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Navigating your way through the Alameda flea market is practically a rite of passage in the Bay Area. But with more than 800 dealers, it’s no easy task. Plus,we’ve never been very good at negotiating--haggling with a little old man from rural Bakersfield over the price of a lampshade just seems so wrong. That’s where interior designer Allison Bloom, of Dehn Bloom Design, comes into play. Here, she shares her tips and tricks of the trade to make your next antiquing trip a breeze.

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1. Make a list. Bloom says that going into the flea without a list is like going to the grocery store hungry. You could wind up with all kinds of things you don’t need, and none of the things you do need. 

2. Look for a theme. Pay close attention to trends among the vendors. See bamboo everywhere? Take note. There’s a good chance you won’t see vendors selling that stuff again.

3. Get to know the dealers. Try to make a point of asking vendors their names and introducing yourself. You just might find them more willing to negotiate on price.

4. Be a good negotiator. Come in with a sense of the market so you know where a dealer stands. Then start out by asking (nicely) if the seller would consider a price 30 percent below asking (anything else is insulting) and go from there. Cash is your friend when negotiating since credit cards have additional fees associated with them. 

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Erin Kunkel

5. Know your walk-away price. Be black-and-white about this. At what price is the item no longer worth it for you? Six hundred bucks for an antique lamp shade? You’ll pass.

6. Listen to your gut. “Some things are OK to buy even if the vendor won’t come down on price. If you can’t decide, take a photo, note the location and walk away. If you’re still thinking about the piece a few rows down, go back and get it immediately. Don’t wait too long, though. Things get scooped up very quickly.”

7. Round up your goods. Make notes about all of your purchases (prices, locations) and take photos. Then collect everything at the end and head home. If your items are too large to bring home on your own, look for an on-site delivery service, ASAP, right outside the exit gate.

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