Haggling with the big guns

I talked about the art of the haggle at French garage/car boot sales (called a vide grenier ) in the past. Haggling doesn’t come naturally to me, but last weekend at the St Jean de Sixt vide grenier, I found myself haggling with the big guns.
Bargain French ski bindingsPictured is a ski binding. A ski technician friend spotted a pair of skis with these bindings on them, and said that the bindings alone were worth more than the €30 price tag on the skis. Since I needed a pair of bindings for some new skis, he suggested they’d be a cheap alternative to brand new bindings since the technology hasn’t changed much in recent years. I could trash the skis at that price. While we were standing there, a man asked the seller if he would reduce the price of a neighbouring pair of skis. The French seller said no and the man turned to walk away. The seller changed his mind and asked for €25. The man offered €20 and after scoffing from both parties, the seller accepted, mumbling about it under his breath in French.

I figured I could also get this pair for €20, so I picked them up. The seller, aware that my friend and I had seen everything, promptly wrote out a sticker for €50 and slapped it on the skis I was holding, mumbling some more. I protested and said I’d pay €20. He was a big man – both in height and girth, and had a scary look on his weathered face. He snatched the skis from my and slammed them back against the wall they had been leaning on, saying I could have them for €30 and no less. Had I been by myself, I would have been so afraid of this scary man towering over me that I would have scampered away. Instead, I scoffed like a French man and said no because he had just sold the previous pair for €20. He scoffed back, so I scoffed some more, shrugged and turned to walk away. He picked the skis up and thrust them towards me, agreeing on €20. I said thanks and he didn’t reply. I handed him a twenty and he sarcastically said I may as well have it back since the skis were practically free, then ignored my friend who bothered to say goodbye. I didn’t even try. Upon closer inspection of the skis, they’re in almost new condition, with great edges, bases and top sheets. Bargain!

So, one angry French man later, I have a working pair of bindings and a decent pair of skis too. It was worth almost weeing myself after all.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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8 comments on “Haggling with the big guns
  1. Ron says:

    Oui, wee.
    I had previously never thought of the french as hagglers, but they are! Got some great bargains(?) at the brocante market at Richelieu.
    Well done on the ski bindings, Wendy. I guess you can on-sell the skis for profit?

  2. pete says:

    there was some awesome haggling going on down at the scouts market in cluses on sunday, they were practically giving stuff away in the afternoon (actually the were giving some stuff away, got some lovely jam :))

  3. Wendy says:

    Ron, I’m thinking of doing that, yes! There’s a big ski sale on in Annecy this weekend which I might take them to.

    Pete, it was no doubt much bigger (and better) than the local vide grenier here. Annoying I missed it, but well done on the jam front. 😀

  4. Dormouse says:

    How brave! I too would have been weeing myself! I’m definitely not a haggler and would probably have handed over the 50€ without any question (even having seen the action beforehand.) When I sold at a vide grenier I made practically no money, because I couldn’t haggle in the other direction…
    “1€!” barked the scary lady holding 10 Tshirts and a skirt
    “Oui, merci” I replied meekly. (well, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea!)

  5. Iain says:

    Just curious to know how good my topsheet spotting skills are; were they Dynastar Intuitive 74’s?

  6. Wendy says:

    Dormouse, I’m way to apprehensive about my own selling skills to *sell* at a vide grenier – I’d just give everything away for free!
    Iain, they were Dynastar Intuitive Verticals, and they sold for €60 last week in Annecy at the big ski sale. 🙂

  7. Tom Long says:

    Oh hey, I recognise those topsheets! I learnt to ski on the very same. €60 was a very good price for them, well done!

  8. Wendy says:

    Thanks Tom. They sold in the first half an hour to a shop owner who I bought a pair of skis off a few years earlier, funnily enough!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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