23 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Shopping at Flea Markets and Antique Shows

Video antiques flea market

When you arrive

These are a few common mistakes to avoid after you’ve made your way through the gates and into the flea market:

Expecting an experience like the ones you’ve seen on TV

If your only flea market experience comes from watching TV shows like Flea Market Flip and Market Warriors, you’re probably in for a rude awakening the first time you attend one in person. “The TV shows that exist are good for the business and good for people who are interested from an exposure and education standpoint, but they’re not based in reality,” Jon says. “There are elements of truth, but, at the end of the day, they’re making television shows, so the average person’s experience looking for things at a market is going to look completely different.”

For example, people watching Flea Market Flip may assume that the type of haggling seen on the show—where a contestant convinces a vendor to accept $15 for an item marked $100—is the norm, when in fact, it’s the rare exception. “And the sensationalism of those exceptions dominate the way that the business is portrayed,” Jon adds.

Going without a goal

One flea market mistake that Neko admits to making herself is going in without a game plan. “If you’re shopping for something specific, know how much you want to spend and what compromises you’ll make in terms of quality and price, then stick to that,” she advises. “Budgeting in advance will help you stay on track.”

Having a singular focus

At the same time, while going in with a mission can be helpful, Jon stresses the importance of approaching a flea market or antique show with an open mind. “If you go in with the preconceived notion that you’re only going to buy a set of chairs or only want a cool vintage T-shirt, it’s so limiting, because the whole point of the show is that you don’t know what you’re going to see and have the possibility of falling in love with something that you probably didn’t know existed,” he says.

Expecting to see everything

Whether you’re on a specific mission, or are in it more for the adventure and the excitement of the unexpected, don’t put pressure on yourself to hit up every stall in the market. It’ll be harder to enjoy yourself if you treat what should be a fun and relaxing day of shopping like an episode of Supermarket Sweep.

Getting the best price

Like other shopping venues, the prices at flea markets and antique shows can vary greatly depending on factors like their geographic location, clientele, and the merchandise they sell. For instance, don’t assume that all flea market prices are great deals, or that, because your local antique store is prohibitively expensive, everything at an antique show is going to be out of your price range as well. Here are some other mistakes to avoid when attempting to score the best deals—including what not to do when haggling.

Being rude

Sometimes people who aren’t comfortable or lack experience haggling may resort to aggressive and offensive negotiating tactics, not unlike those associated with used car dealerships. This is 100% the wrong move to make. “There’s a certain kind of haggling that works at flea markets and antique shows, and it’s not kicking the tires,” Kenneth adds.