My love/hate relationship with boot fairs

Car boot fair

We decided we would sell some things at a boot fair today. For my non-UK readers who might not know what a boot fair is, just imagine a huge garage sale in a field, with lots of people all selling their stuff at the same time; by my reckoning there were about 200 stalls there today – the usual mixture of the general public and a few business traders. The disadvantage compared to garage sales is that you have to pack your stuff up and take it somewhere, so obviously you’ll only be able to sell what will fit in your vehicle. The advantage however is that these are usually large organised events that are well publicised, so you should get a much larger number of customers than you would with a garage sale. We have done several of these before.

What I hate about doing them:

1) They start so early – we had to be at our one at 6am today. Not good on a Sunday.

2) They take over your whole weekend. Saturday is spent sorting, pricing, and loading up the car, followed by an early night. Sunday, they finish around lunchtime, then you spend most of the afternoon trying to figure out what to do with the things you didn’t sell.

3) You have to make a choice between partial dehydration, or being forced to use the disgusting portaloos on site.

What I love about doing them:

1) You get rid of a lot of junk that has been lurking around the house. This is particularly good with the kids’ stuff. My kids never want to get rid of anything, but the lure of cash is a good persuader. They each keep all the money from whatever they sell of theirs – although sometimes they run off and spend their earnings at other stalls almost as quick as they are making it, so it can end up up feeling like all we have done is swap our junk for other people’s.

2) Unlike most other family activities, this is one that ends with us all having a bit more money than we started with.

3) It’s a great opportunity for the kids to learn some business/work skills. Together we choose what to sell and price it. They learn about customer service skills. They handle cash and give change. Most of all they learn about negotiation – at least half of the customers will offer lower than the asking price, and I let the children handle their own negotiations for their things; they used to just agree to any offer, but now they will often come in with a counter price, or simply refuse if they’re not happy with the offer.

4) It’s a really great place for people watching. The motley assortment of people streaming by, clutching their purchases, are very entertaining. A lot of them bring their dogs too, so it’s good for dog watching too.

Overall, as long as the weather holds, it’s a good thing to do. If you’re looking for the best prices for your goods, then you’re probably not going to get them there – people visit boot fairs for dirt cheap bargains. But if you just want to get rid of some stuff, and make a bit of pocket money, then there are worse places you could spend a morning, particularly a lovely sunny morning like we had today.

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15 responses to “My love/hate relationship with boot fairs

  1. Still, it beats being buried in all that stuff that is underfoot. I LIKE ‘garage’ sales only once a year. You’re right, they are a HUGE amount of work. Hope you did well.

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    • Thank you, yes not bad, although I do always question whether it’s really worth it for the amount of time and work involved. I probably wouldn’t bother if it was just me, but the kids always get a kick out of it, so I’m sure we’ll do more! I just never understand where all the stuff comes from in my house, I’m forever bagging up bags of stuff to throw away, or donate to charity, or sell, I’ve no idea where it all comes from.

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  2. I agree, they start way too early. I have fanastic memories of boot sales when I was kid with my brother.

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    • Yes, I’m not sure why they need to start so early – I guess on the plus side they’re done by lunchtime, but having the alarm go off at 5am on a Sunday is a real downside. Hopefully my kids will have great memories of them when they’re older too!

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  3. I think I’d end up buying more stuff then selling! Still at least it’s ‘new’ junk 😉

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    • Yes, I try and avoid browsing the other stalls too much for that reason! I was looking for a couple of specific things yesterday, so I had a little walk round just focusing purely on looking for those things and that seemed to work.

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  4. It’s been years since I attended a car boot sale. My wife (then my girlfriend) and her mother attended one. I turned up later in the morning on my mountain bike. About two minutes after propping it up against the car I had an offer on it. Despite protestations that it wasn’t for sale the offers kept coming in until, eventually, I shoved it in the back of the car and hid it as best I could. Never been to one since, but I do remember it being a fun morning.
    BTW Vanessa, I know you were following my WordPress.com blog, but I have since moved it. If you still want to follow my inane ramblings about random stuff, just click on my profile link. Thanks. 🙂

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  5. Why are they called “Boot Fairs?” We call them flea markets. In fact, we went to our local flea market last Saturday. It was disappointing. We used to live in Tucson, and their outdoor flea market is fantastic. For $11 you can bring your car, truck and trailer full of stuff to sell. We used to go almost every weekend in the summer to sell our wood crafts. And your right about the lessons my daughter learned about business while manning the “booth.”

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    • The full name is ‘Car boot fairs’ because the ‘trunk’ of a car is called the ‘boot’ over here, so you’re selling out of the trunk of your car. They are similar to flea markets except flea markets are a bit more of a permanent fixture with proper stalls set up aren’t they? At boot fairs you don’t get anything except some space; you bring your own tables to display on, or just blankets on the ground. Sometimes a boot fair might just be a one-off event somewhere, but the larger ones do tend to run every week over the spring/summer.

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  6. I’ve never understood why these things always start so early.

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    • It’s probably one of those silly reasons where one of the first ones had to start early because the organiser had to be away by lunchtime, and everyone else has just followed like sheep!

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  7. Christie Adams

    I love car boot fairs, but have noticed they are getting hijacked by traders now adays. You have to accept that most of your stuff goes into some commercial deal at the other side of the sale, but at least you get rid of your junk…or rather you swop it for the other ‘bargains’ you buy.
    The last one I got to, ‘customers’ bless ’em were climbing literally into my car boot!!
    It is a great way to observe people behaviour too, as a writer maybe I should go to another one soon as a seller rather than a customer.

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  8. Yes, definitely plenty of writing material to be found amongst the people wandering around!

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