Buying a Turkish Carpet
We'd pretty much covered the major sites: the spice market, Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, and Topkai Palace. It was our last day in the city, so we simply wandered the streets, looking for not much of anything.
But we were pleasantly surprised at what we found.
The man who approached us was enthusiastic and had a gorgeous head of thick, wavy black hair. He name was Ali. He sold soumaks, one of the many types of carpets found in Turkey.
Hundreds of carpet pitchmen had tried, to no avail, to woo us in our wanderings through the city. We thought the time had come to follow one into his shop and find out what all the fuss was about.
We sipped on fragrant tea in little hourglass-shaped cups. Ali crouched over carpet after carpet. His embroidered rugs came in a dazzling array of colors, a mosaic of reds and indigos and oranges the color of turmeric.
During this early phase of looking and learning, our conversation with Ali was as flirty as two sixth-graders at a school dance.
Soon, we narrowed it down to two carpets.
So far we had avoided talking about money. In bargaining, it's fine to ask for prices, but the shopkeeper knows he has you when you talk numbers. And it's considered bad etiquette to engage in haggling, and then renege.
After a little number-crunching, Ali arrived at a price, or so we thought.
Pricing seems almost completely arbitrary. During our exchange, we heard Ali describe his price as not only 'normal' and 'reasonable,' but ...
Flexible? Reasonable? Were they one and the same? We weren't sure. But we did know that if you start to haggle, the general rule is you counter the seller's offer with half his asking price, then settle somewhere around seventy percent.
The exchange was growing tense, so I sent Diane a nonverbal sign. I shrugged my shoulders. I really wasn't crazy about either of them. Though newlyweds, she read me right.
What do you say to that? We thanked him for his time, said we needed to leave and got up to do so. That's when the power shifted.
This would have been the time to name a price closer to our liking. But we were ready to go. The spell was broken. We promised Ali, and ourselves, that we would come back if we had a change of heart.
He was right. We didn't. And though we sometimes imagine one of those colorful carpets back here on our cold wood floors in Minneapolis, we console ourselves that we can always go back. Ali, and a deal, will surely find us again.Reporting with Diane Richard, I'm Todd Melby for The Savvy Traveler.
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