Hoping for a successful rug sale
April 26, 2012 7:47 AM   Subscribe

A moroccan rug dealer convinced us that we could sell a handmade rug for a profit. How do we sell it, and can we make a profit?

While in Fes, we bought two beautiful rugs, both with government forms that certify them handmade in Fes, of extra high quality, 1M knots per sq meter. We know nothing about the process of selling a rug. What are our first steps?
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated to Shopping (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you got hustled by a Moroccan rug dealer.
posted by jayder at 7:49 AM on April 26, 2012 [20 favorites]

Totally. You're lucky he didn't convince you that they could fly.
posted by Jairus at 7:51 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I lived in Morocco and I have to echo the opinion that you got hustled. Enjoy your new rugs (I mean it)!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:53 AM on April 26, 2012

A little googling of "fes carpet scam" will make things a bit clearer:
These unauthorized guides prey on unaware tourists by taking them on "tours" which consist of high pressure sales at manufacturing shops. I am sure the shops are legitamite, but they try to sell things at very high prices and the "guides" get a kick back. My "guide" always stayed several steps ahead of me on the street and never paused unless there was noone else around. Once a policeman stopped him and I think he slipped the policeman some cash as unofficial guides are not allowed unless they bribe the officers.

The Creme de la Creme is the carpet shop. By trying to establish my trust with the Sammy/Tony scam, they tried to get me to believe you could actually resell a carpet and pay for everything, ridiculous as that sounds. Using Tony - a guy from Barcelona who works with people in Morocco and happens to also speak some arabic - they establish trust. The free dinner also helps. Then if they can get a high price for the carpet, they all get a share.
posted by Jairus at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2012

Looking at completed Ebay listings for "moroccan rug" shows that almost none of them sold for more than $100. Some failed to sell at under $20. There are a couple on the first page that went for over $500, but they had the pedigree of coming from Pottery Barn :/

It sounds like you kind of know you overpaid by the wording of your first sentence. Selling overpriced local goods to tourists is a fairly big industry in a lot of countries. Don't think of it as getting scammed. Just think that you got a souvenir. If they're beautiful as you say, keep them for your own enjoyment.
posted by justkevin at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2012

You're not going to make a profit on a new rug. Pre-war, great abrash, wonderful colors--possibly.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:10 AM on April 26, 2012

There are rug stores in most areas of the US; not carpeting stores, but imported middle-eastern rug stores. The owners could be from any of the rug-producing countries, and their shop will tend toward that nationality, but they're usually acting as the local experts in the whole breadth of the imported rug trade. Including cleaning, insurance valuation, repair, consignment, etc. Will you turn a profit? Probably not - they have access to the same type of rugs you bought in Morocco, so the only question is how (your bargaining skill) compares to (their bargaining skill, their market position, import taxes). If they're paying full import duty for their stock, you might stand a chance, otherwise not so much.

The second option is private sales; no idea how to do that, apart from eBay or craigslist. Here, you'd be in better shape than a rug store if you were expecting less profit margin than they were; except they have better customer access, more authenticity, and can probably sell for more. It's like selling art - it's worth as much as the dealer says it is, and/or as much as the customer is willing to pay.

I do know someone who has friends who run a rug store in Turkey, and a job that took her back and forth quite a bit. Through her connections with them, her "family-price" purchases, her knowledge of rugs, her frequent travel and hand-carry luggage, she started a web-based small-scale rug import store. As I understand it, it started out mostly as taking requests/orders from friends, and expanded into buying extras just in case. Given that structure, she earned approx 10% on every sale, but that's different from just selling one rug.

Anyway - the dealer might have meant well. He was not necessarily actively scamming you. But, while rugs are a reasonable cash-storage vehicle in the local economy, the same is not really true when you bring it back to the US.
posted by aimedwander at 8:30 AM on April 26, 2012

Yeah, this kind of sales pitch is a mini-industry in Morocco and in Turkey; it's very very common. You're no more likely to be able to sell your rugs at a profit than you would be able to sell any other kind of tourist souvenir.

So you have a couple of nice souvenirs now. That's not such a bad thing.

(If it makes you feel any better I still have a djellaba in the back of the closet from my Very Bad Day In Tangiers, because the only way I could see to escape from the shop was to buy something, and I was genuinely too broke to afford a rug.)
posted by ook at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2012

You got taken for a magic carpet ride.

On the other hand, you could always put them on ebay or craigslist and see what you get for them. I doubt you'd profit significantly, but you could tack on 20% or so and see if people will go for it.

I think there's a strong chance that you'll get them off your hands if you don't want them, possibly at the price you paid if it was at all reasonable. People like ethnic rugs, not many people travel to Morocco, and official rug dealers mark up a lot.

The real question is whether you'd rather get them off your hands (in which case anything you can get is better than nothing) or keep them as souvenirs.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2012

Yeah, beyond this being a scam, the local rug dealer in your area sends his son or nephew to Country X to buy rugs every summer and that person knows how to find good deals.
posted by k8t at 6:28 PM on April 26, 2012

Hi I think we met the same rug dealer in Fes a couple years ago. We were brought in by a terrible official guide whose attitude was enough to sour us on Fes. The rug dealer took us up four flights of ever narrowing stairs to his roof which had a great panorama over the old city and encouraged us to take pictures and he talked about the world and politics and his friends in Montreal and he wished that inshallah my wife and I would one day have many children and then he took us down one flight and where a single young woman was working the loom and he encouraged my wife to sit next to the young woman and have a go at working it and then brought us downstairs to the room of many folded rugs and blankets and other such things and started unfolding them to show the differences and and to explain the handiwork and when he offered us tea I knew we were in trouble so I made our excuses and we promised to come back the next day and he walked us back down to our guide waiting out front. The next day we were wandering through Fes on our own and we turned a corned and heard "my Canadian friends, inshallah you have returned" and beaten we followed him up the stairs and he got a boy to get us tea and to lay out all the carpets and rugs one after another after another until we were sure of the one we were most interested. And i just wanted to get it over with as quick as possible but I knew i had to haggle with all my might and I felt I had done well by haggling the price down 40% or so until I saw the boy smiling as I handed over the bills. I bought this story that day. It came with a free rug (woven blanket actually). You bought a story too, cultivate it as we have our own.
posted by dismitree at 7:18 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, beyond this being a scam, the local rug dealer in your area sends his son or nephew to Country X to buy rugs every summer and that person knows how to find good deals.
posted by k8t at 6:28 PM on April 26
[+] [!]

True. What makes these claims implausible is that, if the dealer knows you can sell these rugs to you at a large profit, he wouldn't be selling them to you at such a low price, he would be selling the rugs at the "large profit" that he is telling you about.
posted by jayder at 8:12 PM on April 26, 2012

I see that few people are answering your actual question. I don't think that there is any well-established procedure for amateur, one-time rug-selling. In your shoes I would try to get my rug in front of the people who would be interested in the story and the "pedigree" that you have with the papers. (Even though I think that crowd will overlap greatly with the crowd that has had a similar rug experience). Anyway I'm thinking the farmer's market scene here so if you know anyone with a booth at one of those types of markets where they also sell these kinds of handmade goods, I'd see if they would let me sell my rug there or if they would sell it for me. Or if there are any funky cafes near you that hang local art on their walls that people can buy, I'd see if I could hang the rug. The next thing I would try is Etsy, because obviously they don't really give a hoot if you have made the handmade goods you are selling on Etsy. Actually I would try Etsy first. And then there are the conventional options like consignment shops. And of course Craigslist, eBay, etc.
posted by cairdeas at 9:31 PM on April 27, 2012

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