like any other in that it must be constantly used and refined in order to be effective. By practicing these skills at a flea market you don’t have the stress associated with a major purchase and your liability is small if you do something wrong or pay too much for an item. You do not need to be a master negotiator, just know how to effective use 3-5 negotiating tactics and you are ahead of most professional buyers. I personally have used these tactics and know how effective they can be when used properly.


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