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Turkish Carpets

The Art of Bargaining in Turkey

The Art of Bargaining 

This may sound far-fetched but these guys can be really convincing.

One day, after a particularly heavy downpour, we were enjoying a stroll down yet another cobblestone street, admiring the artsy cafes and plump street dogs in the cool afterglow of rain.

A well-dressed, handsome man approached me and told me that I had some dirt on my leggings which, in fact, I did. He then stretched out his hand and shook mine warmly and began to ask the routine questions: where are you from, how long are you here for, is this your first time in Istanbul. I answered politely, already sensing that a suit or fur coat would soon appear in the conversation. Instead, the man calmly explained that if we wanted a great tour, he knew the people who worked in a nearby travel agency that could give us a great deal.

When we explained that we weren’t interested, he nonchalantly mentioned that he owned a carpet store nearby that we were welcome to take a look at. Having just spent $300 sending a suitcase home to Australia, I knew that there was no way I was going to buy a dirty great carpet to lug around South East Asia for the next six months. I told the man modestly that I didn’t have enough money to buy a carpet. He persisted and I listened patiently. However, my ears pricked up when he mentioned that we could take a look at how the carpets were made.

What an opportunity! I thought, imagining a small room where an ornately dressed Turkish woman sits at a spindle and whips up gorgeous carpets in between tea breaks.

He had me hooked. So we set off to visit this man’s carpet shop. We walked into a room with a polished wooden floor that was lined with piles of exquisite carpets. No spindle. No woman. The man sat down on the couch and gestured for us to follow suit. He barked an order at someone who was outside the doorway and started his negotiations.

After a few minutes, traditional Turkish tea was brought in for us, lovely little sugar cubes and all. At this point we knew that we had made a mistake.

Even though I had made it quite clear that I was not in the market for a carpet, this man wanted to sell us one. And he made it bloody hard to say no.

Turkish Lamps in Istanbul
Turkish Lamps in Istanbul

Negotiations started with him asking what kind of carpet we like. Our answer, that we don’t really want a carpet and have never even thought about what kind of carpets there are to like, was met with a cheeky suggestion to imagine…on the wall, on the floor, what size, what colour…and he began rolling out carpet after carpet, each superb and worth much more than I had to pay.

This little game of us insisting we didn’t want a carpet and him doing his best to talk us out of that decision lasted for about 10 minutes before Pasha and I both started trying to pass the buck to one another. “It’s up to my husband.” “My wife can decide.”

And, strangely enough, even though I didn’t want a carpet and had no money or space for one, I was somehow still entertaining the idea of buying one just to get out of this crazy situation we’d ended up in.

Turkish Tea
Turkish Tea

Nonetheless, this man must have sensed our reluctance and he tried one final gesture. He asked us to tell him how much we were willing to pay. Even if it was an offensively small sum. So that he could “see what he had to work with.” Obviously my offer of $20 did, in fact, offend him or he just realized that we were hopeless causes.

We were soon back on the street, having left our tea untouched, wondering what had happened and whether it was us who had wasted his time or the other way around.

I don’t know why he chose to approach me as I was, as previously mentioned, wearing dirty black leggings, a shabby black top and had no gold chains hanging from around my neck. But all in all it was an interesting experience. Even if we never did get to see how his carpets were made.

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