Antique mall merchandise is owned by different sellers -- and each seller arranges her goods in an individual booth. Though they're a lot like permanent indoor flea markets, shopping antique mall sales is a bit different. Here are some dos and don'ts to know before you go.
- Do ask about payment terms. Many antique malls accept credit and debit cards, and some even take personal checks. Others only accept cash.
- Do ask when vendors typically restock their booths. Some antique malls designate certain days. Others allow the dealers to restock at their convenience. If the new goods arrive on scheduled days, those are the days you should plan to go. If the vendors decide, visit when they're most likely to bring in their weekend finds. Antique mall dealers shop estate and yard sales, so many restock their booths on Sunday, or on the first weekday the antique mall opens. Some malls close on Mondays after the weekend rush.
- Do ask about delivery options if you can't load and haul your purchases on your own. Some antique malls have a list of recommended delivery persons. Some individual dealers are even willing to deliver the goods themselves.
- Do ask for a discount if the tag doesn't say firm, especially if it shares a booth with tags that do. If the seller took the time to mark certain items as non-negotiable, that likely means they're willing to negotiate on the rest.
- Do wear comfortable shoes with low heels. Shopping in antique malls typically means lots of walking. Many are located in older strip malls that once contained supermarkets and department stores. That means the floors are most likely made of concrete, even if they're covered with vinyl tiles.
- Do wait a few weeks if the dealer won't come down on a price -- if you're willing to risk losing the piece. If an item hasn't moved after a certain amount of time, you may find the price has been reduced the next time you visit.
- Do make note of booth numbers with stunning merchandise and/or low prices. Make those your first stops on your next visit.
- Do take a rolling cart and toss in your flea market toolkit. That way you'll have your room measurements, color samples, and floor plans on hand as you shop. Most antique malls don't offer refunds or exchanges.
- Do inspect antique and vintage goods for damage before you buy them. Look for pieces that are sturdy and intact, and make sure they won't cost too much to restore.
- Don't assume you can't negotiate price just because the dealers aren't on hand to haggle. Take small items to the front counter and ask for a discount or make an offer. If the piece is too large, write down of the information on the tag. Some dealers make arrangements with the antique mall staff in advance, and they'll give you a certain percentage off just for asking. In other cases, the person working just calls the dealer with your offer.
- Don't expect a discount if the price tag says "firm." That means the price is what it is and the dealer won't negotiate.
- Don't buy lamps or other electrical items without plugging them in for a test, unless you plan on rewiring them anyway. Antique malls are held indoors; you'll find an outlet somewhere.