Ah! Fellow adventurer and writer Conrad wrote about the wilderness of the Congo jungle, and the human soul. And here I am writing ten tips on how to navigate a flea market – a sure sign that those teenage dreams are shriveling and dying a slow and certain death. However, I can (in a far-fetched attempt) draw some parallel’s between navigating a flea market and a jungle. It’s also a wilderness in which a person must have their wits about them if they want to come out alive … and that bargain vintage lamp they’ve been looking for to put next to the sofa … ahmm. Follow me, as I venture in to the bizarre wilderness of the bazaar to deliver you your swiss army knife for the Saturday Naschmarkt flea market.
10 helpful tips in the art of negotiating and navigating the Naschmarkt flea market:
1. Dress to look like you could be sold at a flea market
Leave the bling and the gold tooth at home. Sellers are well versed in assessing how much money a buyer has in their wallet. The cheaper you look, the cheaper you’ll get that porcelain cat statue.
2. First aisle is where the bargains are at!
An insider – who prefers to remain nameless – confirmed my suspicions – Amongst the sellers lined up in the first aisle (closest to the U-Bahn (metro) station) are many sellers trying to skip the stand fee – the fleamarket outlaws. On occasion, you will hear a bell ring and immediately see some sellers scramble to collect their merchandise and flee. There are also many who aren’t professional sellers but one-timers just trying to clean out their basement. This leads to stall holders being more willing to haggle to extremely low prices. (Disclaimer: don’t take this to mean all sellers in this aisle come under this category).
3. Practice your game face (or wear dark sunglasses)
I know it’s hard to hide your excitement when you come across that David Hasselhoff record, but keep it to yourself until the deal is made. Show interest, but act uninterested. You want the seller to run after you like a pimply teenage boy, not the other way round. Score: Genuine vintage Polaroid sunglasses = 15€
4. Charm the price down
Charm the hell out of the seller without them even noticing it. Greet them and smile. Comment on the weather. Ask them about the wife and the kids (ok, maybe that’s going too far). But above all – show them respect. This was the most common advice given to me upon asking sellers. One Franz-Ferdinand-moustache-bearing seller said to me – “Just because my shop hasn’t got four walls, dosen’t mean people have to come and piss on my carpet.” I think I understand what he was getting at, but then again it was in a very thick Viennese dialect. Anyhow, obey flea market etiquette and don’t be aggressive – even if the seller is.
5. Know your budget
As you inspect and turn that second-hand pink vibrator (Ridiculous? I’ve seen one for sale at the Naschmarkt – no kidding) around in your hands, consider how much you’d be comfortable paying for it. ALSO – the way you handle the object that you’re considering buying says loads about how much you want it etc. Look at it and handle it as if it’s the first time you’ve seen a condom – with feigned confidence and curiosity.
6. Play the game
Remember – haggling is a game of business. It’s a human interaction like any other, whether it is done in a souk in Marrakech, between multinational cooperations or with a stand owner who reminds you of your grandmother at the Vienna Naschmarkt. It’s a dance, and this dance requires you to learn the steps like any other. Here’s a quick guide but don’t forget, there are many variations of this dance: Ask how much the item costs? Remain silent and smile after they answer while inspecting the item further Ask if there’s any chance of a discount and what their best offer would be (at this point try and get a feel for how flexible the seller is willing to be with the price) Make a small joke. Something like, “Ooooo, your asking a poor man to sell his house, children, his wife and three of his camels!” Make a counter-offer (eye contact is important with a smile). NOTE: Your offer should be no lower than half of the seller’s initial offer and half of the price you are willing to pay. From here on, you’re on your own to judge how flexible your seller is with his/her negotiating. In making your decision – Just refer to the budget you gave yourself beforehand.
7. Be prepared to do the (cue dramatic music) walk-away
The oldest move in the book – like an old cowboy shootout, the walkaway “I’ll think about it” move has won this fleamarket explorer many a battle. Be prepared to walk away and tell the seller you’ll think about it. You can always come back if you decide you really want the piece (and don’t let pride stop you from doing so). Pride has no place in the jungle … or a flea market.
8. Shop in the rain, or at the end of the day
One of the street sellers economic fundaments – When it’s raining (even if its lightly) prices will dramatically go down. Also, the end of the day for a flea market seller is like midnight for Cinderella – if you’re going to make out with the hot prince, you better do it now. (We are not endorsing making out with the sellers. Unless, they are willing, of course). Sellers always look to make last minute sales at the end of the day, before their stand will turn into a pumpkin. The Naschmarkt Fleamarket closes at 6pm (pending the weather).
9. Look to the ground and be prepared to dig for treasure
Take advantage of the human habit of only seeing things at eye level. I’ve found very often that treasures lie on the ground at flea markets, or are hidden in boxes. Also, a certain kind of patience and determination is needed to dig through mountains of junk to get to that moment like this:
10. Show me the money!
Have the exact amount of cash in hand when you make your final offer. People react to the sight of money. The smell, the pretty colours set off something within us. The sale is more likely to go ahead if they see the money. As Jerry Maquire would say – “Show me the money!” Can’t believe I just quoted a Tom Cruise film. Another teenage dream shrivelled up like a raisin.
11. Carry change and hide your big notes in your wallet somewhere
Once again, this can help in convincing a seller that you’re eating baked beans out of a can for dinner and cutting out plastic bags to wear as underwear so you couldn’t possibly afford anymore than you’ve already offered.
12. Know the inhabitants of the wilderness that is the Vienna Naschmarkt fleamarket
The Veterans of the Naschmarkt is made up of mostly sellers that are die-hard tenants. They are there every week, with their handle-bar moustaches, smoking their cigarettes in their reclining chairs, and their neatly laid out objects on their tables in front of them, occasionally throwing a joke, in a heavy Viennese accent, over to another fellow seller. These sellers know their stuff. They’re the ones selling the beer steins, the Sisi and Franz paintings in affluent gold stucco frames to cashed up tourists. You’ll also see them selling quality antiques to collectors and such. Their prices usually stay pretty firm. Don’t let the setting fool you – some of the stuff they’re selling is worth a mint! The One-Timers These can be usually found set up in the aisles closer to the U-Bahn station. Whether they’re just cleaning out their cellars or are students just trying to raise funds to get through another semester of heavy drinking, the one-timers are great for a bargain. The Charmers from the East These are my personal favourites to haggle with. Not because they call me a “schöne man,” and not because they are the most flexible with their prices, but for me it is these people that add the colour to the Naschmarkt fleamarket. Typically from the Eastern parts of Europe, you’ll find them with their mixed up mélange of sale items spread out on the floor, or piled on tables. They haggle like they’re in an Indian bazaar. I particularly love trying to make the big old grandmother-looking ladies laugh when haggling with them. Just to get a glimpse of their golden teeth. This breed of sellers are pros and will ask you several times before you walk away what your best price is. Give it to them and they’ll probably ask you to add 5 Euros or less to the price you quoted. It’s normally worth it.
A few useful phrases when in the wilderness of the Naschmarkt fleamarket:
Greet the sellers with the greeting ‘Servus.’: It’s not a formal greeting, but a flea market is not a formal setting. It is an endearing greeting which means, “at your service.”
Would you take 35 € For it?: Würden Sie 35 € dafür nehmen?
I need to think about it. I might come back: Darüber denk ich noch nach, vielleicht komm ich zurück.
It’s great, but I just can’t spend more: Es ist super, aber ich hab nicht so viel Geld dabei.
You have such beautiful eyes: Sie haben so schöne Augen…
I said, hey man, take a walk on the wild side: Ich sag, hey man, spazier’ doch mal ins Abenteuer!