Buy a Carpet – Turkish Style!
Buying a Carpet. How it really happens!
Undergoing Intense Negotiations with a Carpet Seller!
I entered a random Carpet Shop where another couple were being subjected to the mystical marketing ways of a middle-aged carpet seller. The walls were piled with carpets and kilims of intermingled scarlets, greens, indigos and any other colour female Turkish carpet weavers found appealing on any given day.
‘Hello, please sit down; I will be with you in a moment. No obligation!’
At that point, I wasn’t that interesting in Buying a Carpet.
The carpet seller was in the process of commencing the carpet selling process to a couple sitting on the floor, sipping the customary elma çay (apple tea) that is always used to commence business proceedings.
‘How about this one? Here is a nice carpet, for you. Do you like it?’
‘Thank you, but…do…you…speak…Spanish?’ replied the daunted prospective customer.
‘That is okay, I can speak some Spanish instead. ‘Si, yo hablo español.’
Buy a Carpet in Every Language!
These carpet sellers must know the words ‘sell to you at my very best price’ in every known language, possibly Martian as well. I imagined how I could become a language aficionado at the Istanbul Academy of Carpet Selling to Gullible Tourists, which produced an over-abundance of graduates waiting in line to occupy their own carpet shop in Kapali Çarşi.
I figured out this is how carpet shopping in Turkey works – if you walk within eyeshot or earshot of a carpet shop, you will undoubtedly hear – ‘Hey, would you like to see a genuine Turkish carpet for a very good price? Is nice!’ This lures the unsuspecting tourist into the store, where the carpet seller will immediately throw their entire lifetime’s stock onto the shop floor.
You like this very much?’ whilst he throws a fantastically-crafted carpet on the flooring.
‘You like, this, how about this one?’ throwing more carpets on the ground.
‘This? This? This one? You like this?’ once again, throwing more carpets on the floor, steadily forming a rug mountain rivalling Mount Ararat.
Suddenly, the ‘customer formerly known as window shopping’ is flooded with a pile of carpets with enough surface area to cover the entire Grand Bazaar, and possibly, all of Istanbul. The now overwhelmed carpet punter starts feeling ‘carpet guilt’ because the poor carpet seller has to pick up approximately 10,000 woven sheep, goats, or camels after the customer had no intention of buying anything resembling livestock locks in the first place.
The carpet seller then supplies tea, sometimes of the apple variety, which is probably spiked with carpet buying conformity drugs. They then tell you how much they like you; so much in fact, they will provide a fantastic discount – the dreaded ‘special friend price’. They only paid (insert dollar value here) for the carpet and they will sell it to you for the ‘I sell my carpets so cheap that I have a closing down sale every week’ price, which is only (insert dollar value here plus 10 bucks, slightly less for handing wads of Turkish lira cash).
Unbelievably, whilst you may be the 1000th person to enter his shop this morning, you are the very first person they’ve ever revealed this special price to. When you finally reveal that you are only a poor filthy backpacker immersing yourself into Turkish culture and they realise your current income is going backwards, they settle down a bit.
When you finally depart the Carpet Store, probably to be persuaded into another, three hours and 10 apple teas later, you are almost certainly the proud owner of at least three new carpets.
Buying a Carpet is a Lot of Fun!
Overall, I thought the Carpet selling procedure was just a game, and a fun one at that. If you do go through the process, don’t take it too seriously, because the carpet sellers don’t!
Hope this advice helps the next time you buy a carpet!
But if you want more serious advice – check out Rugs to Riches: Guide to Buying Oriental Rugs, Revised & Updated Edition, and Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets.