As a Flipper, Should You Feel Weird About Checking eBay Prices In Front of Others?


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checking item prices in public
Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash

Some flippers feel weird about checking prices in front of others at garage sales, moving sales, swap meets, and the like, is it considered rude behavior to do this?

When I was new to reselling on eBay, I felt really weird about checking prices in front of others. I’d do anything to hide my phone or turn around and look something up so no one would see me.

After years of reselling on eBay, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Garage Sales, Moving Sales, or Family Ran Estate Sales

First off, don’t make it super obvious in places like a private garage sale, moving sale, or an estate sale run by a family, unless the prices are already fixed with a price tag. People will just think you are verifying if it’s a good deal or not. (The same type of logic is true at any venue where items are already marked with a price tag.)

You don’t have to worry about feeling weird either, there’s a good chance you are not the only reseller in your area and whoever is running the sale will see many people looking at their phones for checking items, etc.

Also, there are all kinds of various reasons to check your phone at a garage sale, moving sale, or estate sale. Some people text a picture of an item to someone they know to see if that person wants them to pick it up for them.

If prices are not already tagged, then just ask how much the item is, then look up the item when the seller is talking to someone else at the sale.

The best practice is this: If and when you decide to look something up, don’t announce it to anyone, just casually do it and pretend like you are just texting someone on your phone.

Estate Sales Hosted By a Professional Company

Besides garage sales, be careful looking up prices at an estate sale that is hosted by a professional company that does not have price tags on items already.

I always recommend taking an item you are interested in to another area in the home and looking up the price to see its true value. If it’s a big item you can’t easily carry, then just do your best to check the price on your phone without making it too obvious.

Then, ask the estate sale host how much the item will cost before you decide to check out.

On a side note: Any estate sale which does not have fixed prices ahead of time might be overpriced. So I recommend you test them out by getting a quote for one item first, then decide if it’s worth investing any time gathering up more items. I’ve personally experienced the frustration of investing a lot of time gathering up items, only to leave them behind because the sale was overpriced.

Now, if the professionally ran estate sale does have items tagged and priced already, it’s safe to just look up prices in the open. However, in my opinion, it’s still best to check those prices in a way that does not look obvious.

Also, whether the prices are marked already or not, it’s best to feel out the estate sale company and how motivated they are to actually move items. You can normally feel them out by just asking the host how flexible they are for deals.

Thrift Stores

For places like thrift stores, prices are fixed ahead of time with price tags so you are safe to look things up however much you like. In thrift stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, the workers are so used to seeing people look up prices on their phones, you are not going to stand out as anyone different. Checking your phone is pretty much the norm in those places.

In smaller run thrift stores, again, use your judgment on how obvious you want to be, with looking up prices.

Flea Markets and Swap Meets

For the flea market or a swap meet, use your best judgment if you are going to look up prices with your phone, based on the booth setup you visit. 

Some sellers have their items priced with tags ahead of time, some will not. At the very least, sometimes I’ll ask a seller how much for an item ahead of time, then I’ll just look it up in front of them and they won’t care.

A lot of sellers at flea markets and swap meets know that people are there to flip items or find deals, so I’ve always felt comfortable about being open that I’m checking the price to see if it’s a good deal.

Sometimes if I don’t feel comfortable looking something up in front of a seller,  I’ll look at an item, remember its information, then walk away and look up the price to check it out. Then, if it looks good, I’ll go back and ask them how much for it, then I buy it if the price is right. However, the risk of doing this strategy is that someone else might pick up that item and buy it before you get back to it. So be careful!

Final Thoughts

Overall, as you get used to going to different venues to pick out items you want to resell, you’ll be able to read the others around you and get more and more confident about feeling OK about checking prices on your phone in the open.

Also, as you get more skilled as a picker, you won’t have to look up as many items, you’ll start to develop an instinct for certain types of brands and items, so you will know if you are getting a good deal or not.

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