Sunday, June 12, 2011

So You Wanna be a Flea Market Junkie

Well hello again world. Ok, life has been crazy lately. I didn't do any posts. Lame. Sorry 'bout that. But it's summer, I've wrapped up another year of grad school, and I'm ready to get my hands dirty on some DIY projects. (Literally. Seriously, no matter what I do, even if I wear gloves, I get something on my hands. What can I say? I'm a true DIYer at heart...or hand. Cornyness finished. Moving on.)

While I prepare some posts on some household DIYs, I thought I'd write up a little blurb on thrifting. It's more of a story really, but the advice is in there. It's like a fable. Except it happened. Even better. However, be forwarned: I did not have my camera on this outing, and therefore, this post is mostly pictureless. I know, I know! That makes it much less fun, I'm sorry. But I'll have some before and after posts soon, and those have pictures. Woot. 

So a few weeks back, my friend Nicole alerted me to a flea market up the street. I don't know how I didn't hear about it, but there it was, the next block over, full of all sorts of goodies just wanting to be scooped up. Considering my budget was almost non existent (grad school + nannying job that fell through + awkward amount of time between school ending and me moving = unemployment), I went in hoping to find 3 things, and 3 things only: a chair to fix up for my desk, an entryway table, and 2 matching bedside tables (Ok, I guess that's technically 4 things). And they all had to be on the cheap. And by cheap, I mean practically free.

Cue flea market feigned indifference. If you don't know this very scientific method, read on. When I peruse any type of soft-priced shop (thrift store, yard sale, flea market, etc.) I put my acting skills to good use. I learned the hard way back in high school that if you show how excited you are about something at a place like this, people will probably be much less likely to lower a price...or they'll even make it higher. Boo. (I know, I'm brilliant...I should write a book about it or something.) Long story short, I saw a hand-dyed tapestry I really liked, and was blatantly excited about it. Mr. Jurkface  Cranky-McCrankerson told me $15 even though a friend of mine had already purchased a similar scarf for $12 about 10 minutes earlier. Being naive and wimpy, I handed over the cash. (But the good news is that I now wear the tapestry as a scarf almost 10 years later, and I get a lot of compliments on it. Who knew?) Therefore, when I amble about, I take care to look at something carefully, but then walk away. I do all the things I would normally do with a huge grin on my face, but just look like I don't care (hint: channel your inner high-school angst. You and I both know you perfected it back in your teen years. Don't kid yourself.) So, I pick something up (or squat down, depending on what I'm looking at), give it a close look, i.e. check for cracks, stability, weird smells, etc., and then...walk away. Say it with me: "Just walk away." It's hard, I know, especially when you realize you really want it. But Alton Brown would be proud. (In case you didn't get that reference, cue this video to about 8:45, and watch the whole thing if you can. Alton is my hero).

I'll be honest; sometimes this method doesn't work (the thrifting thing, not the muffin thing. The muffin thing works great every time, and not just for muffins, but for all sorts of baking things!) But when it does, it works great. I ended up picking up a gateleg table that looked like the top had some real potential after a good sanding, in addition to a chair with a nice shape, that both fit within my budget. The table was originally priced at $30, and the chair at $7. And just by looking really closely and then walking away, the couple running the booth told me I could take both for $30. I asked if they would take $20 since they seemed to be the haggling type, and I got them down to $25. Ergo (yes, I said "ergo," Mrs. Hutchins would be so proud), I paid less for both pieces than I would have for the original price on the table alone. Score!

Since I couldn't get a picture there, here are the two diamonds in the rough in all their dingy glory:

I'm not saying that channeling your inner teen will work every time--in fact, just yesterday, I got shot down at a local thrift store when I offered to buy a pair of chairs at a lower price than the original price of the two combined. I tried my best, doing the turn-to-my-boyfriend and say something like, "Hmmm...I don't know. They seem a little too scratched up/wobbly/damaged/etc...[trail off]. What do you think, babe?" But she wouldn't budge. So in that case, I did walk away (they really were pretty scratched up). But it's not like you have anything to lose by trying to haggle a price down. Unlike a busy flea market, a place like a thrift store would most likely never raise a price (although, I guess you never know), so you could still table your pride and buy it at the asking price after trying for a discount if you wanted. Or not.

Anywho, stay tuned for a before-and-after post on this chair. It's lookin' preeeeeetty snazzy after its makeover!

What about you guys? Have some good advice? Ever gotten a sa-weet deal? Or ever had the bummer like me where someone raised the price? Do tell!

- mLe

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