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9 Tips for Shopping at a French Flea Market

9 Tips for Shopping at a French Flea Market

Outdoor flea market in France
Written by Alexandre Gourevitch
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Hunting for the perfect piece and bartering down the price is a sharpened skill for many flea market fans. When traveling abroad, these same skills may need a bit of tweaking, especially in the flea markets of Paris. Before you jet-set to the land of love, take note of these nine tips to ensure you get the best deal on your one-of-a-kind treasures.

Outdoor French flea market
Open air markets are perfect for scenic strolls on a sunny day

French flea market dealers are now required by law to label and price all their goods. That is a good starting point on price negotiation. Also, the Internet has changed the market a lot; you can’t fake a price because people can check easily. As a result, in most cases at least, the price being shown is close to being “fair.” That said, after negotiating you can hope for up to a 20 percent discount. Here are a few more tips:

Wherever you shop in France, it helps to brush up on your french vocabulary. Memorize a few friendly greetings, and familiarize yourself numbers.
  1. Talk a lot first, make friends with the dealer and be nice.
  2. Know that every object must be negotiated. Ask for a reduction on the official price. Right before shaking hands, ask for an extra discount for paying in cash.
  3. When you make your last offer, everything matters. Not just the price, but also the way you say it—sound firm and confident. As for body language, if you keep the object in your arms it shows that you’re already too attached to it. If you put the artifact down and start taking a step out the door, it will put pressure on the dealer.
  4. Think about your market’s schedule. For example, it’s best to buy on Monday afternoon because that evening the Flea Market closes for four days and the dealer is more likely to want to close that sale.
  5. Buy not only one but two objects at a time, and ask for a bigger discount.
  6. If you know about the object, let it show. If the dealer initially puts a high price, but thinks that you know its real/fair price, he will be more likely to bring his price down. Do not act like you are an art dealer; being an art lover is enough.
  7. Ask what restoration work has been done and ask to have it described in writing.
  8. Never put the word of the merchant in doubt.
  9. Most important, make friends. Deep down dealers are passionate collectors, who are sorry to have to part with their objects. Make the merchant feel good that you are the one taking the object home, and that his or her object will be in good hands.
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