It’s become a weekly ritual, ‘car booting’ with my friends and relatives. We all collect stuff, occasionally think we need things though often enough require absolutely nothing – but it’s a good way of getting us out and about in the fresh air early on Sunday mornings.
For anyone who doesn’t know, here in Britain, up and down the country at specified days and times, car boot sales are run and heavily populated by people who happily carry off lamp standards, highchairs, large pictures, fishing equipment and carrier bags full of other people’s stuff.
One man’s tat is another man’s treasure
Stall-holders, usually ordinary members of the public who are having a clear-out and want to make some money, sell their items; they book a stall, pay the organisers and turn up at stupid o’clock to display their wares, often on a wonky pasting table, in boxes or on a mat out in front of the backs of their cars.
The public arrive, flock to the stalls in their masses, and often enough start grumbling that Fred on his stall wants a tenner for a mucky but perfectly functional strimmer, and try to batter him down to a fiver!
Folk like bargains, I know we do. There’s plenty of times when I’m strapped for cash and try to haggle – but unlike some people I’ve come across, if I think something I want is decent value, or even cheap at the price, I’m happy to pay up, providing of course I can afford.
Some stallholders don’t know what to charge. Ok, that fancy handbag might have a designer name attached, but not everyone who frequents a car boot sale will have £30 to hand over just like that. I’ve watched as stallholders refuse to budge even the tiniest bit. If their items are worth that much, they should stick them on ebay and save themselves the hassle of unpacking, not selling, packing them up again and taking them home.
Of course, the old Souk-style bartering system works both ways. On plenty of occasions I have witnessed folk trying to offer a ridiculously low price for something, or ask how much a china teapot is, then bang it down again and stomp off when they find the owner would like £1 for it! Some people are greedy and want ‘owt for nowt’* as we say round here.
Here’s some true recent examples of car boot exchanges
- GG: ( very rich local property owner well versed in ‘owt for nowt’ mentality) How much is this? (picking up a commemorative teaspoon).
Lass on stall: Ooh, er, just give us 50p.
GG: I’ll give you 10p.
Lass: (flummoxed) Oh, ok.
Transaction made. I’m sorry I didn’t go swooping in and say ‘Here’s 50p, it’s only 50p. I’ll have it’ and return the spoon to her later. But I didn’t,
2. Lady: What are you wanting for this? (picking up a Matchbox toy car, circa 1970’s, and carrying it the length of the stall)
Chap on stall: 50p Love (and well worth it)
Lady: (Going into purse) My sister likes cars. I’m getting it for her. (Hands over 20p).
Chap: No, I said 50, Love, you’ve just given me 20.
The lady retrieves her 20p and flings the car back into the basket. As she swishes off, she asks my friend for the time, and forgets to say thank-you!
3. Me: How much do you want for this belt, please? (Plucking said item from a box of otherwise tatty old crap)
Lady on stall: A pound.
Me: (Noticing although belt fits my specific belt requirements, it is quite a bit scuffed and scabby round the edges.) 50p?
Lady: I’ve never worn it.
Me: Well look, it is quite a bit scuffed and scabby round the edges.
Lady: It’s been in that box a long time.
To me it was only worth 50p, and that’s what I got it for.
4. At another stall, I was rummaging in a box of tat which had ‘everything 20p’ on, and noticed what I thought was a note book with a nice cover. Now I always like nice writing books, and they can be dear brand new. So I whipped it out and realised it was a last year’s diary.
Man on stall: It may be last year’s, but it’s unwritten in.
Me: Ah, I just wanted a plain old writing book.
Man: Well it’s not been used. You can use it. (I put it back, he gets huffy.) Well surely for 20p? What more do you want!
The price has nothing to do with it. I’m not buying something for the sake of it, just because it’s 20p. My auntie once bought a teddy because its seller said ‘Aww, he wants to go home with you.’
One time I had someone try and justify the price of a jug by telling me it was vintage. Well I can see it’s 1930’s, I thought to myself, but just by being ‘vintage’ should not command such a ridiculous figure. It was nice, but commonplace and not valuable.
Someone else tried a similar thing, telling me that a book was very old. I’m sorry but I don’t class a 1990’s reprint as being ‘very old’, and certainly not what I’m after. I’m not so green as cabbage-looking!
Now then, where’s the burger van? I need a coffee and a sit down before I step back in this heaving crowd and accidentally squish a dog’s paw, or a pushchair rams into my heels…
*Owt for nowt is a Yorkshire-ism describing a tight-fisted person who tries to get everything for unrealistic knock-down prices, or even for free. Translates as Anything for Nothing.