Question: Is there such a thing as antiques-store etiquette? Every time I go in an antiques store, I feel sort of intimidated. I’m going to visit a friend in New Hope, Pa., soon and want to go to lots of antiques stores there. If there’s no price listed, can you ask, or should you just assume you can’t afford it? Can you negotiate? Will they ship, or are you expected to carry away what you buy?
Answer: There is a certain etiquette to shopping at an antiques store. First, be polite and greet the salesperson when you come in. Especially if you intend to negotiate pricing (more on that later), you want to come across as friendly rather than snobbish or surly. If they ask if you’re looking for anything in particular and you are, tell them — it will save you a ton of time. They might have a treasure trove of Victorian newel post lights hidden away on some shelf you’d never find on your own. If not, however, feel free to say you’re just looking around.
I personally never feel bad about inquiring about prices. You shouldn’t assume you can’t afford it if it’s not priced — and hey, even if you can’t, that’s nothing to be ashamed about. Just say, “Thank you,” and move on. You can often negotiate, especially if you’re buying several items from the same store.
You can say, “Can you do any better than $50?” and they’ll either say yes or no. As for shipping, that varies from store to store. If you’re talking about a sizable piece of furniture, it can be expensive. At flea market-type setups, you are usually expected to carry what you buy, and BYO bag for it.
Also, don’t make a salesperson drag out a heavy or difficult-to-access item if you’re just curious and have no intention of buying it.
And finally, if you’re in New Hope, make sure you cross the Delaware to Lambertville, N.J., where you’ll find even more cool antiques shops.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.