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Vietnam’s “Old Flames” Market, Where Jilted Lovers Sell Memorabilia from Failed Relationships

In Hanoi Vietnam, a young entrepreneur called Dinh Thang has found a creative solution to the post break-up blues. Instead of wallowing among the leftover relics of failed relationships, such as love letters and clothing, Thang has boxed them up and put a price tag on them. In February 2017 he founded the Old Flames Market where the broken hearted can gather together and sell the remnants of their affairs to curious customers.

“This fair is only one of those many cool ideas my friends and I came up with after a chit chat about ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, and things,” Thang told Vietnam News*. “After the break-ups, we found there were many objects left in our homes by old lovers, and we do not want to see them again since they remind us of unhappy memories. However, these things were still in good shape. It would harm the environment if we tossed them away. Then, we thought we should make an exchange with other people, so the objects would find new owners. They can buy new, good objects and we protect the environment. It’s a win-win.”

Photo: Old Flames Market/Facebook

The first couple of times Old Flames Market was organized, only 10 people showed up to sell off memorabilia from their failed relationships, but within months it had attracted more people wanting to sell mementos than could be accommodated.

Today, only a few of those wanting to participate get a stall in the small cottage that Thang is able to use free of charge. Admission is free for buyers and sellers alike, but if a seller brings new goods to sell, they pay 30 percent of their profits to the organizers. All sellers at the fair first join the Old Flames Facebook page where they share the story behind their objects, and then the market organizers choose those allowed to sell at the next market. Priority is given to those who post earliest.

Photo: Old Flames Market/Facebook

Thang has set up a message board in the market where people can write notes to their exes as a means to help them move on. He hopes that the market will help make the topic of breakups less taboo in Vietnam, where until recently arranged marriages were common. And judging by the reaction of those participating in the project, his idea is working.

“I come here mostly for fun, and to share my love memories, not for profit. I what to contribute something for the true spirit of this fair,” one of the sellers said.

Photo: Old Flames Market/Facebook

Another seller said she also came for connection rather than profit. “I think it should be the sole purpose of this fair. I find this idea inspiring. Since they are old stuff, and we don’t need them, we sell for a better goal, for people who truly need them, and we even give things away for free.”

Not everyone agrees with the purpose of the market, as one buyer said to Vietnam News: “I see some sell their books, scarves, and even diaries and love letters. I think these are so sacred and are something between two lovers, so they should not be sold. It’s like they sell their private lives for a bit of money.”

Photo: Old Flames Market/Facebook

Thang disagrees with the criticism, saying that the market is therapeutic for many of the sellers, helping them to let go and move on from a painful part of their lives. He is planning to expand the concept into Vietnam’s commercial capital, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2018.

Breakups apparently inspire people to come up with really creative ideas. A few years ago, we also wrote about the Museum of Broken Relationships, in Zagreb, Croatia, a popular tourist attractions featuring all kinds of items donated by people who ended their romantic relationships.

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