How to Negotiate Like a Pro a Vintage Dealer



Authored By: Cinthia Singleton
Photo Credit: Dasha & Mari

Vintage.  You want the energy and uniqueness that comes with it. Tons of great stuff out there, from clothing to home decor.  Flea markets.  eBay.  Etsy.  Rubylane. Lots of options.

And let’s face it, the quest for the perfect vintage dress, screen print or hand mirror is especially FUN for those who love the hunt.  But more and more bargain hunters are hitting the vintage venues for DEALS.  Never hurts to ask, right?  Certainly not.  Just remember that it’s all in HOW you do.  

Here are some tips to help you enter the negotiating process confidently and as respectively as possible:

1) There is no one universal shop policy.  They - be it a flea market vendor or Etsy seller - vary from shop to shop; they are crafted based upon personal parameters.

2) Many dealers DO factor in a % of wiggle room amount for price bargaining.

3) Don’t treat negotiating a deal as if it’s haggling but rather a friendly discussion.

4) The asking price is a springboard point of discussion.  Sure, talks could go into the NO zone or you don’t hear the sweet spot number you’d like but start with the asking price and work from there not 70% of it.

I love this [ brooch, hat, table, rug, box of comics ]  and was wondering if this is your final price?

The classic “Is this your best price?” or “Can you do better on the pricer?” works too but remember, it’s a dance and with every dance, someone’s got to lead… but elegantly.

4) Offer a counter price (remember the 10% rule) rather than an open-ended request for a discount.  Remember.:  friendly discussion.   An open-ended request for a discount can come off as a demand.  
5) The discount vendors can give depends on many factors.  Maybe they have money in restoring or cleaning that dress.  Perhaps the estate jewelry is consigned and must be sold at a contractual price set by its owner and the shop.  Whatever the reason, don’t badger, cajole, taunt or berate.  Respect the space, continue to look around.  Often this gives the vendor a little time to reconsider the offer or counter with an alternative course of action such as, for example, layaway. 

6) If you hear, “I’m sorry but our prices are firm,” it’s bad form to press hard.  It is, though, appropriate to extend calling card and say, “Well, if you [ change your mind, have a sale, carry one that is priced in my price range, etc ], please contact me.”  This technique has worked more times than you know; again, as in 5), the vendor has time to re-consider, review month-end sales figures or discuss the offer with a consignor.  You just never know.

7) There are sometimes better times to ask for a discount.  Say, if you’re at the flea market, approach with an offer at the end of the day when they’re packing up.  One less thing to pack could possibly become yours to tote away. ;  )

But remember, the average vintage seller IS the owner of a small business.  They put a lot of time into their shop and inventory and profit margins are generally small.  A little, no a LOT, of kindness goes a long way.  Compliment their store windows, the time put into displays.  If they’re online, a little pat on the back for great photography is appreciated.  Don’t just lunge with a request for a slamming deal.  These are people who put their heart and soul into their work and they take it very personally.  That said…

1) Don’t ask for a better price on items $20 and less.
2) Don’t clamor for the deal so much you insult a piece in the process.  It’s vintage and as such there might have a ding or spot.  Picking it apart to get a better prices comes off as rude and puts a dealer on the defensive.  Just ask if you can get a better price or make an offer.
3) The more, the merrier.  The more you purchase, perhaps the more a dealer will be willing to work with you.  Turnover speaks volumes. 
4) Cash talks; no fees = sweet fast deals.
5) Don’t try to price match.  This is a small operation. It is NOT Best Buy.
6) Don’t bring up the other vintage shop’s prices.  Bad form. Best you shop there instead.
7) So you paid $___ the hippie boots in 1969 and feel they should be nearer that price.  The shop’s bills are being paid with 2016 currency.

Just remember that it’s all in HOW you ask and when shopping for vintage, you are, unlike in the department or box stores, getting a shopping adventure that includes a real person who sourced with love.  For those who love the journey, shopping vintage is YOUR kind of adventure.
Be polite, always be nice.  Make sugar your favorite spice. (from the Looney Tunes Show)
The Empress Festival

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