Monday, October 15, 2007

Shopping for Carpets in Istanbul

The last three days in Istanbul have been holidays in honor of the end of Ramadan. Partying and tourists and crowds but not much street traffic which would have been nice to ride the bike around except that it rained for two straight days. Today was back to work, and I looked around for a new rear tire for Clara's bike after 13,000 miles.
The nice guys at ATA motorcycles ordered us one for tomorrow and helped me put on my new front which we've been carrying around since England. They didn't charge me anything despite spending half an hour with me.
The Turkish people have been particularly nice and friendly with us. When we were waiting to get into the Palace, three young guys had two extra tickets which they gave to us, saving us $20. When I took the Metro and the bus out to meet someone last night, a random person on the bus gave me his electronic bus pass (Charlie Card???? please...) to get me on. The shopkeepers and restaurants are very pushy, but they are directly involved in the tourist trade. A good way to tell if you are in a tourist area is if nothing has a price tag, they gauge you before telling you the price.

So we spent two hours today looking at rugs at one sellers place near the Iranian embassy and a famous Turkish bath. I still feel a bit unclean, and have a headache from the whole experience. I feel like I was date raped, and we didn't even buy anything. Turkish carpet selling is definitely a place where No, doesn't mean No.
You know they are doing anything to try and sell when they are complementing me on my jacket, my orderly attention to detail, and my taste in carpets. They sized us up for 2 wool rugs and 2 silk rugs for a cool $20,880 before coming down to about $8000 for the two area wool rugs. When we explained that we were in Turkey and were going to travel around before returning to Istanbul, they brought in the "closer", who first needed everything explained to him in Turkish before suddenly being passably fluent in English. Pretty soon they were explaining something about warm soup and the spirit of spontaneity in Turkey and how I should let myself live a bit. He then put me into a double vice grip so I couldn't walk out and insisted that Clara give him a price for the two rugs, when she answered $5000, he said $4999 and tried to get a handshake to seal the deal, while still holding onto me. Did that guy have 3 hands somewhere?

I had kept my tongue tied during most of the afternoon, but thought to myself when they said I needed to be more like the Turks, that maybe they needed to more like the Americans. How efficient can it be to spend 2 hours with every client and having 5 guys run around throwing spinning flying carpets through the air and giving everyone free coffee and tea. Just put a price tag on it and make your money through volume! WalMart seems to be doing Ok with this business model.

We went to the Golden Arches for dinner, as I couldn't take anything more Turkish for the day, and frankly the food here is not that exciting or varied(as confirmed by expats living here. While waiting in line I cracked Clara up by saying "imagine if you had to negotiate for your Big Mac? 'would you like a cup of tea, my friend while I explain to you the two whole beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, tomato on a sesame seed bun?', 'can you suggest a price that would make this sandwich close to your heart?', 'don't think of it as a sandwich, but as an investment in your enjoyment of your life'...."
The signs out side wouldn't say "Billions served" they would say, "42 close and good friends served, in business for 3 generations!"

1 comment:

Anders said...

I really hope you didn´t buy any carpet(s). We did and did get blowed in a way. We really paid to much for a copie syntetic silk/cotton made in China and a half wool and something more made in Pakistan.
We tryed to get the money back, but no. That is a long story to tell, for the moment I leave it. So now we have started a process, we getting help from an expert on rugs in Istanbul, getting the rugs we bought valued compered to what we have back in Sweden.
Let´s be in touch.
Be careful out there, it´s a jungel of carpets.
Anders and Kathy