The Right Way to Negotiate Prices at the Paris Flea Markets

Don't be afraid to get a little dramatique.

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Serge Bloch

It's nearly impossible to stroll the Paris Flea Market—AKA Marché Clignancourt, AKA Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, AKA Les Puces (if you're a local)—without wanting to buy something. It's where many designers and antiques dealers score their best finds to take back to the U.S., so picking up something in France can cut out the middleman, saving you big-time. But there’s a lot you can do to get an even better price.

First things first: Be nice!

Take a moment to greet the vendors when you enter their stalls (it’s considered rude not to), and when you see something you like, ask them about it. “It's always important to listen to what they have to say about the piece—let them their knowledge with you!,” says designer—and Paris Flea regular—Garrow Kedigian, who points out that since the same vendors set up stalls here year after year, they do have a reputation to protect. You can trust them to tell you factual information about the designer and origin if they know it.

warehouse-style flea market with brocante sign
Way in the back of this warehouse is Monique Cerf’s fabulous stall.
Peter Keyser

Second: Know when—and how—to approach.

If you know any French, speak it! They'll probably give you a better deal, Kedigian says, but if you don't, don't worry. A simple "Bonjour" ("hello") before switching to English will suffice.

Just don’t try to shop from them when they’re sitting down to lunch at the little card tables they set up in their stalls. That’s a good time to take a lunch break yourself!

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Third: Follow Kedigian's strategy to save big.

Haggling is perfectly acceptable at the Paris flea, and Kedigian has it down to a science. Here's what he does:

  1. Don’t express too much interest at first. If they know you’re absolutely ga-ga over a piece, why budge on price? Keep a poker face, even (gasp!) walk away. “The most important thing about being successful is showing no interest,” says Kedigian.
  2. If the price they give you feels way too high, react! “Ah non!” Kedigian would exclaim every time he got a quote. Or even “tant pis” (too bad) or “je pleut” (I’m crying). The more drama, the better at this point.
  3. Negotiate down if possible, then "suddenly" remember that you’re shipping it to the US. If it hasn’t been discussed already, they might dock the price one more time since the piece is going to be exported. “Oh, pour l’exporte!” is the way to say this.
  4. Once you’ve shaken hands on a price, don’t go back. That would be very bad manners. Don’t do it.
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