How to get the most out of flea markets

Expert shoppers offer tips and tricks.

1. Devise a plan of attack
Many markets, including the Brooklyn Flea and the GreenFlea, post maps of their spaces online; by consulting these before setting out, you can get an idea of what you want to focus on and how to find it quickly—sans tempting distractions. You should also budget your money beforehand (don’t forget food!). “This strategy will make it much easier to decide whether or not to purchase that $300 Elvis lamp or those $25 previously loved Prada loafers,” says Karen E. Seiger, author of Markets of New York City, a guide to the city’s various bazaars.

2. Know your seller
“They expect people to haggle,” says Eric Demby, founder of the Brooklyn Flea. “But the most important thing is to negotiate in a respectful way.” In other words, don’t tell the peddler how crappy an item looks or offer half of an item’s sticker price—usually, it’s priced that high for a reason. “These vendors are making their living selling these items,” Seiger explains. “They have to buy or make them, plus pay for their space at the market.”

3. Play nice
If you’re trying to get a deal, start by talking about how much you love the item in question. “[Sellers] really like when you appreciate an item,” Demby explains. Then make your move: Seiger suggests asking, “Can you do any better on the price?,” and seeing where it goes from there. “You can often get a better price if you buy two items or more from the same vendor,” she notes. If you can’t come to an agreement, thank them for their time, and leave.

4. Do your homework
Your chances of getting ripped off at a flea are low. “Markets are a community of vendors who depend on repeat customers,” says Seiger. “It’s really not in anyone’s best interest to be dishonest.” That doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, though. Research the type of items you’re interested in before you shop, as well as the people who sell them. “If it is a high-priced item, such as a vintage watch or antique Tiffany silver, make sure you buy from a reputable, established vendor,” Seiger says. Check out their website, or look for reviews on Yelp. “If something seems suspect, be safe and assume it probably is,” says Seiger.

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It’s flea market season in NYC—go hunting for vintage and designer treasures so good, you won’t miss the air-conditioning.