Saturday, May 14, 2011

Baltimore Flea Market Beat: Five Steps to Junking Professional Style with Ed

Last weekend I went "junking" and "treasuring hunting" with my friend Ed. I have to tell you that Ed is a master flea market guru. He's got it down to a science as he sells online and in a brick and mortar store. Flea marketing is a business to him. I decided to share his strategy with others.

Step One: The List & Preparation.

During the week Ed compiles a master list of flea markets in his local area. If you ask me, he arranges it by GPS and neighborhood.  Ed says, "Community Yard Sales take precedence over singles; as there are power in numbers. "  He obtains the listings mostly online, from Craigslist, local papers, and searching Google for keywords like "Flea Market Baltimore 5/14/11." Prepare by having bottled water, snacks, and a full tank of gas.  He explains, "You don't want to lose valuable time stopping for gas or coffee."

How does he jump out of the car so quick ?

Step Two:  Move with Stealth and Roadblock.

By the time we pull up, Ed has already jumped out of the car and is mostly done shopping before I even get out of it.   I'm not sure how he does that, it must be his "Wonder Twin Powers" shape of, a firefly where he can zoom so fast.  I noticed that often times he's double parked in front of the house itself, with car running and keys in ignition. Ed says, "The roadblock prevents others from pulling in front of the house --they ay have to park further away, so those few minutes may get me a valuable find."  In Ed's circles, he often sees three to four other professional junkers, so his goal is to stay a step ahead of them at all times.

Giant Art Glass Vase, obtained for $6, marked $12 first thing in the morning.
Step Three: All Offers Considered. 

I'm one of those that thinks first thing in the morning, you have to pay the price listed. Maybe this stems from the fact that I myself have had flea markets before and mark my items for fair prices so if my first customer offers me $10 on an item I know is worth $100 and marked it $50, I'd be offended.  Ed has told me this is not the case. Ed says, "Even if the item is worth it, don't immediately offer to pay the price listed. Lots of people will cut deals if you are buying a lot of things from them, and many up their prices 50% higher just to have wiggle room. People watch those professional flea market shows on tv now, and realize it's all about the dickering."  I suppose Ed is right, because he obtained this art glass vase marked $12 for half price while she was still unpacking--meanwhile I paid full price for a fan I bought from her.

Ed makes small talk while people are unpacking.

Step Four:  Make Friends.  Ed is one of those who makes small talk with the people hosting the flea market. At first I thought that was crazy but some people actually remembered him from past flea markets. Then, I noticed, they were running in the house to bring him out something special.  Ed says, "Sometimes people will remember me from a flea market they had last year.  I ask them if they have any other items in the house they may want to sell that I'm looking for, lots of times they'll bring it out and sell it to me. I'm a friendly buyer. " 

Mix mosh of things for sale.  I love the mirror!
Box lots of figures, $3.00.

Step Five:  Box Lots  

If an item is $1.00, you don't have much wiggle room, but if you start assembling a small pile of merchandise, you can ask for a "box lot discount."   Ed says, " The more you buy the more you save. If you have 15 dollar items, ask them would they do $10, they will say no but now you can offer $12. Three dollars saved is one gallon of gas (well, almost...)"

Don't put an email address as it could end up in your spam folder!
Helpful Bonus Tips : 
*If you collect things, have some pre-printed mini cards (simply made on the computer or hand written) with a list of things you collect and your phone number. If they come across these things or talk to their friends who have them, they may call you in the future.

*Don't assume because it's raining that the flea market is cancelled, this may turn out better for you if they open their garage or home to have it in, less people will come (assuming it's cancelled!) If it's in the garage, maybe that old tool on the wall can be for sale!

*Leave your number if you find that special something that is way out of your budget.  If it doesn't sell by the end of the day, tell them to call you and you'll buy it for a fair price. 

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