A few simple bargaining or haggling tips will help you get the best price for whatever you buy in Turkey.
Bargaining or haggling is a tradition in Turkey as in many other countries. Shoppers in Europe and America bargain over price when they buy cars, houses and other expensive items. In Turkey, bargaining is extended to include many less valuable items, especially unique handmade goods such as carpets, crafts, artwork and antiques, items which do not have standardized markets. You can—and should—also bargain for hotels rooms in many cases. (For shopping on tours, read About Tours in Turkey.)
Many people find bargaining tedious and distasteful. Get over it! Pazarlık (bargaining) is a social as well as a business practice in Turkey, and can be relatively pleasant when done properly.
1. Know the Market. Browse, examine goods and ask prices in several shops (at least three) to get a sense of the market before bargaining. This is particularly important for carpet shops.
2. Don’t show enthusiasm for the item you want. A poker face pays off, believe me. Look at several items. Don’t ask prices for awhile, but when you do, ask the prices of several items, whether you’re interested in them or not. Act as though the piece you really, really want is only so-so, not a big deal.
3. Decide what you think a piece is worth to you. Many people are distressed to find that someone else bought a similar item for less. Don’t worry about it! Sometimes you’ll be the one getting the best price. If you decide what an item is worth to you and pay no more than that, how can you go wrong? By definition, you’ve received value for your money. People who play the “I-got-it-cheaper” game need to get a life.
4. Let the shopkeeper quote the first price. If a shopkeeper asks “What will you pay?” you should ask again “What’s the price?” The shopkeeper’s price will be higher than what s/he expects you to pay. There’s no fixed formula for making your counter-offer. It should be substantially less than you expect or want to pay, a half or even a quarter of the shopkeeper’s price (depending on how inflated that is). If your counter-offer is way too low, however, the shopkeeper will know he’s dealing with someone who doesn’t know the market (see Rule No. 1, above), or doesn’t get what bargaining is all about.
5. If you buy several items, get a discount. It’s always easier to get a lower price if you buy several items, just like anywhere in the world.
6. Don’t haggle over pennies. If you’re close to agreement on price, don’t let a few Turkish liras get in the way of your satisfaction.
7. Don’t be afraid to walk away…(and perhaps come back). It’s one of those philosophical conundrums: you get the best price on an item if you can convince yourself that you really don’t need it. If you really can’t bring yourself to pay the shopkeeper’s final price, thank him or her and walk out of the shop. Seeing a potential sale walking away, the shopkeeper may meet your price (or at least offer a further discount). If not, then you’ve learned that the shopkeeper’s price is firm, and you can return in an hour or a day and buy the item at that price, or you can look for it elsewhere, knowing the market better.
8. Don’t feel obligated to buy unless you’ve agreed on a price. Shopping is a social custom in Turkey. You will be offered tea, coffee or soft drinks, and perhaps cigarettes, snacks, perhaps even a meal. The shopkeeper may wait on you for a considerable time, showing you dozens of items and explaining their qualities. Even so, you are not obligated to buy anything at all! Distrust any shopkeeper who tries to burden you with the feeling that you should buy “because s/he has spent a lot of time with you.” Leave the shop and don’t go back. You have no obligation whatsoever!
However, if you offer a price and the shopkeeper agrees to it, you’ve made a verbal contract and you have an obligation to buy the item at the price agreed upon. Don’t offer a price unless you’re ready to buy the item at that price.
9. Assume that any price agreed upon is for cash. Banks charge anywhere from 2% to 6% to clear a credit card transaction. Unless you have discussed the payment method, any price arrived at is presumed to be payable in cash. The shopkeeper may charge you the credit card fee, or a fee for changing travelers checks. You should check to see if you can pay in any method other than Turkish lira cash, and what requirements there might be.
10. Be careful with “Tax Free Shopping” transactions. Please read this warning.
11. Take your purchases with you if possible. Many shops will ship your purchase home for you reliably, a few may not. There have been instances in which someone has purchased an expensive carpet but has had a cheap but similar carpet arrive at their home. In a few cases, the purchase is never shipped, or is “lost in shipment.” If you must have the shop ship your purchase, find out as much as possible about the shipping process, and try to confirm all aspects of it.
12. Do not buy antiquities! Read this warning.
Look a little deeper however and Turkey does offer some unique experiences you won’t find in Spain, Greece or Portugal for example. Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey has a culture that’s very distinct to mainland Europe, and a big part of that culture is haggling.
Turkey is littered with thousands of market stalls where haggling is commonplace, and nowhere more so than bustling tourist areas like Bodrum and Marmaris. Buying goods at these stalls can be a daunting experience at first, but play your cards right and you could come away with a true bargain.
Here are five tips for haggling with market stall traders in Turkey:
1. Be Respectful
Many market traders make their living this way, so ensure you treat their wares with respect, put things back where you found them and don’t leave products in a muddle, you’re more likely to get a good price if you create a good impression
2. Have a Budget
The traders are good at their jobs and will push you to part with as much cash as possible. Keep a budget in mind and stick to it, no matter how good a deal seems.
3. Keep Your Wits About You
DVDs are a very common item to find at Turkish market stalls. Be mindful that most will have been illegally produced, and with copyright laws tightening all the time, it may even be illegal to possess them in your own country.
4. Be Realistic
Don’t expect that you’re going to get a pair of genuine Ray-Bans for pennies, the majority of branded products are fakes or rip-offs, though the untrained eye will barely be able to tell the difference.
5. Start Low
Don’t overestimate the value of market stall goods, when haggling, start low and let the seller coax you up what is a realistic, reasonable price.