I had no intention of buying a rug on our trip to Turkey in December 2006. Certainly, not on the first day....Yet, there I was, just 4 hours after arriving in Istanbul, shaking hands with a rug merchant as he packed up our newly purchased kilin carpet. How did this happen?
I had pretty much this same exact experience in Morocco in 1999. We too found ourselves in a rug shop - in our case, brought there by a hired guide, who no doubt got a commission on folks like us. After a quick tour, we settled in for some tea. At that point the show began. Various workers brought out hundreds of rugs for us to see. We were instructed by our host to merely point out the rugs we liked and the ones we didn't. The field of hundreds of rugs was quickly winnowed to the 20 we said we liked, and then further narrowed to the 3 we liked the best.
And that's when the fun started. The merchant instructed me that in Morocco, the custom is to take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and then have him and I write our price on opposite sides of the line. After each number, we would trade the paper back and forth until we had a deal. Even though I didn't want a rug, much less three, I agreed.
The merchant wrote down a very high price to start - $1000 or something. The price was so high in fact, that I politely thanked him for his hospitality, told him I wasn't in that ball park and didn't want to insult him by saying what i would pay. But he insisted. Fine. I wrote down $20 and cautiously handed him the paper.
The funny part was that after a great deal of chuckling and acting put off, the show went on. He didn't walk. He countered. $500 or something like that. And that's when I thought I had him. If he was going to actually entertain my lowball offer and continue with the negotiations, I was certain I was going to get a deal. So I continued and bumped my offer $40. And so went the back and forth of this tennis match for a while...
Anyway, long story short, I walked away with 2 of the three rugs for $200 or so total. Now, I was feeling really good about this. I won. I got a deal. I wasn't intimated, I stood my ground and I walked away with two rugs (that I didn't want) cheap.
Or so I thought. As I was walking out the door, the merchant stopped me and told me if I wanted the third rug, I could have it for another $80. Ugh. So much for victories. Just another sucker paying too much for a rug I didn't want.