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Car Boot Bargains – hustle or hope?

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Let’s go carbooting naked in the rain…

We weren’t actually naked but we were very much in the rain, and this nineties one hit wonder was this morning’s theme tune. Ramona and I had a couple of hours to kill so excitedly sought out the legendary Rotherhithe Car Boot sale. Alas,  I was astonished to find that South Londoners are seriously lightweight carbooters – instead of 200 stalls there were FIVE!!!!! But with a similar number of punters. You can imagine the carnage. It was like opening five tiny Primarks during lunch break at a girls school with Justin Beiber cutting the ribbons wearing nothing but Krispy Kremes.

Us punters were desperate -shivers, I didn’t catch two buses here to go home empty handed- and many of the sellers were milking it. Fortunately I managed to nab three large Ikea frames for £7 (and you know I always snap up large frames for teatowel repurposing) and two of them even made it home unbroken! And I also found these glorious little tiles, three for 50p. They are hand screen printed from Jersey Potteries. What a riot of Seventies dazzle.

I am stoked I didn’t fall into the trap of buying stuff at a clear mark up and as I traipsed home I got thinking about the dynamics of carbooting. Obviously the best price for something is one which you are both happy with. But what can you do to not be taken for a complete chump? The last time I went to Rotherhithe I went with a bunch of people and one couple fell in love with a tea set, but it didn’t seem worth the £10 the seller wanted. So they got one of our other friends to inquire a little bit later and the seller asked for half that. The friend bought it (he fell in love with it too) (haha, just kidding, he bought it for them, obvs) so they got their tea set without anyone getting hustled too badly.

I tend to point nonchalently at something as I ask the price, if it is more than I’m happy to pay I ask them to knock a third off – usually with a cheeky remark (a friend read a book once which told her that if you make someone laugh as you bargain with them then they will more likely meet you.) I don’t really haggle beyond that, just throw my price at them and hope for the best!

I also try to make a point of greeting the sellers and having a nice chat with them, not only does it make the haggling a little less awkward, I also remember what it is like sitting behind your junk while people treat you like a vending machine. The banter is one of the coolest things about a car boot. Although, got to admit, I do sometimes let this slip when faced with boxes of manky treaures and a sign saying EVERYTHING 50P- it is easy to forget oneself when one is diving through piles of junk hyperventilating.

Do you enjoy a good haggle? Have any tips for getting the best bargains at boot sales? Feel like sharing all your secret squirrel bargain hunter tips and tricks here eh?

And don’t forget to check out all the other magical Magpies over at Liz’s Magpie Monday.

13 responses »

  1. Very funny post! What are you planning to use the tiles for?

  2. This (almost) nineties (almost) hit is more appropriate i think

  3. Hilarious!!

    I hate haggling. The Old Man gets so infuriated with me when I almost always pay full price for stuff.

  4. I am in love with those tiles, they would make excellent coasters!

    • They are quite large. Although have you SEEN the SIZE of some of these mugs about lately? A colleague at work has one the size of a bucket – maybe I could take one in for him. He may think I am taking the mick a bit though!

  5. I rarely pay the asking price for anything unless of course I recognise it as a priceless faberge egg or such like and its being offered for a song. Then I snap it up in my most cool, calm not fumbling with my purse kind of way.

    Great post and you are so right, the banter is half the fun especially at 6.30am in the pitch black on a wintery sunday morning xxx

  6. the next time i come to your lovely country i’m going to have to check out this carboot sale. this does not happen in Canada. i wonder if i could start something like this? the closest thing we have is garage sales or yard sales (in the USA they call them tag sales) it is at these kinds of sales that folks haggle, with similar “rules” to what you suggested above. i hate haggling but probably because i don’t do it enough. love your blog, love your writing, love your ideas!

  7. kindlinglily

    oh I just found your blog this morning (where have you been all my life?) and I’m reading backwards, such joy! Anyway I thought I would share my best recent haggle. I really wanted one of those big black cast iron kettles and I was at the Gypsy horse fair and we had haggled a price and then as I was counting out the coins (always carry coins not notes) I said ” I have this much in my hand” and he took that which was less than the price we agreed. Post haggling haggle success!

    Thanks for sharing all your ideas, it is inspiring me to keep hoarding and haggling and creating! Lily x


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