“Scoffing at a price or speaking to a friend loudly enough for the vendor to hear isn’t going to get you the price you [want],” she says. “For a lot of us, this is our livelihood, and we’ve spent years honing the skill.” If you’d like to ask a seller for a discount, Neko suggests that you “start with how much you appreciate the piece, and then go from there.”
Pointing out an item’s flaws
Another haggling mistake that, according to Kenneth and Dee, is both offensive and far too common, is pointing out what you think is wrong with a piece of a vendor’s merchandise when trying to convince them to give it to you for a discounted price.
“When you do that, it’s in a weird way desperate, because you’re giving away that all you’re trying to do is drive down the price of something that they’ve already considered the quality of,” Dee says. And, as Kenneth points out, sellers typically put a lot of thought into hand-selecting their merchandise. “They’re probably objects that they care deeply about and want to pass on to the right person,” he says. “So telling them all the reasons you think their piece sucks won’t necessarily help.”
Because antiques and vintage items are almost always used goods, it’s also unrealistic to expect that they would be available at a reasonable price in pristine condition. “There are going to be scratches and chips,” Kenneth adds. “When you buy an antique, you know that you’re getting something that’s been around for a while.”
The one exception is if you think you spot some type of damage or flaw—like a crack in a plate—and don’t believe that it’s reflected in an item’s price. “A polite way to bring that up is to ask, ‘Are you aware of this crack?’ If they are, they’ll usually explain what it is that makes the piece valuable, like if it came from a certain maker or has a rare pattern,” Dee explains. “If they weren’t aware, which does happen, [because] even the best dealers can miss things, then they might lower the price for you.”
Coming without smaller bills (or cash in general)
There are also a few haggling-specific reasons why you should bring cash to a flea market or antique show. First, because vendors typically have to pay a processing fee on any credit card sales, you may have better luck negotiating the price on an item if you make it clear that you’re going to pay in cash, Dee notes. Similarly, by paying in cash, you may be helping out a seller who is short on change—especially if you ask whether they could use some smaller bills. “In the current monetary climate, change is greatly appreciated,” Dee tells Clever. “Smaller bills can be pretty hard to come by now.”
Both Kenneth and Dee recommend bringing a lot of one-dollar bills with you to a flea market or antique show. One reason for this, which they explained in a 2018 episode of their podcast about haggling, is that if you talk a vendor down to $3 on a $5 item—telling them that you only have $3 left—and then pay with a $20 bill, the dealer will notice, and probably be less likely to work with you on prices if you shop with them again.
Buying multiple items from the same vendor without “bundling”
If you’re going to try to haggle with a dealer, Mel says that it can help to group multiple items together and ask what they’d be willing to do for the set—a technique often referred to as bundling. This is a tactic she recommends at flea markets and antique shows, as well as estate sales, where the less product the sellers have to deal with at the end of the day, the better. “If I’m at the sale with a friend, I’ll also usually put our items together as one purchase in hopes of getting a larger discount that we can then divide amongst our items,” she explains.