I’m a hunter, relying on the vision, daring, cunning and grit which our moon-howling ancestors needed when tracking Woolly Mammoths and setting fire to beehives for sustenance. Except that I’m not hunting for food — I’ll skip meals for a good flea market score.
I’m hunting for stuff I really don’t need, but must, must, must, I tell you, have. Happy Hunting Ground of choice: The Rose Bowl Swap meet, the Mother of All Flea Markets, though farmers markets, other flea markets, and any damn yard-sale will do when I’m jonesing for a bargain. Newest weapon of choice: the cool little PayAnywhere credit card reader that smart merchants plug into their cellphones when they see me coming.
I’m a collector of collectibles. Yes, there are a few reality shows about this sort of thing. Sordid fare, right up there with “Hillybilly Handfishin'” , “River Monsters”, and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
PayAnywhere was dreamed up by tech wizards for people like me. Because it opens up a universe of new ways to pay for stuff you don’t need. The device even enables the vendor to take the American Express and Discover card– without drama. The last thing I want when I’m bearing down on swap-meet swag– a set of vintage Bakelite-handled forks, a 60s charm bracelet with a canine theme, or a righteous pair of turquoise cowboy boots, ladies size 8– is a jittery merchant who can’t figure out how to take my money.
For a while, I thought my life had changed when hard, cold cash began to creep me out. What did it, actually, was the mommy-obsession with gel hand sanitizer. I’ve never been germ-phobic– hey, I used to hang at the Formosa Cafe. But suddenly, those little pump-bottles of colorless germ killer were everywhere. The supermarkets started offering anti-bacterial pre-moistened towelettes at the cart-caddy. In this context, even touching common US currency –filthy lucre–is crazy.
I began to think of all the hands that had pawed it, passed it along, pocketed and folded and exchanged the bills, written weird little codes and secret numbers on them, all of that damp, sticky, snotty skin in touch with that magic government paper, transacting who knows what sorts of fee-service exchanges. Cash no longer seemed hard or cold. In fact, it seemed warm, slimy, almost organic, teeming with microscopic life-forms, like a spendable SCOBY.
So I stopped carrying my gambler’s roll of singles and fives to the Rose Bowl, and on scouting missions for local swap meets and impromptu garage sales.
But to my dismay, most sellers were nonplussed by my debit card, and all the rest of the plastic arrows I keep in my flea-ready quiver.
A few could manage to make the transaction happen with a horsey post-Edwardian sliding-and-carbon-paper imprint device which put Steampunk to shame. Meanwhile, the sun is passing its zenith, and time’s a-wastin’ — after all, the Melrose Trading Post is open every Sunday, and drive-time from the Rose Bowl, mid-Pasadena, is an hour. Chop-chop! Bargains await!
Or on the first Sunday of the month, beginning my flea-fest at PCC, then braving the drive to the Santa Monica Airport flea, nothing chaps my hide more than a vendor who won’t take food off my table in the form of my next impulse purchase because they aren’t mobile business owners in the 2013 sense of the word.
All that’s changing, right now, all over Los Angeles and elsewhere, because of this PayAnywhere credit card reader, which is compatible with iPad, iTouch, late model Androids and of course the iPhone. Merchants in the know like it because PayAnywhere charges the vendors lower fees per transaction than preceding attempts at this kind of technology by other companies.
I find that this ease of transaction makes sellers less grumpy, more open to friendly negotiation– and, sure, I want the teapot, but it has a chip in the lid, so you’ll give it to me for $10? In which case, I’ll take the matching sugar bowl and creamer. And spit-spot, zippity-zappety, the debit card is swiped in one clean sweep, and it’s time for the