This is where I tell you that haggling is easy right? Wrong! For me it’s something I struggle with and my husband doesn’t find it any easier. So how do two complete novices in the art of bartering prepare? We enlist help.
Before attempting to haggle our very good friends offered to give us a master class – would this help? Maybe?
They were after some mats for their kitchen plates. Lovely, hand woven mats in a beautiful deep mulberry colour. Now back home, you walk into the shop see what you like, pick it up and purchase it – job done. Not in Morocco. Here you look but don’t pick up to begin with, never look too eager apparently, walk away to the next stall, then walk back again and pick up on this occasion. Now the interaction beginning (this is the bit that both my husband and I hate and the sickie feeling is back just writing about it!!!!).
“Very nice. How much?”
A bit of theatrically face pulling, “No – 50Dhs”
A blow out of the cheeks, “200Dhs”
A shake of the head, “30Dhs for two mats?”
At this point I think the poor man in front of me is about to have a heart attack and I consider slinking off, pretending I am not with them. I look around to say something to my husband to see if he agrees but he is nowhere to be seen. He has already evaporated into the crowds and I can see him, with his back purposely turned towards us, looking at the turtles in the corner of the square.
Swinging back around to find out whether our friends have got their way I see them being marched off to a different stall and being shown some less desirable products, “these 30Dhs for two”. Outwardly I cringe whilst inwardly I am smiling because I can see by the expression on my friends faces that this defenceless man does not know what is about to hit him, I have seen this look before, they are plotting which is never a good thing.
With a flurry, all the mats are placed on the floor and at break neck speed they are off, refusing to engage in conversation anymore, acting as if they have been insulted. They are heading my way and it looks like they are counting – surely not! Or are they? Then it happens.
“Ok, I will do you two mats -30dhs”
“The two I wanted?”
“OK, but I will now only pay 15dhs”
(The man ponders….)
“OK” (He knows when he is defeated!!!!)
Almost skipping back to the stall, 15dh in hand my friend happily laughs with the stall owner knowing that she has got an extremely good bargain.
Suddenly my husband reappears, having watched the excitement from across the way, distancing himself just in case. “So, that’s how it’s done?” I hear him say. His tone is reserved and I sense straight away that whilst he wishes he could do it like that we both know that our purchases will not be quite so cheap.
I keep telling myself, they have been many times before, it’s an art form. What I need to remember is that no stall holder is going to sell anything they are not making a profit on. So whilst it seemed harsh and their mats, in fact, only cost them about £1.11, the stall holder clearly still made a profit (unbelievable I know!) if not he wouldn’t have sold them.
This was clearly going to take time. Before I started haggling I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to insult anyone. Whilst the Moroccans are welcoming the last thing I wanted to do was upset them, likewise, I didn’t want to offer a price that had then laughing at me for weeks after, reliving my stupidity over a glass of mint tea. So we headed off in search of the fixed price shops that now exist in the side streets. One great location for these is Rue Riad Zitoun off Jemaa-el-Fna. You will find everything from pottery to leather goods and artwork here. We actually purchased our pottery goods from this street in the end after our haggling attempts went awry as it worked out cheaper for us. The father and son team clearly felt so sorry for us that they even gave us a discount after we retold our pathetic haggling story. These, on reflection, are probably the pair that are still laughing at us over their mint tea.
Not all of our haggling attempts were unsuccessful though. We did walk away with some lovely scarfs for gifts and a pair of sandals for myself at less than half the price we started at. That was a top tip given to us by Nicolas at Riad Camilia. Aim for half the starting price and both you and the vendor have walked away winners; you have gotten a good price and they have made money. I think that this is important to remember. Yes you want a good deal but it is also about adding to the economy and putting money into the pockets of the local community. So, with this in mind, we felt quite good about our haggling experience in the end.
I will never be an aggressive haggler I know that, but then I am not really a shopper so I don’t think I will ever need to worry too much. I wanted to experience buying in the Souks which we achieved but next time we return it will be a day at the flea markets for me I think to see how I get on there. I might need someone like Nicolas in tow with me for that one though!!!
Our Top Tips:
- Don’t be afraid to walk away – there are plenty of stalls selling the same products so you can try again at another stall.
- Remember the vendor is only going to sell if they are making money.
- Have a price in mind when you start and stick to it.