Well here I am… it’s 9am on a Saturday morning and I’ve been here for 3 hours already at the local car boot sale……hungry, freezing cold and dying for the loo (and can’t leave my table as all will be instantly nicked!).
The moment I arrive and open my boot, a pack of bargain vultures descends mercilessly and starts pawing through the best of the goods on my parcel shelf; offering me large amounts of pennies for the wall-clock, the steam train dvd and a designer bag of makeup… “this is where it starts”, I think privately.
Within moments of laying out a few items on the table, I have been offered 10p for a £3 pound item by a hardened haggler (age 7) and a stranger in a top hat offering 50p for a pack of jam tarts (which is, in fact, my breakfast!!) – “Lay off mate, it’s the only comfort I’m going to get from the depths of my car boot today”, I muse to myself. By around 8 o’clock I have made £13, mostly made up of 50p and £1 items; I nearly made a £3 sale of a baby hipster seat, until the big burly builder about to buy it realised it wasn’t, in fact, a bum bag and it wouldn’t hold any of his beach money for the big summer trip to Ibiza! Still fascinated by the contraption, he stood playing around with it a bit, then wandered off whilst muttering about having to Google these kinds of things when he got back home!
Ahh, so now it’s just gone 9am and I’m already amazed by the sorts of unexpected customers I’m seeing out at this time on a Saturday morning, scouring the hundreds of stalls for a designer bargain they can steal for a matter of pennies. There’s the lady business woman who looks very out of place and as though she should really be back at home in a bedroom decorated with fresh lilies, sleeping off last night’s dinner party. Then there are the groups of teenage surfer dudes who surely must have been up til 4 o’clock this morning listening to Linkin Park and giggling on the bong!! They actually offer a pleasant interlude on the aesthetics front this morning; until one of them breaks wind loudly and annihilates any semblance of image (along with anything else left in his wake).
Next up I have the ‘eternal timewaster’. “ Oh here we go” I think to myself….. a silver haired Arthur Daly type, rooting through the best of my sale items and asking endless questions (no doubt looking for something he can sell on at his own stall on the other side of the car park) and wanting to pick up very cheap bargains. Haggling begins, followed by more questions.. “ do you think the catch on this watch could be broken? Maybe you could sell it to me for 30p?” …. then eventually wanders off empty-handed when he can’t see any give in my cast iron resolve.
Even worse though, I have been totally ‘done like a kipper’ by a clearly seasoned con artist. She takes the form of a very well presented lady in her early sixties perhaps; she takes a very active interest in all the handmade jewellery on sale and systematically picks up most pieces and politely pays compliments and asks relevant questions. She finally settles on a dress set on sale for £3.50 (bargain, I think as it is well made and beautiful). Lady ‘Very Gaga’ – as I’ve now mentally labelled her – incongruously offers me £2.50! But, as she has it in her hands and I want to make fast money, I agree. The deal is done, the jewellery is bagged up, she gives me the money and walks off briskly…. I look at the change in my hand …. £1.10!! The crafty madam has given me £1.10 and it was deliberate!!!! All in the great car boot sale learning curve, I see!
People-watching is fascinating at car boot sales. It’s the one legitimate arena for sitting and watching groups of people intermingling where they wouldn’t necessarily mix otherwise. All ages, races, classes, genders and gender preferences, accents, and social backgrounds imaginable are rubbing shoulders and haggling over the same items. I find myself watching the crowds and pondering over the reasons for people actually getting up at stupid o’clock just to wander around a car park full of other people’s junk (which ostensibly, is the premise of the boot sale).
I watch as a Lithuanian family trundle around with wheely suitcases, packing them with 10p clothes they want to send back to their families at ‘home’; I see older ladies in groups of two or three looking for cheap early Christmas presents to snap up (one bought a tea pot for her absent friend and another bought a beach ball for her grandson); there are other traders, looking for something exciting to sell on their stall – either later that day or – if decent, they’ll at least wait until tomorrow. Then there’s the less affluent young family with the small child or children who are looking for cheap toys to keep the atmosphere happy for a while. I feel like the wicked old witch as several tweenies are pulled past wailing “dad, dad! There’s Buzz Lightyear on that lady’s table”, and with a very well rehearsed “no” from dad, the kid is dragged off screaming. I wonder what is going through one young mum’s head as she stops at my stall, plays with a Thomas The Tank set, makes a huge fuss of it to her little boy (lots of “ohh look Dwayne… look at this”), asks me how much…. says it’s a good price and then TOTALLY confuses the boy by changing her mind and walking off . The look of confused dismay on the child’s face is heart-wrenching.
I can see the other traders and sellers are slow to sell this morning. I’m doing quite well with my low priced items and the tension is mounting between the tables as the adjacent cars are staring at my items disappearing one by one. The competition is palpable as they are visibly willing me not to sell that next item and take business away from them. My smug thunder is temporarily stolen by a few teenage girls rifling through the designer clothes on my mini table and leaving them in a ball looking like a bad day in Primark. This is shortly followed by a Borat clone insisting my Dior sunglasses are knock offs and offers me a quid for them (“… you’re ‘avin a larf mate”!!!).
It has now reached 11:45, I have been here nearly 6 hours and have made £60. Roughly £10 an hour… not a bad going rate for sitting on my butt really…. business is suddenly cut short in dramatic fashion as the light rain drops turn to heavy thundery ones and the fluffy grey sky turns pitch black. Everyone scatters – either to the neighbouring sports complex or back into their cars; dashing out periodically to pack their tables away and save their goods for another day’s business…. And another morning of people watching; far more satisfying.
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