Bargaining is a way of life in Turkey. It’s not just a price-fixing exercise, but a way of socialising, which is why it’s often done during or after a civilised cup of Turkish cay.
Coming from a country where the price of everything is fixed means you might feel all at sea when faced with an enthusiastically haggling Turkish shopkeeper. We give you an insight into the haggling culture - and a few tips to get you started.
1. Prepare to spend some time
Make sure you allow plenty of time on your shopping excursions. Shopping in Turkey is a ritual, it’s not like back home where you are in and out of the shop in five minutes. Be prepared to exchange friendly greetings with the vendor before you get started, and it’s likely a cup of tea will be procured at some point. While you drink your tea your vendor will describe the item you have your eye on - its unique features, its high quality. You might feel like you’re going to be here forever but rest assured, it’s all part of the process.
2. Do your homework
Before you ask for lower prices have a look around the market or area to see how much other vendors are selling the same item for. Visit at least two other places so you can get an idea of price and therefore increase your bargaining power at your chosen shop by telling them that other shops in the vicinity are charging this or that amount.
3. Practice your poker face
Don’t look too enthusiastic about your chosen item - even if you think you’ve found the perfect rug or tea set. During the haggling process your vendor will be sizing you up, trying to gauge how much you really like and want the item. If the vendor thinks you might be undecided on the item they might lower the price even more for you to entice you to buy. Pick up a few other goods and feign interest in them before coming back to your preferred item.
4. Know the numbers
A good rule of thumb to start with is to subtract 30-40 percent of the stated price. Open negotiations by asking the vendor what the price is, and then come up with a counter-offer. If you're not sure, just say you think the item is too expensive and wait for the vendor to offer an alternative price. Don't offer too low a price or the vendor will think you don't know the market. Don't be deterred if the vendor laughs or acts offended at your suggestions, this is part of the haggling ritual. When all else fails, employ the walkout: start to wander out of the shop and the seller will call you back, offering a discounted price.
5. Decide on YOUR best price
It's always annoying to find out someone paid less for the same item than you. And chances are, you won’t get THE best price all of the time. The trick is to decide what the item is worth to you, and pay no more than that. That way, when all's said and done you will always receive value for money.
6. Be ruthless
If you don’t think you’ve got the best deal, be prepared to walk away. It's not worth paying a price that you're unhappy with. And if you DO get a fabulous deal and you're confronted with a sad face from your vendor, don't feel guilty. The vendor would certainly not sell anything to you if it meant he or she made a loss on an item. On the contrary, they've probably made a great sale and they're just as happy as you are.
7. Don’t get aggressive
It can be easy to get hot under the collar when you’re in the thick of negotiations. Remember to take a deep breath and remember, it's just a rug, and this isn't personal. If you lose your cool the vendor will lose respect for you - and be less likely to give you a good price.
8. Multiple items means a discount
If you’re looking for a few items on your shopping excursion, consider buying everything in one go from the same store. You are more likely to get a discount if you buy multiple items or a few different things.
9. Don’t feel obligated to buy
Even if you’ve spent an hour in the shop, drinking tea and exchanging pleasantries, you’re under no obligation to buy the item. If the shopkeeper tries to pull a guilt trip, complaining about the time they’ve spent with you, do not deal with them any further - vendors know very well the ritual of bargaining in Turkey and that a sale is certainly not guaranteed. However, if you’ve agreed on a price you should do the decent thing and follow through with the transaction.
10. Assume prices are in cash
Your final price is a cash price. Banks charge a hefty whack on all card transactions - sometimes up to 6 percent. Be aware of this when you’re making large purchases.
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