First, read about carpets, and your buying strategy.
Then, learn the script:
Your Friendly Carpet Shop
Carpet shopping is traditionally a social experience: you enter the shop, are offered a seat and something to drink ( tea, coffee,
a soft drink, water), and friendly conversation. The conversation serves to warm the atmosphere, and for both buyer and seller to assess one another.
The carpet seller's questions—Where are you from? What do you do? Where are you staying? For how long?—may help him to guess your budget, your net worth, your knowledge of carpets, the likelihood you've already visited another carpet shop, and the urgency of closing the sale today. All this may impact the price.
He may ask your preferences for colors,
size, patterns as he gives you the
short course in Turkish carpetology (how
they're made, the wools and silks,
the fakes, the carpet-making regions
The Carpet Show
Then one or two assistants begin
the show: they unfurl a carpet with
a flourish, toss it in the air and
let it fall to the floor. Another
follows, unfurled with a crisp snap.
Another, and another, and another.
Soon it's raining
carpets. It's quite an impressive
The colors and patterns cascade
before you. Dust fills the air. One
carpet catches your eye. You hold up your
hand to signal. The assistant pulls
it aside. The cascade recommences.
Another one catches your eye. It's
At the end of a quarter hour, a dozen
carpets have been pulled aside.
The other hundred or so are carefully
rolled or folded and put away. More
tea or coffee is ordered. The shopkeeper
applauds your choices, your eye, the
excellence of your taste. No price
has yet been mentioned.
You look at
each of the dozen more closely, narrow
it to three. The shopkeeper gives you
the history of each, shows you the
closeness of the weave, quality of
the wool. He explains the meaning behind
some of the geometric symbols and motifs.
(He may or may not be telling the truth.
Do you know? Do you care?)
You ask prices. He tells you. Now
it's your turn to join the ritual
of bargaining. More...
If this is your first carpet
shop visit, you should then
thank the shopkeeper, declare that
you'll think about
ask for the shop's business card, leave
the shop, go to another, and repeat
the complete process. The whole thing
can take most of a day.
You should not buy in the first shop! It's
Go to two more shops, do the same
thing in each, then return to the shop
you liked the most, settle on a price,
pay, and take your purchase
(If you're promised a refund
on the Value-Added-Tax, be sure
The Commission Game
"But," you say, "our tour stopped
at a fancy 'Handicrafts Cultural Center
& Research Institute' where we
saw women actually weaving the carpets.
There was no place to sit so we wandered
around looking at the carpets, which
were beautiful. The sales person
said the shopkeepers in 'normal shops'
couldn't be trusted, that quality
and fair prices were assured here,
so we bought."
Fine! If you're happy
with your purchase, and its price,
there's no harm done. Enjoy it! But
chances are that you got no
As I mentioned here, "The price of a work of art is
the price agreed to by a willing buyer
You can be disappointed in purchasing
a carpet either by discovering that
you paid way too much,
or simply by
worrying that you paid too
can avoid the first disappointment
by going to three separate
shops unaccompanied and
learning about carpet-buying.
avoid the second disappointment by
knowing that you've given yourself
the best chance to get a
good price, and by not worrying beyond
that. Just enjoy your beautiful souvenir!
Getting Your Carpet Home
Be prepared to carry your
carpet home with you. The
carpet shop may offer to ship it
for you, and may in fact ship it for you...or
may not...or may ship some
cheaper carpet than the one you bought. Shipping charges, by the way, can
be very high these days, even by the slowest method.
I recommend that you have the shop wrap
the carpet for you (they're
good at this), then take it
with you. Usually they'll
fold it compactly and stuff it in a halı
çantası, a cheap but sturdy bag
with handles designed just for this
purpose: carrying a carpet home on
a plane. Unless you've purchased a large room-sized carpet, the bag may be about the size of a suitcase.
Airlines may allow economy-class international
checked pieces of luggage,
plus one carry-on piece and one "personal
(purse, camera bag, diaper bag, briefcase).
If you have only one suitcase to check,
you may be able to check the carpet
as your second item without paying
excess baggage fees (which can be surprisingly
high, perhaps US$75 to $100+ per
extra bag). Business-
and first-class passengers and frequent
flyers with "elite" status may have
greater baggage allowances.
For weight and size restrictions,
check with your airline.
—by Tom Brosnahan