Friday, April 16, 2010

The Car-boot Sale!

Summer is around the corner, and the most visible indicator of summer having arrived is the car-boot sale. It is exactly what it says - selling out of the boot of a car/van (Why it is not called a van-boot sale then, I do not know). All summer, you can see a number of people selling stuff out of their cars. Unwanted stuff, outgrown stuff, collectibles, damaged goods and what not.

First up are the guys that sell new. These are wholesalers, who have small businesses or shops at the local centers. They are mostly out there to display their wares and make whatever they can from the people who come out Sunday morning in search of a bargain. They sell the same stuff which is available at their shop, and at more or less the same price. Wholesale stuff like reams of bubble wraps, A4 sheets, envelopes, shower gels, detergents, AA batteries, bread, huge packets of crisps (chips, if you like; but then call your chips fries)... you get the drift. They could not care less if you do not buy from them, they're just there to let you know they're there. They would probably give you a deal, if you ask them nicely, and keep buying from them.

The next are the the guys that sell used. These are usually Do-it-Yourself guys who have some sort of expertise or make a living by fixing things. They probably contract all week to various agencies and look to make some extra in the weekends. You get to see electricians with pedestal fans they've fixed; plumbers with various sinks, wrenches and mixer taps; carpenters with furniture they've mended. Refurbished laptops, unlocked mobile phones, adapters, chargers, car tyres, engine parts, wheel plates, number plates, bicycles, loose DIY items, you name it.

The first summer I was here, we bought three bicycles from an elderly couple, who probably fixed bicycles for a living. They would be there every week, and you could leave your bicycle with them and the old man would fix it, lubricate it and keep it ready for the road. They even bought old bicycles, and I would probably sell it to them if my two bicycles would not have been stolen from the front of my house. (Yeah, well! there are thieves everywhere).

Finally, the guys that sell cheap. These are people who just want to get rid of their stuff. People who are moving home, people who have spring cleaned their home, people who've lost interest in their toys/books/CDs and want to convert them into cash. The range is mind-blowing, from baby car-seats to hand mirrors to hand-made teapots to Chinese fans to Harry Potter books, you never know what you can run into in this lot, and more often than not, they give away things for less than you imagine. Some even have the car on sale, you only have to ask.

It's fun to watch this third category of sellers and offer them a price. You see a middle aged couple out to sell their clutter. There's a remote controlled helicopter. You ask the man how much it costs, and he quotes the price he bought it at. Truth is, he has not had enough of the chopper and still wants to hang on to it. It is the wife that will not allow it into the house. If you really like the chopper, you're better off making an offer to the wife. Chances are she will let you get away with it for a steal.

It cuts both ways, though. A number of home decor items are on sale. Things like glass trinkets, lampshades, vases etc. They usually have a lady hovering around, but never make the mistake of asking her the price. Deep inside, she does not want to sell any of it so she can take them back to her house and stock up the display cabinet. Make the man an offer, he will let you take it all for the price of a beer.

Sometimes, you do get fantastic deals - a colleague got a decent cricket kit from a man whose son outgrew playing county cricket. The guy even threw in a couple of used leather balls for free. Then there was a lady whose daughter played tennis, but would not use the balls after a few rallies. For many weeks, she almost exclusively supplied us tennis balls to play cricket with. Come summer, and the car-boot is a regular Sunday fixture. We usually come here with lots of change (better to offer a multiple of the lowest passable coin, than to expect change), just in case we get anything interesting. If not anything else, it offers you a long leisurely walk around an open area the size of a football field, and works up the appetite for a Sunday roast.