Almost every town, large or small, has one or more used furniture antique malls. Once upon a time there were few but as time has passed sellers have realized that there is a difference between a thrift store and a collectible or antique store. Sometimes it is difficult to decide if a piece of furniture is for sale or not. It may be a part of the display. From experience, let me say that everything in an antique mall or collectible shop is for sale, even if it isn’t marked as such.
Most antique malls are actually cubicles that are rented out to various dealers. Each dealer is responsible for his or her displays and for keeping the cubicle filled and clean. As you walk through the antique mall you may notice that some cubicles are filled with old records, others have signs, others have lots of glassware and others have used furniture.
What You Need to Know Before Shopping Used Furniture Antique Malls
There is a “lingo” that goes with the territory. Learn all you can before you shop. Trust me, as one who has shopped and one who has sold in antique malls, it is important to understand the language before shopping. Some unscrupulous sellers will take advantage of the novice. Shop as if you have done it a thousand times — and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
- Everything is for sale — well, almost everything. Occasionally, there will be a single piece that says “NFS” which means “not for sale.” If the operator of the cubicle is present it won’t hurt to make an offer even if it is marked “NFS.” Some may act offended that you did not respect the “NFS” notice, but many will see the opportunity to make an extra dollar. Depending on how sales have been going, the owner may be happy to sell the piece of furniture to you for less than marked.
- Everything can be marked down. It is standard procedure, although little known except among those who work the malls, to knock off at least 10% of the asking price. All you have to do is ask. Additionally, you can often get an even better discount if you ask. Usually the price tags have not only the price but the seller code and other codes on the tag. Often hidden among the coding is the lowest price the seller is willing to take for the item. And, of course, you can always ask the counter person to call the owner of the item to see if he will accept your price.
- The exception to the markdown practice is a notice on the tag that is “DND” which is “do not discount“. Depending on how much you enjoy haggling, you may or may not pay attention to the notice. And, with time and familiarity as you learn to shop antique malls for used furniture you will learn to be pleasant, act stupid occasionally, but ask for a discount anyway. Sometimes the owner of the item may have forgotten that it was marked “DND” and if the item has been around for a while, he may be willing to discount the item — especially a piece of furniture.
- Do not be afraid to move the used furniture around if you cannot get a good look at it. If you are going to invest in a piece of used furniture you have a right to see it from every angle. Do not assume anything. Too many times especially on large tables the seller will put display items to cover blemishes. Move the items to get a good view. If the smaller items on the table are expensive ask an employee to help you. Remember the rule: “You break it. You bought it.”
- Be friendly. Dealers are notoriously softies. Just don’t tell anyone I said so. If the sellers like you and don’t think you are trying to take advantage of them, often they will lower the price on a piece of used furniture just for you. Most antique malls have a sitting area and offer a free cup of coffee just to keep you in the store. Don’t just sit there. Talk to the sellers. Make friends.
- No matter what you are told about a piece of furniture, if it is in the antique mall or collectible shop to the seller it is an antique, to the buyer it is a piece of used furniture. Do not get caught up in the so-called history of a piece of used furniture. You are not starting a museum. You are looking for used furniture that can have a place in your home. Believe me, if the piece of used furniture you look at was so valuable, it would not be in an antique mall.
- Pay cash for any purchases. Make it known that you will be paying cash before you negotiate the price. I have seen people pay to much for a piece of used furniture because the owner of the mall at the check-out was calculating the cost of the credit card fee.
- Do not ask anyone to hold a piece of used furniture for a couple of days so you can think about it. If you don’t come back and buy it, the next time you walk into the store you won’t get a discount even if you stand on your head.
- Once the transaction is complete, there are no returns — even if the piece of furniture falls apart on the sidewalk outside the store in most cases. Do the inspection before you close the deal.
- Be prepared to remove the used furniture you purchase at the time of purchase. Most antique/collectible dealers do not have extra space for storage.
- Try visiting the antique malls near closing time, not to keep the shop owners past closing but to listen to determine where they are going after the doors are locked. Most antique/collectible dealers go to auctions several nights a week. Most of the auctions are open to the public. We will talk about auctions next. But, begin finding out where the local auctions are held and when if you don’t know now.