What can I buy (or sell) in a flea market?
Many things such as household goods, branded clothing, jewellery or smaller furniture are quite expensive in many stores. But you can also buy all of these things second-hand on a so-called "flea market" ("Flohmarkt" or "Trödelmarkt") or online shops such as eBay. A flea market is a market where individuals can sell things that they no longer need. Where the word "flea market" comes from is unclear. It may be a direct translation from French. If you have things you no longer need, you can also sell them at a flea market or online to get rid of the clutter and earn some extra money.
What do I need to know?
Almost every Saturday and Sunday during the spring, summer and fall, plenty of flea markets pop up in the larger cities. In smaller cities, a few flea markets happen throughout the course of the year. Flea markets are often organised in parks and other nice spots in the central parts of the city. But there are also indoor flea markets which are held in large halls or clubs. At times, there are even night markets, with artistic performances, like live music and dance as side events.
You can find information about all flea markets, their addresses and opening times through your council administration or city newspapers and magazines. You can also easily search the internet to find a flea market. On gelbeseiten.de, you can enter the name of your city or postal code and find a flea market nearby.
Contrary to normal shopping centres, it is common to bargain at flea markets, bazaars, and similar online portals. In fact, bargaining is allowed even in normal shops (specified in the "law against unfair competition" or “Gesetz gegen den unlautbaren Wettbewerb”). However, not many salespeople and customers are used to it, so they’re often astonished when see someone asks for a discount. Bargaining at the flea market, which is also called “haggling” (“feilschen”), however, is a celebrated part of the tradition and pretty popular. Haggling is worthwhile, as it often means you will get the goods at a much cheaper price. The same applies, of course, to purchases made via online portals. To buy the best and the cheapest, the time of buying also matters. Chances are that at the beginning and at the end of a flea market, you can obtain better goods at lower prices: in the beginning, as some items are offered at particularly low prices; and at the end, because sellers have a smaller chance to sell the goods in the remainder of time, and they would want to avoid returning, transporting and storing the items.
Flea markets are not just about shopping. For many in Germany, visiting flea markets is a delightful activity and a favourite pass-time. You can just stroll and rummage around without buying anything. Particularly larger markets often offer side events with street artists and musicians, as well as food and drinks stalls.
If you want to sell something yourself, you have to register in advance for the flea market and rent a stall there. To do this, you usually have to contact the person who organises the flea market a few weeks in advance. You can find the contact details of the organiser in the flea market ad. Read more in the section "Where can I find a flea market?".
When registering, you have to state how much space you need and clarify whether you need to bring your own table (or the organiser provides it for you). Flea marketplaces often have different prices. The stalls at the entrance and exit are usually cheaper- because people buy from the stands located in the centre of the market more frequently.
There are now numerous online flea markets (such as eBay, eBay-Kleinanzeigen and Shpock) where you can buy and sell used or unused items. Facebook has also launched its own online flea market. There are also many "Sale" or "Give Away" Facebook groups in most cities where people can join and buy/sell or give away articles. In all these portals, you can do a location-specific search, so that only the goods which are in your area are displayed. After you find what you need, you often need to make an appointment with the other party and buy the goods at the agreed price. On some portals, you have to register with an email address in advance to be able to sell or buy. For using the Facebook market, you need to have a Facebook profile.
Watch out if you are purchasing bicycles or electronic devices! In the case of electronic devices, there is usually no possibility of prior testing and no guarantee, so you cannot return broken items. When someone sells you a bike without a bill, there is no way to make sure the bike is not stolen. Without a bill, in case of suspicion, you will not be able to prove you have not personally stolen the bike.