Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Brutal World of Boot Fairing

Daylight robbery, swindling between sellers and hardcore veterans: welcome to the boot fair battlefield where the customer is rarely right.

Catching a flight, London Fashion Week and possibly a fire are pretty much the only circumstances in which I’ll willingly get up before 6am. Then of course there is money and when you are a student that is always a winning incentive. So with the lure of financial reimbursement, I not only agreed to wake up at the crack of dawn last weekend but to stand in a field and try selling some of my clothes at a boot fair.

Having grown up with a father who filled an entire room with second hand CDs and bought most of my toys from the back of a car, I was hoping to be a natural. I was not. Thankfully I haven’t inherited his hoarders gene or my mother’s extreme sentimentality when it comes to getting rid of belongings but I was na├»ve about pricing.  

Research on the completed listings of Ebay quickly proved I wasn’t going to be leaving a millionaire buying bacon sarnies and Mr Whippys for everyone on my way out. A £75 Warehouse dress I also hoped to sell went for £6 and that was one of the success stories.

Despite having hundreds of pounds worth of clothes, some hardly worn or with the label still attached, the effects of fast fashion and cheap consumerism have hit the second hand market hard. I had to become very realistic very quickly.

After wedging everything and finally ourselves into the tiny KA, my mum and I finally arrived at 6.45am. Late. Rule 1: do not leave preparations until the last minute. Suffice to say we were still up at 1am figuring out the Argos clothes rail.  Poor organisation leaves you parking in row S and a mile away from the portaloos…though that may be a blessing.

Before even putting up the table, we were set upon by a barrage of dealers and hardened buyers. You can tell the difference because dealers carry jewellers magnifying glass where standard buyers simply roam the field with massive empty suitcases but all mean business. 

Rule 2: Do not be swindled by other sellers. Luckily a boot fair veteran ended up on the left of us (the man on the right had been tricked into coming by his wife). Angie went through this process every Sunday and warned us about secret sellers who will rock up in the first hour expecting items for nothing just to make a quick profit on their own stalls later. In my innocence, I was shocked; you don’t see that on Bargain Hunt!

Wearing aprons as makeshift money belts, Mum and I might as well have had a loudspeaker announcing we were amateurs and ready to be duped. Such a routine occurrence seems incredibly devious and says a lot for the dog-eat-dog culture of boot fairing. It says a fair bit about humanity as well. In reality, I suppose it is no different to buying items to put on Ebay but now we had fellow sellers to contend with as well as buyers.

Within five minutes, we were also battling a malfunctioning clothes rail. Rule 3: Do not buy from a company thought up by a man on holiday. Anything on a hanger was soon on the ground and we had definitely made our entrance. “You went for the Argos rail then?” Angie asked as Mum and I looked away in embarrassment and proceeded to take turns holding it for the next five hours.

Bartering in general was daylight robbery. Even my bottom prices were laughed off. Apart from one reasonable lady who eagerly paid the marked price on a pair of FLY London boots, nobody recognised brand or quality. A Paul Smith skirt was worth no more than one from Primark. I sold a Kaliko coat for £8 - the lady still tried £7 - and even then she was about to walk away until I explained it was worth over £200.

Most transactions were also accompanied by blatant rudeness. After practically giving away 5 dresses, one buyer proceeded to shout, “BAG? BAG?” at me. It was only biting my lip and the thought of shifting those dresses that actually stopped me shouting, “DOES THAT COME WITH A PLEASE?”

 “I usually just ask them to ask nicely and if they don’t then I won’t sell,” Angie informs me. Usually? This is normal behaviour?

Of course not all buyers left civility at the door.  We did meet some interesting characters too like the man who decided to treat his girlfriend to my old bikini. I’m still not sure how it ended up at the boot fair but that is one lucky lady. Or the woman who wooed my fashion sense, told me I had good taste and then asked if I was getting rid of the clothes because I didn’t have a man to impress at the moment.

There is also that little buzz from holding off on a sale and managing to sell for that bit more later. On a sunny day, out in the fresh air, I was almost beginning to understand why Angie made it every Sunday.

Then I needed to make use of the facilities... Rule 4: do not drink anything unless you want to experience all the horrors of a music festival without the music. It turned out to be one of those rare occurrences when I regret drinking tea. The only option is to either brave the portaloos or drive a van like our seasoned boot fairer (nobody needs to close the doors and ‘reorganise’ their boot halfway through the morning Angie!)

I became determined to stick it out until the end but by midday everyone was packing up. Counting our fortune, we made £67 in total. A small amount but what we lacked in small change, we gained in new knowledge about business, common courtesy and Argos clothes rails.

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