Thinking of going to a boot sale this weekend? Looking for vinyl records? Then pay attention at the back, and no chatting please.
1. Check the forecast.
|"I can't stand the rain..."|
Like all outdoor events, weather conditions have a huge influence on the success of a car boot sale. If wet, sellers will be reluctant to turn up; in some cases the event may be cancelled altogether. If it does go ahead in wet weather it's likely that goods will either be covered with plastic or blankets and therefore difficult to browse, or they'll just be plain soggy. Keep an eye on your local forecast the day before - remember, this may be updated through the day and can change drastically. Also check the event's website/Facebook page if they have one.
|No, that's not the T.A.R.D.I.S.|
Don't have more than one cup of coffee before you leave. If the boot sale you're headed for is sizeable, it's likely that you'll be there for a couple of hours or more and the portaloos provided are never pleasant. Take a drink with you unless you like manky coffee served in polystyrene, and dress for the weather, taking sunglasses, hat, jumper or whatever may be required. Some antibac handwipes or gel are also a good idea, especially if you decide to grab yourself a snack while you're out.
3. Get there early.
|Easy like Sunday morning.|
Check the opening time of the boot sale and get there as early as you can. Record dealers know this and will be there first thing, often as stallholders are still setting up before the official start-time. This is poor etiquette unless your livelihood depends on it, so just arrive as near to the start as you can to find the best vinyl pickings.
More and more people are getting back into the joys of vinyl or discovering it for the first time, so there may be a bit more competition for the records you like. There's nothing worse than being two minutes behind someone who's getting armfuls of great records. Once I was just behind a guy who walked off with about ten fantastic albums for a pound each - I know this because I stood behind him while he searched through the box, my heart sinking each time he pulled an LP out...
|"Dirty cash I want you..."|
Take plenty of change! Most vinyl records are usually £1 or so, so a handful of these coins are a good idea. You'd hate to have to go without a great record just because the stallholder is unable/unwilling to break that twenty you withdrew from a cashpoint on your way there. I like to carry an emergency fiver or two as well, just in case there's something irresistible out of my usual Scroogey price range! Don't bother taking valuables such as cards, and also cash you don't intend to use. Pickpockets exist and things get lost. Just take your car boot money and leave anything else at home.
5. Bags & pockets.
|Papa's got a brand new bag.|
Keep your change handy in a pocket or loose in an easy-to-reach handbag compartment to save scrabbling about for it later. You want to keep your hands free for flipping though boxes of records, so put your 'phone in a secure pocket. If you need to take other items, use a bag with a long strap that you can wear across you body, keeping it in front of you for security's sake. A bum bag is ideal for carrying valuables if you're hip enough to pull off that look. I am not.
Don't forget to take a strong, lightweight bag for carrying records. A square plastic carrier bag is ideal, as is a cotton tote bag.
6. Looking for records.
If it's records only you're looking for, you'll be able to get around much quicker. Many sellers display them in crates on the ground so these are easy to scan for as you walk along, but don't forget to check table-tops and look for small piles on blankets. Once you get your eye in, you won't even be fooled by boxes of magazines/prints from a distance.
There'll often be a lot of rubbish to look through, but a gem can be found in the unlikeliest box of crap, so do search through the Engelbert and Mrs. Mills regardless. Occasionally, someone's Nana will have had a mad moment and bought a Beatles record on a whim, so keep at it!
|"How do you do!" "No, how do you do!"|
Good manners are everything, so take them with you when you're vinyl-hunting. A popular stall can get crowded, but wait your turn and don't loom directly over someone's shoulder while they look through a box. Stepping back and discreetly checking out the contents as they flip will save you some time as well as some bad vibes. If there's a row of crates and someone's blocking them, a polite "Mind if I squeeze in?" will get you a long way, and you might even end up having a rewarding chat with your music-loving neighbour.
2016 update: Refrain from 'researching' records on your smartphone as you go through a box, as this holds up other diggers and is very bad form. If you must check Discogs to see how many millions you might make on that warped copy of the Beatles Blue album, take it out and step aside to look it up. In essence: don't be that guy.
8. Check the record!
|"All that scratchin' is making me itch..."|
In every case, get the record right out of the sleeve and give it a good once-over. Take your shades off if you're wearing them, and hold the disc into the light to check for damage. Additionally, check that the record in the sleeve is actually the right one, as I've been caught out before (although sometimes this can turn out well). Some light scratches may not be a problem and play fine, but avoid anything more lest it muck up your stylus. If in doubt and it's only 50p, take a chance but play it with a stylus reserved for 'dodgy' discs.
9. To haggle or not to haggle.
We all like to get a bargain, but when is it acceptable to try and haggle? It really depends on the type of seller and the asking price. A record dealer will normally be happy to strike a deal if it means shifting some stock, and will often throw in a record you've been humming and hah-ing over for free if you're purchasing some others. A private seller having a clearout will also be happy to get rid, but if everything's set at a pound, he might think you're a bit cheeky for trying to haggle him down.
The wiggle-room on price is in the condition; pointing out some damage to the record or sleeve might get you some pennies off, or even pounds if it's a sought-after record. The main thing to remember is don't take the mick - it's a boot sale after all, not a Moroccan souk, and it's a good idea to preserve goodwill for future encounters.
At the end of the day, car-booting is supposed to be pleasant, so don't take it too seriously. Have fun, enjoy the walk (and hopefully the weather), chat to stallholders and fellow vinyl-hunters and if you come out at the end with a few good records - or even just one GREAT record - then your weekend morning has been well spent.
Go home, put the kettle on, clean your finds, drop the needle and..... RELAX!