Come to The Flea Market Prepared

Written By Steve

You arrive at the flea market early so you can find some great stuff before someone else beats you to it.  You find a vintage pocket knife and an old lunch box with thermos that you just have to buy.  The seller tells you that you can have both of them for $50.  That’s a great price if they are in great condition.  You open your wallet to discover you  have only two $20 bills.  First you try pity, asking it the seller will take $40 as you forgot to get money.  Hearing the word “No,” you then ask if she takes credit cards.  Again, you hear the word “No.”  She then mentions she’ll take a check.  You feel your pockets only to discover you also forgot your checkbook.  Finally, you ask if she knows the location of the nearest ATM.

By this time, if I was the seller I’d ask in a sarcastic tone of voice:  “Do you even know your name?”  And then to myself I’d mutter some expletive description of you.

It’s utterly shocking how many flea market shoppers come to the flea market totally unprepared.  It’s not as if this is their first time attending a flea market.  Most of the people I encounter coming unprepared are regulars.

There’s absolutely no excuse to arrive at the flea market unprepared.  Unfortunately, it happens frequently which is extremely aggravating to the sellers.

At a minimum, you should come prepared with the following items in your possession:

  1. A big wad of cash and this includes a lot of $5’s, $10’s, and $20’s.  Sellers rarely come prepared to give change for $100 bills all day long.
  2. You checkbook with actual unused checks in it.  Verify you have unused checks before leaving home.
  3. Your ATM or debit card in your wallet in case you need to get cash from the ATM.
  4. A minimum of two ballpoint pens that work.  It’s shocking how few people carry pens but they expect the seller to have a box of them.
  5. A tape measure.
  6. One or two printer’s or jeweler’s loops to read the fine print on many antiques.


Your basic needs including your ATM or debit card which isn't shown here.
Your basic needs including your ATM or debit card which isn’t shown here.

Not only do having these items show the sellers that you are a flea market professional and mean business, it makes shopping and paying much quicker and efficient.

Failure to have all these items tells the sellers that you are either absent-minded, lazy, or stupid.  They don’t like having you in their selling space taking up room while other shoppers are trying to get the seller’s attention.

In addition to the items listed above, you should also carry a large cloth bag with long handles for carrying your purchases.

More and more, serious shoppers are walking around the flea market pulling the 2-wheel shopping carts which make it handy to accumulate purchases as you move from seller to seller.  Just don’t pull them into the seller’s booth with you.  They become obstacles for others.  And don’t park them in the entrance to the booth where they prevent other shoppers from entering.  Park them out of the way of the traffic flow.

You should also consider bringing your own wrapping paper should you buy some delicate items or a set of dishes.  You can’t count on the sellers to come prepared either.  Unprepared sellers will be the subject of another blog in the near future.

In your car or truck you should have some blankets and rope should you buy furniture pieces.

Here’s a TIP:  If you know you are looking for furniture don’t drive to the flea market in your sports car or small passenger car.  Bring a van, SUV, or truck.  Come prepared.  Most sellers are not in the delivery business.

You should also consider carrying some 3″ x 5″ cards, blue masking tape,  and a sharpie marker so you can put your name and phone number on big items that you buy and leave in the seller’s space while you continue to shop.  Why the phone number?

You’d be shocked how often people leave things that are paid for in the seller’s space and forget to come for them before the market ends.  By having the phone number you can be called and reminded about your purchase.  Again, don’t count on the seller to have these items.  Many of them are just as dumb or forgetful as some of the shoppers.

And if you are an early-bird shopper in the dark, remember to bring your flashlight with fresh batteries.  Again, you’d be shocked how often we hear someone complaining about low or dead batteries in their flashlight.

It makes me wonder if these people give any thought to planning their flea market excursion the day or night before.  Obviously not.

Just remember the old saying:  It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Other items to consider include moist towelettes to wipe your hands before eating something from one of the many food vendors, bottled water to drink along the way, change for parking if necessary, band-aids if you cut your hand while fiddling with some old metal object, and gloves for handling and carrying large, dirty objects.

Make a checklist and the night before the flea market, use the list to gather together all the stuff you’ll need for next morning’s trip to the flea market.

You’ll be less crazed in the morning and you’ll arrive at the flea market fully prepared to do what you came for — to shop as many seller spaces as possible as quickly as possible so no one else buys what you came for.

There’s nothing more aggravating than entering a seller’s space just as some other shopper is leaving carrying the exact item you’ve been seeking.

Be Prepared!

Come Prepared!





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