guide to carboot

The Gonzo Guide to Car Boot Sales

Car boots occur early on Sunday mornings. For that reason, they exclude those people that still like to enjoy a Saturday night. For some, the car boot is a pipe dream that evaporates when those first sweet sips of cold nullifying alcohol slide down their gullets and into excitable bellies. The car boot begins just a couple of hours after their debauched shenanigans come to an ugly end and they pass unceremoniously into oblivion.

As others sift for bargains in the dappled first light, their internal organs continue to pickle to the cirrhotic hues of herring as they toss and turn in unmade beds. Their Sundays will be rife with regret while others spend hours contently reaping the rewards of whatever diamonds in the proverbial they have managed to pluck with self-righteous digits.

You will feel sad that you’ve missed out on the multitudinous joys offered by the car boot but also, you’re more concerned about the damage done to your inter-personal relationships, health and bank balance. You will spend the day eating pig flesh and crying in bed or on a sofa, pretending that the intense stabbing pain in your side is not an imploding liver but laughter muscles reeling after such a rip-roaring hysterical fun time.

This guide to car boot sales is designed to put an end to all of this regret once and for all. By following a few simple steps, even those in the sorriest of states will be able to enjoy a Sunday morning car boot.


The Gonzo Guide to Car Boot Sales


1. Waking Up

If you have been out drinking and/or taking drugs the previous night then that is okay. The first and hardest step is to break the cognitive association between not going to the car boot and lack of sleep, the impending hangover, and general twistedness. The car boot is your friend and will always be your friend no matter what state you are in.

If you managed to drink several pints of water before passing out then chances are your bladder will wake you between 5:30 am and 6 am. If you passed out without drinking water, you will find that the size of your swelling brain will wake you at a similar time. This is an ideal time to rouse for the car boot. If you have been taking drugs, you are probably wide awake, skipping over multicoloured ropes of light in your mind as your heart flutters in time to the Aphex Twin playing too loud but somehow not loud enough in your room. Do not, on realising the time, collapse back into your pit. Instead see this forced exit from your bed as a sign that you are a survivor, that you are up and alive and that a car boot waits somewhere out there to be dominated by your brilliance.


2. What to Wear

Wear exactly what you wore the night before. If you are still wearing your clothes then you are ready to go. If not, then gather your underwear, socks, top, jeans – the works – and put them on. The smellier, the more stained and crumbled your clothes the better. If a kebab leaked chilli sauce down your t-shirt then give yourself a pat on the back. If your skirt is too short for daylight and splattered with Abi’s vomit then well done you. For the car boot you need to create a persona and this persona stinks and looks like shit.

When you arrive at the car boot you will see other people assuming a similar persona. Today, you are one of them. You look like crap but you don’t take any. You were born in a cave, raised on rubbish tips sorting junk, fighting for every penny. Rummaging in dust-caked boxes of other people’s detritus is like a holiday for you.

If the make-up you failed to remove is not smeared then smear it. If your cheek is embedded with giant splinters of Cool Original Doritos do not even think about picking them off. You want to look like the worst version of yourself. Allow yourself to look how you feel. You will see people that look worse than you at the car boot but if you have successfully prepared yourself there will be a lot that look much better than you.

And remember, the reasons to look good in life do not apply to the car boot. Ordinarily, you want to look your best to impress potential love interests, your peers or a prospective employer. None of these people are going to be at a car boot sale. If, by chance, your future lover, life partner and father/mother of your children is there waiting in a field, examining oil paintings of greyhounds at seven in the morning, then you can be sure that they will spot you. And yes, with eyes acutely accustomed to seeing through the superficial grime to the beauty that lies beneath, they will fall for you just the same.

If you have to remove clothes from a hanger or a drawer then the car boot is not for you. Go back to bed, wake up in six hours, eat some granola and yoghurt, do some hot yoga and piss off to Waitrose or wherever you people go. If instead you are able to locate your clothes by smell long before you see them, and then scrape them from the floor and onto your person in 30 seconds flat then you are going to a car boot.


3. Coffee

Whether you’re tired, hungover, or need to top up your buzz, coffee is going to help you. Car boots are great for many reasons but they do not cure sleep deprivation. It is imperative that you do not wait around for your coffee to cool down before drinking it. This is ludicrous. You will crash and be trapped in a bizarre agonising twilight zone unable to leave the house or even lift your pounding head from whatever surface on which it now rests. If you are going to master the car boot then you need to be up and out of your house in 15 minutes. Not a second more. So pour that coffee into a Thermos and get out of the door.


4. Eating is Cheating

Whatever toxins exist in your body and whatever harm they are doing to you, let them continue to do just that until you return home. Eating this early will only speed up the hangover, induce vomiting and be generally disastrous to your car boot campaign.


5. Money

The four pounds fifty seven in shrapnel, wrapped in credit card receipts, Rizla and snotty tissues in your jeans is a great start. It’s there pre-packed and ready to go. It is in small denominations ideally suited to the car boot sale. If you know of another pile of change somewhere in your house, in a drawer perhaps or jar then tip it into your front pocket along with the rest. Men should look like they have mumps with two giant swellings riding up front in their trousers. If you get a chance to steal a tenner from a housemate’s purse then do it. You will be back before they are awake and can replace it. Under no circumstances should you actually take with you a wallet or a purse. If you have pockets then split the change between them – one should contain pounds, fifty pences, and a few twenty pence pieces. The other should be full of coppers, 5s, 10s and 20s.



6. Car Boot

You have made it – well done!

Once at the car boot, reward yourself with a cup of your coffee before fashioning your greasy hair into a disconcerting side-parting. It is now time to make your way methodically up and down those aisles of forgotten dreams. Do not bother looking at any table with fishing equipment, rusty tools, baby clothes or those selling knock-off cosmetics. Ignore these and focus on every other table. Imagine you are playing Where’s Wally? and Wally is an object so unique and wonderful it will change your life forever. You have just 20 seconds to find Wally so spread those eyelids wide and get scanning.


When you have spotted Wally, you need to know exactly what to do next…


7.  Ask Immediately

If you are interested in books, records, clothing, DVDs, paintings, crockery or anything that is likely to be sold in multiple at a stall, then immediately on arrival hold up an example of said item and ask how much. By doing this you will find out a genuine price for that item and not one vastly inflated because you have shown interest in it. This needs to happen in the first five seconds of arriving at a stall. If it then so happens that you find an item that you do want, you have a good idea of the price and can start calculating.

If your item is unique and does not fall into a category with other items then this process becomes harder but no less essential. What you need to do is pick something that you would deem to be of similar stature to your desired object. Indicate this other object and ask how much it is. Now you should have an idea of the genuine asking price of the item. Keep this figure in mind as you enter the next stage.

 carboot guide

8. Bartering

You need to know exactly what you want to pay for an item. Remember you are at a car boot and the item should be cheap. Chances are the object of your desires has been gathering dust in a loft or lying mildewed in a shed for several years. The item has also been offered to friends and family, been eBayed, Gumtreed, MarketPlaced the lot before arriving here in the last chance saloon. In all likelihood, it will get driven straight to a tip after the car boot ends if it remains unsold. Bear this in mind when fixing your price. This is a land of bargains after all. If you are dealing with a professional car booter then none of these assumptions apply and you must fight a hard and dirty fight.

Here is a typical scenario:

Hold up the item you want and ask in as non-committal way as possible:

“How much?”

A number of outcomes then become possible but will essentially boil down to the following:

a) It is significantly cheaper than the price you imagined.

In this instance, pay the damn money. These are good people and they deserve the cash.

b) It is significantly more expensive than the price you imagined.

Throw down the object, look like they’ve just shat on your doorstep and walk away shaking your head. They will either call you back and ask you to name a price (go a third of what they offered originally) or let you go declaring you an arsehole. If upon reflection you still want the item, go back and make the same offer.

c) It is slightly more expensive than the price you imagined

Reach into the relevant pocket. If it is a relatively high-priced item then go for the more richly furnished pocket, otherwise reach for the pocket full of shrapnel. Nothing says pity like someone counting out coins and making groaning noises. After three or four minutes of playing with your loose change (imagine you are a poker player counting and playing with chips in between hands) then offer them the price you want to pay. It is hard for them to refuse.


9. Hire a Feral Kid

This is an advanced bartering technique and should only be used on the rare occasion you spot something that you know to be very valuable and you definitely don’t have sufficient funds for. This ruse should allow you to pay the lowest possible price.

At car boots you inevitably get young children running around high on e-numbers and parental neglect. Explain to one such child that you will give them 20p if they go to a specified stall and pull out the item you want and say:

“Dad, I want this! I really, really want it! Can I have it? Please….”

“Son, what do you want with another rare Mono first pressing of the White Album? You’ve already got loads at home that you don’t even listen to…”

“Dadddddd!!!!! I want it!”

“Ok, simmer down, son. You’re scaring the nice lady with all your shouting. Now, how much have you got left of your pocket money?”

“I got just one pound left, Daddy.”

Now look at the stall owner, look at the feral kid, look back at the store owner, shrug and repeat this process until they cave in.

Once you have mastered these techniques then you are able to attend any car boot you damn well please and reap the rewards for years to come. Regret no longer rules your Sunday. You do! You are an achiever. You are a car booter. Congratulations!


About the author

Tom Spooner

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