Why didn’t that dealer buy my item!

Being in business means you will never make everyone happy one hundred percent of the time. I have firsthand experience with this fact because 95% of my employed life over the last 40 years has been in retail sales of some sort.

I have sold everything at one time or another except for homes. Pet’s & pet products, photography services, cameras, appliances, books, food, furniture, cars, electronics, tv’s; I even sold an airplane once. No matter what you sell; be it goods or services, new or used, sooner or later you will have an unhappy customer.

I was taught that the customer is always right. When I was a studio photographer, if the customer didn’t like the product they received, no matter who’s fault it was, we remade it to the customers wants. No questions asked because the image of the studio superseded any monetary loss. This principle is not universal.

Lately I have had a few unhappy customers. Not because of anything I did, but because of what I didn’t do.

I didn’t buy their items for my inventory.

Let me explain. Folks will offer an item or items to an antique store for several reasons. Maybe they are downsizing, maybe they are moving. Sometimes there is a loss of a family member or they need money for some unexpected expense. Perhaps they feel they have owned the item long enough and it’s time to move on to something else.

Whatever the reason, I get the call. “Hi, do you buy antiques?” Well yes, but with some exceptions.  Here is where the trouble starts brewing.

We all love our stuff. Whatever we are into, we are into it because it’s our thing. We all spend lots of time to find things that represent ourselves, our likes, & our passions. Our possessions and our spaces define us in a way. I know in our home we love looking at the items we have collected, and we smile when we recollect where we were when we acquired these items. Ah, memories…

We also remember in most cases what we paid for each item. Here in lies one of the fundamental issues. The value today, in most cases doesn’t reflect the price at the time of purchase. Antiques don’t have a “gold standard” that delineates their value from day to day. Value at any given time is what the market will bear, and items are, in reality, only worth what someone will pay you for it.

You might have an old clock that you paid $5,000 for thirty years ago, and you think it should still be worth the price you paid, but if no one will offer you more than $500 for it, well it’s worth $500. This goes for just about anything you can think of on the secondary market.

Antique dealers need inventory. So, to accomplish that goal, we need to purchase items from folks who need to sell some of their possessions. You would think this is a win-win scenario, but sometimes it’s not.

There are many factors that enter the equation. We can’t buy everything and there are various reasons for this. I was recently offered an antique rocking chair and tea cart. I declined this offer and the person was offended. This was not intentional. When I saw his expression, I explained to him, that in my experience these items just don’t sell well enough for me to warrant buying them. The last rocking chair I had in inventory took me over 10 years to sell. The last two tea carts I had, I donated.

I received another call from someone in another state, who was coming to Florida and had items to sell. This was another instance where I inadvertently offended someone. When she told me the area she was going to be in, it was on the other coast. I just can’t drive for 6 hours to purchase items because I will never make that expenditure in time, fuel and wear and tear on the vehicle up in the selling price of the item. 

She said she might not be adverse to visiting our store. When I asked what types of items she had to offer, they were items that I just am not able to buy. Vases, clocks and other items are just not popular right now for several reasons, and due to the current market values, I can’t risk buying them. I tried to explain to her that it would be better to search out dealers in the area she was relocating to, and she said, “Boy, you’re a downer!”

In all fairness, the market in Tampa or Naples is more likely to bring her more options to sell her items at a better price than I could offer her. More population, means more people (buyers) and more stores and dealers per capita than say the area around Titusville. I was trying to give her a better option, but she chose to look at it another way.

I can’t control other’s perceptions; I can only be as honest as I can about the current state of the market as I see it. I won’t lie to people about the trends I see. In most instances I have a pretty good idea of what I can sell an item for and what I need to offer for it. Sometimes I don’t make an offer on something because what I could offer based on my market would be too low.

Other reasons antique dealers might not purchase items are as varied as they are reasonable. Storage space; If I have to store it, I am paying additional costs on the item & it’s not on the floor being offered. Retail space constraints; I only have 1,100 square feet. Many dealers, especially if they are in a mall setting may only have 100 sq ft. Displaying too much inventory can be almost worse than not having enough.

Maybe the item you are offering is great, but I already have several similar to it in the back room. Trends are also a factor. Everything is cyclical in life. Hummels, once very expensive, are now being offered at unheard of prices (Six for less than a $10 opening bid online) & other items such as glass and china are also being offered at extraordinarily low prices. In addition, cash flow is a huge factor on what dealers purchase for their stores. If nothing’s selling, it’s difficult to keep buying when that rent payment is due soon!

I have a full list of items on my website that for one reason or another, we don’t purchase. So, if your offer is declined, please don’t be offended. There are many factors at play here. Price, condition, supply & demand, trends, location, and also personal tastes (does it fit the vibe of the store?) all affect our decision to buy or not.

It’s a big world out there and there are always options. Maybe you will have better luck with your next item. Remember, just because one antique dealer didn’t purchase your items, there may likely be another one who would be excited to have the opportunity to purchase your items. So keep trying!