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Entries in artisans (1)

Thursday
Apr052012

The art of haggling

Slippers for the whole family

Agreeing a suitable price to pay for an item in the souks is an eye opener, a huge learning curve, it's pretty tiring but a lot of fun.  Believe me when I say that these artisans have their negotiating skills down to slick perfection, which is no surprise given that they've spent centuries dealing with naive western tourists like moi, handing down their craft, knowledge and schpeel through the generations, from grandfather to son to grandson. Haggling is their favourite pastime for sure.

Like a Cobra, ready to pounce on and devour its next meal, these traders get you in their sights and mercifully deliver their products key selling points with real pride, until you are almost on your knees.  They absolutely know what buttons to press.

It's an impressive sight to see and hear.  It's done without agression or irritation, but with confidence, passion, efficiency and a cheeky swagger.  You cannot help but admire these guys for their standards and their love of their product and for the chase and of course ultimately the basic need for them to support their families.

Needless to say, we came away from the Medina with two rugs, a throw, two pouffes, a handbag and slippers for the whole family.  We had to pay for extra bag allowance with Ryanair in order to get the lot home.

I now consider myself a bit of a pro.  So, are my top bartering tips, in no particular order:

1. Plan first and get a fix on what you intend to purchase before you enter the souk.  It's so easy to be distracted by other items when you get there, so restricting yourself in the first place eliminates too many rash purchases.  We visited the Tanneries for a pouffe and left with two of them plus a handbag and slippers.

2. Decide how much money you are willing to spend on an item.  Artisans are great at the upsell.  They have many versions of products, from the dirt cheap (and lacking in quality) to their very best stuff that's been worked on for hours and weeks and is made of silk, blah blah blah... you get the drift here.  Whatever your budget is, add another 10-20%, because you'll always go for a better quality product or be seduced by how great said particular item will look in your living room.

3. As I said, bartering is an art form. Set your stall out early (pardon the pun).  If you are not intending to purchase something, say so, right from the beginning and keep reiterating this. The guys will still try to convince you otherwise, but you'll at least feel good about making your point clear.

4. I'm convinced that the starting price of an item directly correlates to the trader's perceived wealth of the buyer.  Unlike us, I advise you to not enter a souk with a set of the latest camera equipment around your neck (yes, hubby) or expensive jewellery on show.  If you want to pay less, go in simply dressed and without any personal objects.  It's obvious really.

5. If you are going to make a purchase, YOU MUST HAGGLE.  It's a mandatory sport and in my experience, can take anything from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on each parties persistence.  For example, we purchased our rugs from a trader that is in a cooperative, so is managed closely by the government.  He was a salesman first and a tour guide second.  Trained to give you the low down about the berber tribeswomen, their history and culture and the process for getting the rugs to market, all over a nice cup of hot mint tea and a comfy seat for hubby. He only delivers authentic quality products, at a certain price point, for the good of the community and particularly the berber people.   So he did his job well, we spent more money than we intended but we left with some beautiful items and a warm feeling that we'd contributed to their society.

6. Again, based on experience, as a general rule you can expect to eventually pay around 50% of an item's starting price.

To summarise, the Fez people are friendly folk with the objective of making a living.  Once you know what to look out for, you'll have a wicked time playing the game.

Without further ado, are some photos of my purchases (especially for Erin):

Kilim rug

Goat skin and Camel skin pouffes from the Tanneries

Traditional hand knotted rug

 

 Silk and cotton throw

 

Leather handbag from the Tanneries

 I cannot pick a favourite purchase, they are all lovely for their individual reasons.  What's your most favourite holiday/trip purchase? Do tell.