Monday, 9 June 2008

Have You Been To The Car Boot Sales?

Car boot sales are a mainly British form of market in which private individuals come together to sell household and garden goods. Although a small proportion of sellers are professional traders selling new goods or seconds, the goods on sale are often used but no longer wanted personal possessions. Car boot sales are a way of focusing a large group of people in one place to recycle still useful but unwanted domestic items that previously would have been thrown away.
Car boot sales are often held in the grounds of schools and other community buildings, or in grassy fields or car parks. Usually they take place on weekend mornings. Sellers will typically pay a nominal fee for their pitch, and arrive with their goods in the boot (trunk) of their car, hence the name. Usually the items are then unpacked onto folding trestle tables, a blanket or tarpaulin, or simply the ground.

Entry to the general public is usually free, although sometimes a small admission charge is made. Advertised opening times are often not strictly adhered to, and in many cases the nature of the venue itself makes it impossible to prevent keen bargain hunters from wandering in as soon as the first stallholders arrive.

The sales are used to sell unwanted household goods, ranging from old books, records, cassette tapes, CDs, videos/DVDs, toys, stamps and coins, through to radios, old computers, ornaments, tools, clocks, furniture, kitchenware, and clothes.

However, a number of commercial sellers often make an appearance, selling plants or vegetables, or new goods such as tools, toys, batteries, ornaments and fittings, paper, pens and other stationery. Almost everything is sold at a small fraction of the new price ranging from 10p to 50p (20¢ to $1) for books, through to several pounds for the most expensive items. Haggling is common at car boots.

Anyone can sell their goods at a car boot sale, whether a first-timer, a regular, or a seasoned professional. To secure the best pitches, it is best to turn up very early, often from 7am. Often amateurs sell at car boots when they move home or clear out the home of a deceased relative.

The seller pays a small fee of maybe £5 or £10 ($10 to $20) to set up the stall, which is often no more than a tarpaulin laid out in front of the car boot, on which the goods for sale are displayed. Sellers who are better prepared will come with folding tables or trestle tables on to which they can lay out their goods in a more accessible way.

Professional buyers and antique dealers often visit car boot sales in the hope of finding an amateur or one-time seller who has under-priced a valuable item. Genuine first timers are often easy to spot and can find it daunting as the professionals flock around their car like vultures before they have even started unloading. It is sensible for first time sellers to put prices on all their goods before leaving home, as the scrum when they arrive may make pricing difficult in a hurry.

Guarantees are rarely given at car boot sales. Often goods that are powered by mains electricity cannot be tested at the sale site. The general rule at car boot sales is caveat emptor - 'let the buyer beware'.
However, if a seller describes goods in any way that proves to be false, they are legally obliged under the Trade Descriptions Act to give a refund or replacement or reduce the price to reflect the wrong description or misrepresentation. Nevertheless, the buyer will find it difficult to contact or locate the seller after the sale in practice.

For some buyers, the random nature of the goods make car boot sales an interesting and exciting hobby. Although many of the goods on sale are not particularly useful, high quality or sought after items, there are exceptions. Young children’s shoes, clothes and toys are often discarded long before they wear out or lose their quality.

Occasionally stories have made the papers of antiques or paintings being bought for a few pounds in a car boot sale and then sold in auction for thousands. Film collector Gordon Hendry, for example, purchased two episodes of the television series Doctor Who on 16 mm film at a sale in the early 1980s, paying £8 each. He later found that they were the only known surviving copies of these episodes (see Doctor Who missing episodes).

It is not unknown for stolen goods or pirated videos and DVDs to be sold at car boot sales.

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