Lesson 6, Marketplace Etiquette, How to start a market stall, #marketnosh

Lesson 6: Marketplace Etiquette

It seems that we all have a different attitude to the way we conduct ourselves around others. Largely due to the way we are brought up and also to the necessity of our current situations, we all then act in different ways towards our fellow neighbour.

Some rules are written down, while others everyone else knows.

Every trader wants to sell their products and make their money for that day. Some ambitious traders will try to push and shout their way to a sale while others will be more sensitive. How you act will influence the way you are treated in the marketplace.

What then is appropriate? We will cover general etiquette in the marketplace and have a look at how to deal with your fellow traders while you are there. For more other lessons click How to Start a Market Stall.

The First Day

The first day of any event, school, lecture, work is always somewhat strange. You meet people who quickly become your friends, and others who won’t even acknowledge your existence unless you have toiled for a good few years.

There are the obvious mistakes you will make, like setting up your stall in the wrong place, or have a product that another trader is also selling right next to you. There are a whole host of important rules and regulations to remember, and you need to deal with your own nerves!

Relax – it will all be fine!

We so often are worried about doing the wrong thing when in reality we are all going to make errors of judgement or forget something important. That is just as normal as getting things right!

The first day will carry you on nerves and excitement. Take your time, stand in line, get your stall location and set up.

Learn Through Observation

I use the word observation as it is more than just watching someone else. Look at the way they are setting their stall up, who they are talking to, and what they brought with them.

If they are your neighbour, observe the way they go through their routine of making sure everything is ready for the next customer who turns up.

You’ll learn a lot just from observing those around you.

Talk to Others

Okay, okay, you’re already nervous enough, but you still need to meet other people and get to know a few of them. The rule here is they don’t need to do anything!

You are the new person and it is up to you to make your greetings heard. “Hello”, goes a long way. Ask what they are selling, so if a customer is looking for a specific item you know where to send them.

Tell them about your stall. What you did to make your products and how you are feeling about meeting your first customers. They will certainly remember their first day and all that happened to them.

This will also form the basis for your networking potential as the days and weeks roll on. You are going to be a communication specialist as you improve through the weeks, why not start from day one!

Queue Jumping

The simple rule is respect your fellow neighbour. However, there are different rules in different countries and if you mix those ‘unwritten’ rules you will have a rocky start!

In the United Kingdom, queue jumping is very much frowned upon. Someone may something, but normally people just grumble. This however, is a silent form of ousting you from their community. You will be talked about and you will not have referrals from you fellow traders. You’ll be left to go it alone!

In some countries in Africa it is normal to all rush to the front and the one who is there at the time of pen writing gets the attention. If this is what you are brought up with, and then try to apply the same in a country where people are more orderly, you’ll find it gets difficult to move forward with your fellow traders.

Equally management may penalize you by giving you a poor spot or ask you to move to the back causing you to lose potential earnings for that day.

Setting Up

When setting up you generally have the space of your stall. Don’t spread your stuff all over the walk way or entrance, making it difficult for others to get past.

Equally, don’t use your neighbours space (unless they say it is fine) to store your products or lay them out. You have rented part of the floor, just as they have and that is all the space you have to use!

Another marketplace etiquette tip to note is the way you set your stall up! DO NOT ENCROACH! You must not obstruct or set out your stall wider than the limits of what you have rented out for the day.

Some markets are a little more flexible on how much you can place over the line in front of your stall, but generally it is not acceptable to obstruct the view your neighbour is getting from passing customers.

If you are having a difficult time with a trader and you have asked politely then it may be prudent to ask the management what is acceptable.

Don’t Butt In!

It seems logical not to disturb your fellow trader in the midst of a sale they are making to ask them for change or directions to the nearest burger van! Don’t do it.

Wait for an opportunity where they are free, and ask them questions, and if a customer approaches, walk away and return later on.

This allows your fellow traders to recognise that you are mindful of their business as much as you respect their space.

“Please Watch My Stall”

At some point you are going to need to visit the toilet. Fact of life! At that point you could pack your whole stall away, take it with you to the toilet and return and set it all up again, or you can rely on your neighbours around you when you do have to leave.

Here, common sense should prevail. Place a sign up on your stall saying you’ll be back soon and use a mobile number for a potential customer to contact you.

Take your float and valuables with you. As much as we all want to believe our neighbours are good, we also don’t want to put them in a difficult situation. If your float goes missing you will more than likely assume it was your neighbour and this will bring bad blood between you.

Rather remove all possible causes for a bad relationship and thank them kindly when returning. Perhaps even offer to do the tea or drinks run while you are at it.

Again, no guarantees will be made that your neighbour will sell your products, but if you leave the note and ask them to point any potential customers to call your mobile it will again make watching your stall easier for them.

Noisy Neighbour!

There is always one who has to shout out their prices, deals and offers that they have and after 5-6 hours of constant shouting it can become a little irritating to say the least.

Equally, a boom box or stereo speakers can provide light entertainment and create a soothing atmosphere, but dance music played with full base will earn you no friends. Keep it at a low-level if you must have sounds and try at least to mix up the music a little!


The ultimate Marketplace Etiquette rule is to respect your neighbour as you would like to be respected. If you are unsure, ask those around you when they have a moment. You will find being part of the community and offering to help out as much as you can will make your experience and those around you far better.

You need to stick together too and in todays society, opportunities to network are all around you in the marketplace. Make the most of them and enjoy the experience.

There are different unwritten rules in every marketplace, what are some of the ones you may have come across. Let us know over on the Facebook group, the Market Nosh Costers.

Quick Quiz

  1. What can be done on the first day other than stand around?
  2. Name a few ways your stall can be set up wrong.
  3. What should be the rule to apply for great Marketplace Etiquette?

Similar Posts