From the Editor: Haggling shouldn’t end badly

Where has our summer gone? Too quickly our sand beaches have given way to the first glimpses of red leaves.

I certainly hope you enjoyed your summer. Here in Wisconsin where Antique Trader is produced our summers seem relatively short due to our three distinct seasons and bitter winters. The summer was packed with all the best the outdoor show and auction season has to offer.

It is always a good day when you can spend it walking and chatting with vendors and fellow collectors.

However, sometimes things overheard in a vendor’s booth don’t always put you in a buying mood. One instance in particular happened early in the summer and I have thought about it often on the trail.

A young couple was standing in a lovely flea market booth filled with a pleasing mix of both expensive and common glassware and porcelain. The lady spied a pair of candlesticks and picked one up. She motioned for her partner to move closer and check them out. The way they were chatting about the sticks and how they were looking at the details gave away the fact that they were not dealers. The way they were dressed indicated they had probably stopped by the flea after attending a Sunday service.

“What is your best price on these?” the young lady said holding the sticks up.
The vendor responded simply: “$40.”

“Would you take $35?” was the young lady’s response.

The vendor looked her in the eye and said loudly, “How do you expect me to make my rent if all you customers keep asking for more and more discounts? This business is hard enough.”

More than one pair of eyebrows was raised. Perhaps it was a rare bit of weakness on the vendor’s part, however the response was not what I’d expect from any business owner addressing a counter offer. Regrettably, the response is not rare.

More and more as I visit shops and shows, the rate of dealers and sellers complaining to customers about the current economic climate is reaching a fevered pitch. It’s as though shop owners feel obligated to inform their customers that they are no longer making any money at buying and selling antiques.

As we head into the fall and winter indoor show season, all buyers and sellers should understand the economic hardship is affecting both sides of a transaction. Buyers as well as sellers are feeling the pinch.

The flea market vendor insulted by the young lady’s counter offer could have politely responded:  “Sorry, I’m going to try to get $40.” That would have sufficed.

We need every new collector or casual buyer we can get. Turning them off when they are young may eliminate a lifelong buyer from the marketplace.
And what fun would our summers be without flea markets?

— Posted by Eric Bradley

Feel free to send your comments to or to Letters to the Editor, c/o Antique Trader, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54945.