Buying carpet in Kusadasi
May 28, 2007 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Help our friends buy a rug in Kusadasi, Turkey, without being completely swindled or drowned in apple tea

Friends of ours are stopping in Kusadasi on a Mediterranean Cruise, and are interested in buying a carpet while there. We spent a day there a few years back and found it very challenging to figure out what to buy and how much to pay-being Americans relatively unused to bargaining and not knowledgeable about Turkish carpets in general. We were told to avoid the "cultural carpet factory tours" (which we did, though our bus driver moaned and berated us for not caring about their national heritage), and have passed that advice along. Any other tips? Specific shops to visit? Or is it better to avoid making a purchase like that in such a tourist area at all?
posted by purenitrous to Travel & Transportation around Kusadasi, Turkey (19 answers total)
I know a lot about Moroccan carpets, and one thing about carpets in general...if they like it, and the price is right for them, go ahead and buy. A friend of ours once proudly showed us her "handwoven, purchased from a cooperative" Turkish carpets, and they were obviously (to our eyes) factory made - but who cares. She loves them, and that's what counts.

Just take all their the sellers schtick about natural dyes/knot count/symbol meanings with a grain of salt. And don't put carpets where the sun will hit them all the time, they age quickly. As for the bargaining bit, in Morocco, they multiply the price they'll take by 3 (approximately), more if they think they can get it.
posted by Liosliath at 6:42 PM on May 28, 2007

I bought a carpet in Selcuk (a few miles from Ephesus) about 20 years ago...eek, how time flies. A glance over my shoulder and that carpet is right there.

At the time, it was a question of shopping around, enjoying the experience, and not being in a super-touristed location. I still remember the buying experience though. At the time, I think my Lonely Planet guide had some good tips.

I've heard that your friends stand a chance of getting befriended by people who just "happen" to know a great place to buy a carpet.
posted by idb at 7:19 PM on May 28, 2007

Oh Lordy. I hesitate to say this but MAN did I hate Turkish rug salesmen. They were the #1 thing that made me happy to leave the country. They will follow you up and down the street saying, "Hello! I want to be your friend! Where are you from? What is your name?" UGH.

But that aside, here are a few good articles that might give some good insight.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:27 PM on May 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

when I bought my rug in Turkey, I looked at it as an experience rather than an investment. We had great fun with the negotiations and came back with lots of stories to accompany my prayer rug which it turns out was actually a good buy.
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:02 PM on May 28, 2007

My wife sells Oriental carpets (most of her inventory is Turkish, incidentally). Customers come to her asking for advice for their trips to Turkey and she advises them not to buy anything. Every rug you see, she tells them, will be made for tourists (that is, low quality: bad wool and/or bad dyes) and overpriced. You will think you're getting a great deal on a great rug and will bring it to her for an appraisal and she will have to find a diplomatic way to tell you that you bought junk. (On preview, rereading peace_love_hope, I'll add "in most cases.")

But nobody wants to hear that, and nobody follows her advice. So she also says that, if they are determined to buy a rug, they should buy something small and inexpensive. Something they can invest with sentimental value because the piece is not likely to have any long-term value otherwise.

My advice? Spend your money on food and museum admissions.
posted by booth at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2007

No great tips, but it's excellent advice not to get so worked up about getting "the best price" that it spoils the fun. If they get a carpet they actually like, they should focus on that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2007

(i.e., resolve not to get it appraised, for exactly the reason that booth mentions)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2007

I know your folks might say they want a carpet, but there's so much other great stuff to buy over there, including other textiles, that it seems silly to sink so much money (and it will be a lot of money, perhaps) into one thing. Also - would they have to deal with getting the carpet back home after their cruise ends? That might be a bigger hassle than they want to deal with.

The best thing I bought in Turkey was a gorgeous backgammon set - I think it's called "tawula" (which sounded like "TAHV-luh") in Turkish. This was in Istanbul, but it was just a really nicely-made wooden set, and made a great (cheap!) set back home for my family. It really brings back memories of sitting in this pedestrian cafe in Istanbul with a friend from college who I hadn't seen in a really long time and just soaking in the sounds and sights and smells of the place.

Other nice Turkish gifts were amulets to keep away the evil eye (imagine a blue and white bulls eye on string), some pop CDs for a friend, a not-so-well-translated-but-still-understandable book of Turkish folk stories in English, and a photo book of mosque architecture I made.

(And drowning in apple tea would be a great way to die - I bought five boxes at a little mini market thing and rationed when I got home.)
posted by mdonley at 10:28 PM on May 28, 2007

Some experience & hints from travel & purchasing (including carpets, kilims etc) in bargaining cultures (eg, India, Morocco, Middle East - including Turkey):

* never ever EVER buy anything in a shop that somebody has taken you to (bus driver, friend on street or from hotel etc). These people are commission parasites & NOT the brother etc of the carpet seller. Your price will be inflated to cover their commission.

* relax & take it easy. the chitchat & constant tea are part of the way of doing business. you MIGHT get a better deal if they like your relaxed, non-western approach. remember that part of the psychology is that if they offer you something for free, you are more likely to feel obliged to reciprocate with a purchase.

* if you see something you like, try to be noncommittal & a bit evasive. if they know you really really like one particular piece, they have you by the balls, price-wise. see if you can get your preferred piece into a displayed shortlist of maybe six or so, then kinda tut-tuttingly ask "and how much for *that* one? hm, tut tut. i mean it's OK & all...but..."

* do not feel obliged to buy just becoz they've pulled out 1000 carpets for you to see. that's also part of the obligation-creating psychology.

* never answer questions like "how much you expect to pay for something like this in your country?". there isn't such an easy way out of this one, but "we're not in my country, i am more interested in the local price *wink*" (with humour, not aggression) is an ok way out. best not to admit that you are not an expert buyer.

* try to avoid the situation when merchants display a few pieces & ask "which one you like (/most)?". this establishes an implicit agreement that you really do like it & hope to buy it. take your time. "i dunno, they're all ok. can i see some others, please?"

* avoid appearing too committed ever. interested, but not hooked

* try to enjoy the bargaining & interaction. it can be pleasant, friendly & fun. don't treat it too much like a competition. a game, maybe. but not life-or-death.

* don't listen to a single assurance that something is hand-made, natural-dye, antique, a billion knots per square inch, etc. it may or may not be true, but is kinda likely to be on the false side. defuse these by saying that you are not so interested in such matters. you are more interested in designs that suit your house (or similar excuse).

* watch for the bait & switch upsell. you'll be shown some pieces, made to go "oooh, aaah" then they'll pull out a really "special" piece, of finer quality. it will be finer & a big temptation for you to buy above what you initially wanted.

* never be afraid to walk away. sometimes, the merchants switch & become hostile & aggressive. it's all act. emotional blackmail. don't argue. be polite & walk away.

* if there are plenty of shops, walk away anyway, after some casual haggling over price. this is a bit of a dirty tactic, but they'll often shout a pretty reasonable last-price after you. there are always other shops to visit.

* one rule: if you state a price, you are more-or-less obliged to honour it & buy. be careful of being tricked into making an offer (or something that sounds like an offer) on anything if you are not sure you want it. the "how much you expect to pay for this?" is often twisted by the merchant into "but you said you would be willing to pay $x".

* don't be too afraid to offer an outrageously low price, even something like 1/5th of what they initially quote. you might be greeted with outrage, but it's all mock. they will be glad that you've "settled down to business", ie started talking about money. customers who run away at first mention of the opening price must be as frustrating to merchants as timid virgins. it's all just an opening gambit.

* don't be afraid to be firm on price, after some intial haggling. if you reach a level that you think is enough, stick to it. see walking away, above.

um, that's about all i can think of right now. overall, be friendly, take your time, use humour, and remember that you will probably get a better deal than back home.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:55 PM on May 28, 2007 [5 favorites]

oh, PS: often, casual conversation will be used to determine your wealth or travel experience. "This is my first port of call on my first trip outside the states on MS Luxury" is a bad move. "We're staying in [cheapish pansione]" is better. "We've been motorcycling from China to South Africa for the past ten years" is best, but you'd better well have realistic tales to back this up!
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:58 PM on May 28, 2007

PPS: on that last point, DON'T say you're on the cruise ship. people fresh off the boat / plane are a target everywhere in the world (no idea of currency value yet). do some quick research on a plausible fake itinerary - (istanbul, ankara, cappadocia, antalya, bodrum is plausible enough). learn a teensy bit about what is actually in these places, becoz merchants sometimes try to catch you out: "oh, bodrum, i grew up there. did you see the famous pyramids of giza while you were there?". say what you know, deny all else.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:09 PM on May 28, 2007

I'd say
1) don't buy in Kusadasi, it's the pits of the earth.
2) look the salesman straight in the eyes as you bargain (piece of advice given to me by a salesman in Kusadasi)
posted by Lezzles at 12:02 AM on May 29, 2007

don't buy in Kusadasi, it's the pits of the earth

the way the question was posted, i assumed that it was kusadasi or nowhere. it's massively touristic, but so is pretty much everywhere on the aegean & mediterranean coasts.

that's no reason not to buy. i've opted against buying all kinds of things in all kinds of places for paranoia against being ripped off, only to regret it later. it's probably a good idea to stick within a smallish budget, though - a few hundred bucks at most. if you try playing in higher ranges, you'd almost certainly do better buying from an importer back home. depends on how much you like gambling, i guess...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:57 AM on May 29, 2007

I had a girlfriend who worked in a carpet shop in Fethiye so spent countless hours hanging out watching the transactions.
  • "never be afraid to walk away". Great advice.
  • A genuinely silk carpet will not be injured if you hold a lighter flame to it. Nylon will. Any merchant who won't do the lighter test on a "silk" carpet is a liar.
  • The "best price" is never the best price
  • Humour goes a long way
  • Once you make an offer, you have to honour it
  • Carpet quality can be measured coarsely in knot density. Turn the carpet over; the more knots per square inch mean a more expensive carpet
  • Buy one you like; they last for ever

posted by Pericles at 4:57 AM on May 29, 2007

(i'm hoping booth returns...personally, i find carpets a dodgy proposition overall...i've seen the *exact* same ones all the way from India to Morocco, so many times over. there must be one massive factory in uzbekhistan or somewhere churning them out. i'd go for kilims in turkey, least they're cheaper & harder to find back home, even if they are touristic. dunno what mrs booth thinks of that suggestion...?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:04 AM on May 29, 2007

Oh comeon, Kucadasi isn't the pit of the Earth. That's Tijuana. Or perhaps Kurukshetra, India. I actually enjoyed my hotel in Kucadasi that I stuck around town for a few more days. Really, really great advice in this thread though. Seriously.

Everyone who says use humor, to be prepared to walk away, and not to stress out about getting the best price has it nailed. I bought a bunch of perfume in Egypt and the bargaining for it ended up being a great memory & more important than the perfume. I sat in a fancy salon, being served mint tea and hibiscus juice while I was surrounded with all sorts of fancy perfume bottles to smell. At first the salesman kept trying to sell me these HUGE bottles of stuff for way more than I wanted to spend. At first I felt really uncomfortable but then I remembered that I was under no obligation to do anything & could walk away so I decided to enjoy myself. I told him that I liked his perfumes but would never need so much, that it was expensive, and that maybe I should go. He begged me to stay and the game began.

I had already discovered that my eyes were a big source of interest there (same in Turkey)... blue & green eyes are somewhat rare and a sign of luck. This came in handy with the perfume dealer. He kept saying, "Your eyes are beautiful. I will give you bigger discount. When I look at them, I cannot help it." Then when his discount wasn't low enough, I'd say, "Here. Why don't you look at my eyes again and make the price lower, ok?" It became really funny after a while. He'd offer a price and I'd just stare at him & point to my eyes instead of telling him to try another price. I think I actually got an ok deal in the end and even if I didn't it was fun to haggle. It's a really fun memory for me.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:47 AM on May 29, 2007

UbuRoivas has great advice; memorize and heed it, especially

never be afraid to walk away.

I got all sorts of bargains in Turkey using those tactics, even on bus tickets (yes, they haggle for long-distance bus tickets; they haggle for everything). My (then) wife worked her way around the Silk Han at Bursa, honing her bargaining skills, and by the time she was ready to actually buy stuff for gifts, she had the satisfaction of seeing the merchants sweating as they swore their children would go hungry if they lowered the price any more. That game is very enjoyable for both sides, if you can get into it.

We didn't buy any carpets, though, because 1) we knew we had no hope of getting a decent deal because we didn't know enough and 2) the fucking rug salesmen are EVERYWHERE and are FUCKING OBNOXIOUS and I didn't want to do anything that in the tiniest degree justified their existence. If your friends really want a carpet (and want the romantic thrill of buying one in Turkey rather than in the States, where they could almost certainly get a better deal), tell them to forget about authenticity and value, buy something they love, and never get it appraised.
posted by languagehat at 8:06 AM on May 29, 2007

I got back from Turkey two days ago. We were in Selcuk and Istanbul and the large numbers of carpet shops and salesmen had me wondering just how I'd be able to pick out a winner (if I liked Turkish carpets, which I don't). My thoughts were that if I wanted a valuable carpet, I wouldn't find it in a rugshop on the street. It would be a wiser option to buy one I liked, and try to enjoy the bargaining process. My parents bought a carpet in Turkey 20+ years ago from a co-op, which was supposed to guarantee child-free labour, so that might be an option.
posted by poissonrouge at 9:00 AM on May 29, 2007

I agree with UbuRoivas' comment. The pieces more worthy of your efforts will be the more unusual ones. Kilims and other textiles will be more affordable and will more likely be of good quality. (We have several embroidered camel trappings, mirror covers, and other pieces from neighboring countries that we found in Turkey.)

Someone else mentioned that knot count can indicate quality. Sorry, but the quality of a rug is in its materials. Good wool and good dyes make a good rug, not the knots per square inch. This is not the place for a lesson in rug quality, and I'm not the expert. But just be aware that cheap junk often has a higher knot count than the good stuff since it's so easy to sell knot count to those who don't know better.

Good luck.
posted by booth at 7:38 AM on June 1, 2007

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