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Turkey, Istanbul

Bargaining at markets

Can someone tell me if bargaining at the markets in Istanbul, or Turkey in general, is customary? If so, to what degree, for example, if I see a shirt for $30, what should I offer the vendor? I've never really had to bargain for anything before, but I heard it's actually considered rude in some places not to bargain, so I want to make sure I do it right and also that I don't pay too much!

6 Answers

answered by
Agnes from The Hague

Yes, you have to bargain at markets. Don't let yourself foolded by the theatre and show the Turkish vendors are so good at. A shirt of $ 30, - go half price and you might finish at $ 20 or $ 22,- it also depends what you find it worth it of course. Fake bags look nice but often are not good quality so in the end it is too expensive anyhow. Have a great trip! Enjoy Istanbul

7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Caroline from New York City

Bargaining is always an option...learned some great tips on my trip to the Grand Bazaar from personal shopper, Kathy Hamilton...found her through a google search. I got to interview her about navigating the bazaar. Check it out: Hope you learn something new!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grand Bazaar (attraction)
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answered by
Orçun from Manisa

It depends on place. For example, you can bargain as much as you can in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or other traditional places.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grand Bazaar (attraction)
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top answer by
Pala from Flagstaff

Yes. It is customary. They call the outside markets "bazaars" which have a lot of vendors and store owners will bargain too. If you really like something, pick it up, examine, ask the price, put it or give it back, and just say "thank you" ... as you walk away they will begin to bargain with you. A shirt for $30 - go down to $15. Some will really haggle with you about the price. I wanted a leather purse that was $65 and bought it for $40.

Another note, don't exchange currency at the local currency exchanger. Instead, figure out what the current exchange rate is that day and some vendors and store owners will exchange it for you to avoid the high exchange rate fee. Glad someone told me that while I was visiting.

13 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Murat from Istanbul

Here are some valuable bargaining tips for the Grand Bazaar and other shops around Istanbul.

Notice How Similar Shops Stand Side by Side in Istanbul

After you spent a few days walking around in Istanbul, you’ll notice streets or even areas where all shops seem to sell similar items. At Taksim Square you find a string of döner shops, around Galata Tower a street full of musical instrument shops, in Karaköy nothing but DIY tools, etc.

For Westerners this defies all commercial logic. Why would you want to drive competition to the max? But in Turkey they look at it from a different angle. If someone is in the market for let’s say a musical instrument, they know what area or street to go to. As a shop owner or sales person, it’s your job to lure in the customer.

The Grand Bazaar follows the same logic, on an even bigger scale. As we’ll see later, this gives you as a potential buyer a nice advantage.

The Seller Has the Upper Hand

Shops in the Grand Bazaar offer both high quality products and, politely put, lesser quality items. The sales person of course knows the quality of every item, what it costs to have it made, and how much profit he can put in his pocket. Chances are you have no clue. At best you know a few tricks to check whether it’s genuine leather, a real hand-made carpet, or an authentic diamond.

Good Timing

It’s unlikely you will deal with the shop owner in the Grand Bazaar. The person attending you is most likely a salesperson working for him. This means that he has to sell a certain amount of goods to reach his daily quota. While reaching his quota is a must, he also receives a commission on what he sells.

Therefore, at the start of the day he’ll be eager to sell. Even at a lower price, earning little or no commission, just to make sure he reaches his daily quota. After a few hours, he may have reached his quota. At this point, the focus will shift from just selling to please his boss, to selling to make a nice commission.

This doesn’t mean you have to wait in front of the shop for the doors to open. Besides looking too eager, you won’t strike a bargain until the salesman has finished a few teas to get the day going. In my experience, between 11:00 and 13:00 is a good time to strike a deal.

Never Look Too Interested

“Welcome my friend. How are you?”, is a line you’ll hear a multitude of times while browsing the Grand Bazaar. In almost every language on the globe. It’s their way of touching base and get you to have a look around their shop.

If you’re looking for an item they have, by all means, enter the shop and look around. Once you see something you like, don’t stop there. Just check out some more pieces and make a mental inventory of what the shop has to offer. At the same time, it prevents you from showing you’re eager to buy a certain item. Only once you’re ready to start bargaining, you take the item you like and casually ask what the price is.

Don’t Name Your Best Price

At this stage he’ll try to make you value the product by asking what would be your best price. Never fall for this trick. Once you put a price on it, that’s it: you will never be able to go under it.

Instead, make him take the first step and put the opening bid of the bargaining process. Of course, you should look surprised and find the price outrageous. And that’s where the first part of this article kicks in. Put down the product, don’t look at any other product (you already know what’s in the store), slowly start walking towards the door while looking at the items of the shop across, which happens to sell similar items. If he buys your bluff, he’ll be quick to make a new offer. Let the real bargaining begin!

Tea Time

Slow and steady wins the race. Never rush the bargaining process. It’s important to keep on sending signals that you’re not sure you really need to buy the product, let alone at the price he’s offering it for. His urge to sell should always be higher than yours to buy.

It’s not uncommon that they will offer you tea. The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, they serve it in a corner of the store, where other potential customers can’t eavesdrop. They don’t want other people to hear the discount he eventually may agree on with you. Secondly, he may seemingly give the bargaining a break and get a bit more personal. To make you put your guard down, and at the same time create some sympathy for the situation he’s in (at home).

Don’t buy a word from it. His child will still be able to go to college if he drops the price a bit more. At the end of the day, he is not obliged to sell.

So, keep on playing the game, uttering ‘ahs’, ‘mmmms’, and ‘uuhms’ until you reach a price that seems right for both parties.

What Kind of Discount Should You Aim For?

Well, there is no golden rule. In some cases the bottom line will be a 35% discount, in other cases it can be well over 50%. Don’t ask in the comments either, I can’t and won’t advise you on that. There is also no guarantee this strategy will work every time. It’s just one I have had success with. Practice makes perfect I guess.

As a last tip, getting angry or becoming rude will not help your bargaining, on the contrary. Stay calm, and don’t lose your smile. In the end it’s just a game.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grand Bazaar (attraction)
  2. Taksim Square (attraction)
  3. Galata Tower (attraction)
  4. Karaköy (neighborhood)
1 thanks

answered by
Leeann from Istanbul

Shops are increasingly adding their prices for western customers but the general rule of thumb is - if there is no price marked then haggle. If the price is marked, then that is the price...don't haggle...but then if you're buying multiple items of the same thing then you can ask for a discount.

The rules of haggling/bargaining vary but if you have your eye on something do take the time to price it elsewhere. For example, the same chess board can be anywhere between 100TL and 400TL. I was once priced 900TL for a leather jacket when I knew I could get them -just as nice - three shops down for 300TL! When you price the item several times you get to know what the ballmark figure is. I always offer 75-50% less than what they offer...and work up to my limit. If they still don't give it to me at my price I walk away which usually has them running after me to get the sale. Ultimately if they don't want to sell at your price, they won't'll know this once you move onto the next place and they either chase you or not. By the way, it is possible to get t-shirts as low as $5 in markets around the country (to give you an idea of t-shirt prices). Turkey is one of the biggest textile manufacturers in the world.

It probably goes without saying, department stores and retail shops are not places to haggle.

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