I love Turkish carpets! I've
bought dozens of them. I stopped buying
them only when I ran out of floor space.
Most of my carpet-buying experiences have been pleasant, but the range of
possible experiences is broad indeed,
and includes the distinct possibility
of expensive disappointment.
A Handmade Carpet
is a Work of Art
Why should it be difficult to buy
a simple piece of woven cloth? Because
an oriental carpet is not a simple
piece of woven cloth. At their best, hand-made carpets are original,
one-of-a-kind works of art, and how do you put a
price on a work of art?
Beautiful carpets are plentiful,
bargains are few. Many of the carpets on sale in Turkey today are actually
made in China and India,
by hand or by machine .Their quality can be excellent,
or not, but they are not "real"
Turkish carpets. Does that matter to
Prices range from good to outrageously
high. It's very easy to pay
too much. There's also the
possibility of a VAT refund
The carpet-seller is a professional. He has performed this play hundreds or thousands of times, and is very good at it. You are probably a novice. You need a strategy:
Here's Your Strategy
1. Shop at home first. You're
assuming that buying a carpet will
be cheaper in Turkey than in your own
home country. Maybe so, maybe not.
Before coming to Turkey, go
to a carpet shop near your home, look at some carpets,
ask some prices. This will help you
to spend less of your valuable travel
time learning about carpets, and more
on finding the carpet you want at a
2. Devote time to your purchase. Know how carpet shops work (here it is). Do
not commit to buy until you have examined
carpets in at least three shops
then buy from the shop you like best.
3. Be aware that
anyone who takes you to a carpet shop
will expect to receive a
the shopkeeper for bringing you there.
This will not be mentioned to you,
but it is implicit in the situation
in Turkey. A small commission (5% to
15%) may be appropriate because the
person has saved you time and trouble by helping you to find the shop,
but the commission may not be small
(50%, 100%+), and it comes out of your
4. A tour that
takes you to a carpet (or any other)
shop (or a shop masquerading as a "Folk
Arts/ Handicrafts/ Cultural Center,"
etc.) receives commissions on sales for taking
you there. Prices will probably be
higher than at shops not visited by
tours and paying them commissions. Perhaps much higher. More...
5. You will pay Value-Added
on your purchase. You may be able to
receive a refund of
the tax when you take your purchase
out of Turkey, but some unscrupulous
sales persons may cheat you
of this. Here's
how they do it.
Interaction between a carpet-seller and carpet-buyer is like a performance steeped in tradition. You need to know the script. Here it is...
—by Tom Brosnahan