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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Opinion—How to bargain-hunt

entrance+to+flea+market
Adan Mulvaney/NW

I think it was the way that I was raised that made me gain an appreciation for secondhand items and thrift stores. When I was a young child, my family opened a flea market in lower Wisconsin. 

Every week, there were new wares being sold, each more interesting than the last. People sold statues, trinkets, art, used tools, jewelry and almost anything that you could imagine.

While all that bargaining was happening around me, I would run here and there doing errands for my family, all the while surrounded by the sounds of haggling.

I would watch people from all different walks of life come through the gates of the market. As I saw people meander out, flourishing their new purchases, I began to see the process of how the sales went down.

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It was there, at my family’s flea market, that I learned the art of the perfect haggle. Haggling can be defined as debating or bargaining over the price of an item. While haggling, the seller wants to make as much money as they can off their precious item, and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible.

Since it’s a flea market, almost everything is second hand anyways, and second hand items are the easiest to haggle down to a better buying price. I’ve found that people who have made the item that they’re selling—such as artists, jewelers, custom leather engravers—will rarely back down on their prices. In some cases, it may be an insult to attempt to haggle these people down to a lower price. These artisans take pride in the objects they’ve created, and they have decided the value of their work. If it’s someone who is simply trying to clear out their garage, you may have much better luck on your hunt for a bargain.

The first step in making a bargain is knowing how much you already want to pay for the item. If you don’t know how much you’re willing to pay, then at least have a ballpark in mind.

The next step is to be nice and respectful as you’re asking the seller to lower their price. Don’t insult them with a price so low that you’ll shut down the negotiations before they even begin. However, the bonus of shopping at a flea market is that it’s rare to find an item you can’t knock a buck or two off of if you’re polite enough.

It’s also very important to be willing to hear ‘no’ in a haggling situation. Not everyone is willing to budge on the price of their wares, and that’s okay. You lost nothing by trying to get a better bargain.

One of the more important life lessons that I’ve learned from being in a flea market is that the art of a true bargain is based on perception. The value of an item is what we decide it is, and most stuff is just junk unless it means something to us.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This piece is a guest column, written by a Northern Michigan University student, faculty member, or community member. It expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the North Wind. The North Wind reserves the right to avoid publishing columns that do not meet the North Wind’s publication standards. To submit a guest column contact the opinion editor at [email protected] with the subject North Wind Guest Column.

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