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Observations at a Flea Market

Updated on January 24, 2014
A view of the flea market at opening time
A view of the flea market at opening time

When I first saw the ad for the Church Flea Market I figured why not?Of course the process for me began like a squirrel gathering nuts.I had to go through my belongings to see what items I wanted to get rid of but might be worth something to someone else.Then I had to clean and price them.I had items ranging from a ten cent vase to a $130 Tonner doll and everything in between.I put everything into bins and waited for the day to arrive. By the way, what is a flea market? It's not a place to sell fleas; it's a place where people gather to sell items of every description, these people being called vendors. What are the best selling flea market items? That depends on a lot of things; the flea market area, the flea market advertising, and of course the flea market clientele. If you're really serious about selling at a flea market however, there are lots of articles to read to show you how. I was just trying this on a whim, I was going to be part of the flea market; being my first I really didn't know what to expect.

We were allowed to set up in the church hall the night before the big day.My husband graciously agreed to help me cart my belongings down to the hall.I say graciously because he thought the whole thing was a waste of time.When we arrived at the hall we were not the first.Quite a few had already set up and more were to come.There were people with carloads and people with truckloads!As I started setting up I realized I needed more space and finally wound up with four tables.

The day of the flea market arrived and I must admit I was apprehensive.What if my husband was right and it was a waste of time? I have to say right up front, it wasn’t a waste of time.I sold some objects including my paper doll collection which brought more than I originally thought I would make all day.So, I did okay.The best part was sitting at the flea market from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. During that time I was able to chat with old friends and observe the shoppers passing through the hall.These are my observations of the flea market.

Bird (humming bird) swooping in for food like people in a flea market swoop in for bargains!
Bird (humming bird) swooping in for food like people in a flea market swoop in for bargains!

There are several types of people selling at a flea market, there are professional flea marketers, first timers, those selling just for the fun of it, and those trying to rid themselves of years of accumulation while maybe making a few dollars.All of them were represented here and all of them were very nice, friendly people.They were willing to help and offer advice if needed, but the best part is the people who come to the flea market.

First there are the pickers.They are like birds, quickly looking over their quarry and picking through it.They pick just what they want out of the feast set before them.There are also the swoopers.They swoop down on a table with a mission in mind and take just what they intended to get.They swoop from table to table.The pickers and swoopers are similar in that they don’t spend a lot of time going over the goods, they’re on the move and don’t settle into one spot, they keep moving.

The socialites come to the flea market to pick up a thing or two but mostly they come to socialize.They come to talk to other shoppers or to talk to the vendors.They are often lonely people who need companionship and know this is a good place to find it as well as a nice place to spend a few hours.The group shoppers, as the name suggests, come in groups, usually three or more.They sift through and check with each other on the value or necessity of an item.They may even suggest things to each other.Always on the look-out for the best buy or the item they think someone in the group needs. They call to each other from across the hall or stay together in a group as they search through all of the tables.

Of course it goes without saying any sale of second hand items brings out the antique dealers.They usually show up early (along with other early birds) or right after the doors open.They know what they are looking for and know what has value and what does not.They never buy anything at face value even if it is a reasonable price.They’re shopping with an eye to sell and want to make as much profit as they can, after all this is their business.They don’t have time to waste as they may have to check three or more places in a day in hopes of finding that one item that will bring in the gold.

Then there are the Pavlovs.(Pavlov was a psychologist whose work involved research in temperament, conditioning and involuntary reflex actions.)The shopper Pavlovs come with one thing in mind.They have been conditioned to buy only the item they are looking for and shop with utter determination and no regard for other items that get in their way.If they came for a gun they will only buy a gun.If they came for a coffee pot they will only buy a coffee pot.Their item is their reward.

Not to be left out are the doubting Thomases.They doubt that anything at this flea market is worth buying.They have to prove it to themselves by looking at everything, picking it up, turning it over then putting it back and walking away.They doubt they’ll ever find anything good at a flea market but they shop at all of them anyway.They doubt the items they buy are a good buy but buy them anyway.

The smooth operators are the ones who really don’t belong at a flea market, at least that’s the impression they’d like to give.They want everyone to think they are just there for the laughs.They check out items and if they happen to find something they like they make it look like it’s just a hoot and what they heck they’ll buy it just for that.The flea market shoppers that shop flea markets to find things they need at reasonable prices are the best of the bunch.They are not pretending to be something they are not, they are not looking down their noses and anyone, and they honestly want to shop.They aren’t afraid to ask you if you will take less money for an item they like.Sometimes they’ll take it anyway, sometimes they won’t.It depends on how badly they want or need the item.They will offer advice too.If they think an item is highly under or over-priced they’ll tell you. They’re not here to make fun, they want to shop and don’t mind being social along the way.

Now I know I haven’t covered every type of flea market shopper.There are as many types of flea market shoppers as there are flea markets but I think this little missive gives you an idea of what it’s like and what I observed today at the flea market.

If you enjoyed this hub please vote and leave a comment. Feel free to share it with your friends.

Copyright Tillsontitan


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Glad I missed that flea market! Flea markets can be fun but I didn't realize they could be dangerous too!!!!

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 6 years ago

      A good write. We occasionally will go to fleas markets, my wife prefers to be a seller rather than a buyer but we have found some great deals at flea markets. Not too long ago we had a murder in the flea market near our hometown. Apparently two men who each sold tools had an ongoing feud which led to threats and ultimately the shooting of one man who died after having a handgun emptied into his body. The greed factor and the"almighty dollar" can turn some people into animals.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      I'm the type who shouldn't go to a flea market 'cause I'll wind up buying something I don't need for sure. Thanks for the vote and share.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I love flea markets and think you've captured their denizens quite well. Maybe Pavlov applies to me when I'm hunting for a specific collectible, otherwise I just enjoy browsing. Which type are you? Voting this Up and Interesting. Thanks for SHARING.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the nice compliment. Glad you enjoyed my sense of humor.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      I very much enjoyed your descriptions of the various flea market buyers. You are quite witty and descriptive. Well done! This is very interesting!