Despite the long-time talk about the demise of the street-market as an inefficient place to make money street-markets, flea-markets and car-boot sales are booming. People seem to have discovered these places not only as markets to buy and sell objects but also as places for leisure activities. In London and other big cities street-markets have become major tourist attractions. In recent years, they have been redeveloped to increase their attractiveness and possibly also to give them a more trustworthy, clean and orderly look. Moreover, they often are equipped with surveillance cameras and security staff who police trading and behaviour more generally. Yet, what has remained largely the same over the past years is that sales are produced in interaction between traders and customers, people who first show an interest in a particular stall or sales item and then make a purchase, or sometimes leave without buying anything. “Price” and”price information” plays a particular part in the interaction between traders and their customers. In “Timing is money” I consider pricing not so much as a process of calculation for the participant to get the best value out of the interaction, although this may play a part in this as well, but as a communicative practice that traders and customers deploy in the interaction. The paper examines the moment when and the way in which traders and customers use “price” in their interaction, e.g. when do they use price in an offer or request of a sales item? It turns out that price is often deployed as a technique to manage the ‘floor’ and the interaction at the stall. For example, when customers display an interest in an item but are not yet committed to buying an item offers, including price information, are designed in a particular way that encourage the customers to commit to make a purchase.
The paper uses “focused ethnography” as a research method. Alongside other recent developments in ethnography, such as “short-term ethnography” (Pink and Morgan 2013) Hubert Knoblauch developed “focused ethnography” (2005) an observational research methods that often supported by video-recordings examines in detail particular settings and activities while spending only relatively short periods of time there.
Knoblauch, Hubert (2005). Focused Ethnography [30 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(3), Art. 44, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0503440.
Llewellyn, N. and Burrow, R.. (2008) Streetwise sales and the social order of city streets British Journal Of Sociology 59: 561-583.
Pink, Sarah & Morgan, Jennie (2013). Short-term Ethnography. Symbolic Interaction Vol.36(3) 351-361
vom Lehn, Dirk (2013). Timing is Money: managing the floor in sales interaction at street-market stalls. Journal of Marketing Management. (Early View)