Bargaining the Brimfield Way
Behind The Scenes at Brimfield, The Largest Outdoor Antiques and Collectibles Market in the United States
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* Negotiate, don't irritate. Unless you are an expert in a particular area and know an item's value, don't insult a dealer with too low an offer. Simply ask for the dealer's lowest price or make your own offer. Come back with a counteroffer at your own risk!
* Don't quibble over an item that's already inexpensive.
* If you see something you can't live without, buy it. Don't expect to find it later at a better price.
* If something catches your eye at a crowded booth, grab it and hold tight. Then bargain.
* Don't spend too much time bargaining at one booth or you'll miss out on what's ahead.
* If you buy at the end of the show when the dealers are loading their trucks, you won't get first dibs on goods, but you should be able to swing a deal.
* Bring cash, cash and more cash.
* Wear comfortable shoes and carry a backpack with another bag inside of it and a flashlight. Leave your hands free for foraging.
* Plan on rain and bring proper gear (a hat is better than having to lug an umbrella).
* Arrive before sunrise, Tuesday through Friday, when the pros are working the lots; Saturday is for lookers. The earlier you go in the week, the better, since some dealers sell at a few markets.
* Plan where you'll run when they open the gates. (Hint: make a beeline for the back of the field and work your way up.)
* Set a time and place to meet your companions in case you get lost or tired. Brimfield has no central meeting place or paging system, and the booths tend to blur together after a few hours.
* Write down booth numbers you plan to return to, especially if you've put money down on an item.
* Hire a local entrepreneur to cart your things to your car; long-distance shipping is easy to arrange.
* Traffic can be a nightmare; get on Route 20 from the town of Palmer rather than from Sturbridge; bring a map and locate alternate routes (the Brimfield Antiques Guide publishes a traffic escape map).
* Carry business cards to give to dealers so that they can stash items away for you for the next show or call you if something you collect turns up.
Not every antiques buff or collector will enjoy Brimfield. Some collectors are better off paying more in a city but keeping their shoes clean. But for those who thrive on the thrill of the hunt, and the adrenaline of rush after rush, Brimfield can't be beat.
For more information, call the Brimfield Information Line at (413) 245-7479 or the Quaboag Chamber of Commerce at (413) 283-2418.
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