Tips for Surviving a Bazaar World

November is church bazaar month. Over the past few years, I’ve visited quite a few. I used to post the, uh, treasures I found on my blog, Caker Cooking. My Bazaar-o-Rama feature was so popular, even CBC Books featured it. (Although it might’ve been a slow news week.)

Throughout my travels, I’ve come to learn important things about bazaars and today I’m passing along some tips to you, dear reader. Pay attention because this kind of wisdom doesn’t come cheap. Or, in my case, easily. To those of you who are bazaar virgins (note that’s not “bizarre virgins,” which I think is a new show on TLC), I suggest you grab your toonies and get your motherfucking ass to a church basement. Pronto. Because life is too short, dear reader.

Anyways, here are my bazaar tips.

Know the difference between bazaars and rummage sales
Both take place at churches, but rummage sales happen in the spring. They’re like garage sales. Bazaars take place before Christmas. They’re more about baking and crafts and pickles. Usually, there’s a senior man in a matted, ill-fitting Santa suit wandering around.

Pickles. One way to know you're at a bazaar, not a rummage sale.

Pickles. One way to know you're at a bazaar, not a rummage sale.

Plan your day
Bazaar listings are in your local community paper. Pay close attention to the start times. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself sitting in the parking lot for a half hour, listening to Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn duets

Buy a car
If you already have one, great. But if you don’t, invest in a Chevette to get around. Most of the good bazaars take place in suburbs. So don’t forget your GPS. Or that folded thing called a “map.”

Bring change and small bills
Want to see what a pissed-off church lady looks like? Buy a fifty-cent bran muffin and hand her a twenty. Don’t be that asshole. 

Visit the white elephant table
Honestly, I have no idea why it’s called this, but it’s the used goods area of a bazaar. Since most of the people are old, they’re selling vintage stuff for dirt cheap to hipsters like me. I got a full set of retro glasses last year for $2.25. Someone was selling the same set on eBay for, like, a thousand dollars. So do the math.

These glasses are going for billions on eBay.

These glasses are going for billions on eBay.

Peruse the knitting table
Granted, there are only so many macramé Barbie dresses the world needs at any given time, but you could score some bona fide homemade mittens or a scarf, lovingly made by an expert knitter. Most items are made with acrylic yarn, so keep an eye out for real wool. 

I think this is wool. Maybe. Anyways, it keeps my brain warm.

I think this is wool. Maybe. Anyways, it keeps my brain warm.

Beware the baking
I have mixed feelings about the bake table because I have no way of gauging what anyone’s kitchen looks like. How do I know the kindly-looking lady with the beaded eyeglass chain isn’t a hoarder? Or that she didn’t invite her nose-picking grandkids over to help her make the Rice Krispies squares? As a general policy, only buy stuff that’s been baked. Heat kills cooties. And never, ever buy anything hand-rolled. 

Bought these. Didn't eat them. Hand-rolled. 

Bought these. Didn't eat them. Hand-rolled. 

Don’t dicker over prices
Sure, the braided clothes hanger might have an imperfection or two, but that’s no reason for you to get all hagglish. The woman who made it could be working the table. Just pay the dollar and get on with your day, you cheapskate.

Never leave empty-handed
Budgets may be tight, but you can afford a salt dough E.T. ornament, for fuck’s sake. Or a Dixie cup Christmas tree ornament. Most of the people working the bazaar are volunteers. And they were likely up earlier than you. So show some respect. Remember: every nickel you spend goes toward purchasing new robes for the senior choir. 

You're welcome, senior choir. 

You're welcome, senior choir. 

Be nice
We can all get a little bitchy. But most of the people I meet at bazaars are really nice. And that helps me be nice back. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s something to be said for the old-fashioned hospitality found among most church folk. And maybe, just maybe, bazaars might help remind you what the holiday season is all about.

That's it. You're welcome. Now go forth and bazaar.