That’s The Way You Do it


Dire Straits were right – sometimes it is money for nothing. But you’ve gotta be careful to organise that nothing to your advantage.

Today I cleared my table at the camera market. Here’s how I did it…and how you can do it too. Whenever you are a seller you can organise the nothing.

a. Have a tablecloth. I don’t care if you are selling landmines or leprosy – it will sell better if it is well presented. Use a clean tablecloth, neatly laid out, and choose a bright colour.


b. Pick a busy section of the market. No sense hiding your light under a bushel or behind a door. The busy area may be crowded but it is crowded with buyers…


c. Have a price list out the front and readily visible. Even if you intend to deviate from it, people still need to have something to tell them that you and they are in the same ball park.

Write it big – write it legibly. Use Gill Sans script as it is an unconscious drawcard for most English readers.


d. As you sell an item, neatly mark it off the list and write “sold” near it. This acts as a subliminal signal to the strollers that things are selling and they had better get in to get their chop.


e. Do not be distracted by sales going on about you. If others are generating buying enthusiasm, you may benefit from it.


f. Make friends with friendly people. You may need to go to the loo and you’ll need someone to mind the stall. Take the cash bag with you to the loo, though…


g. Don’t close the stall while there is still money circulating. You never can tell when someone will arrive late or swoop on the goods.


h. Don’t get bogged down in arguments with people. If they want to argue, agree with them. It is the surest way to take the wind out of their sails. If they try to veer an argument into a discount, be polite but firm.

i. Don’t sell a $ 2 item at the start of the morning to someone who wants to break a $ 100 bill – you’ll have no change for genuine buyers.

j. Don’t agree to withhold goods from sale on a vague promise. Take a 50% deposit and keep it if the sale is not completed. You are not a financial institution.

k. Shower, shave, comb your hair. Wear deodorant. Wear neat and neutral clothing. Sometimes people who want your goods are shy and would be deterred from dealing with you if you looked like a Corsican bandit.

l. Recognise that there are some goods that will sell readily, some slowly, and some not at all. You’ll never have trouble shifting genuine Leica M3 cameras for $ 500…You will have a fair wait before you shift a Bilora for $ 5. You will never sell 10-year-old software to anyone outside an asylum.

With this in mind, look at what you have to sell and be realistic about it. If no-one will buy it, do not present it. You look and feel a fool with a table of unsold unsalables and if you are seen to be trying it on season after season, people will disregard you even when you do have good bargains.

m. Some peoples – whether the term ” peoples ” means races, nationalities, or classes – are fair dealers and some are not. The difficult ones have gained the reputation for being ” hard bargainers “, ” keen “, or ” good businesspeople “. These terms could as easily be ” mean bastards “, shifty “, and ” grasping swine “.  The spirit of Benvenuto Cellini is alive and well because every market day brings out a repeat crop of chiselers.

You must not be dismayed. The mean people live with other mean people and are in constant stew of anxiety over money. If you find them unpleasant for 3 minutes over a bargain table, imagine what it must be like to be them for 24 hours a day. Remember that whatever demands are made upon you, either with good will or bad, that ” No. ” is a perfectly legal response. Quiet, firm, polite…and you need make no excuse for it. If you set your price, you are entirely within your rights to demand it.

You need not refund money if someone changes their mind or finds another article at a lower price. A camera market is not an international bourse with fixed trading rules.

n. Don’t stand all day in one spot. Get a cup of tea and a biscuit. Sit down. Pee when you need to.

o. Don’t give in to the temptation to go and buy items from other people for your own stall. Money that comes to you comes for a purpose.

p. By the same token, if you sell something to another dealer at your price …and they go and mark it up on their stall…it is no longer any of your business.

q. If other dealers batten upon you at the start of the trading day and try to buy goods at a discount from your list, be cheerful and refuse to sell at such a price so early in the morning. You know there will be better prospects later on and so do they. If they try it at closing time you can decide whether to accept or not, but you will have seen the general sentiment in the crowd by then.

r. Offers will be made. That’s what a market is for. Stand firm if you wish, bend to a small discount if it seems advisable, but you need do nothing with a desultory offer other than smile sweetly and shake your head. ” What’ll you take for it ? ” is a foolish buyer’s question and only a foolish seller will bargain themselves down upon hearing it. You can listen to their offer – good or bad , but they must state it. You’d be surprised the number of times that people will offer more than your lowest price…just give them a chance to do it.

s. Any offer to sell that is accompanied by a hard-luck tale or sob story is extremely suspect. So is any offer to buy that includes these elements. Beware the person who wants the goods but will pay later, because they won’t. Also beware the person who tries to secure the goods at no cost to themselves, based upon some story – they are known as scam artists, and you can get all the art you need in the public picture gallery…






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