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 of Turkey).
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 show.
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 pulled aside.
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? If you are not accompanied by a guide that you trust or go on a recommendation then you are leaving a lot at risk.)
Bargaining For Price
You ask prices. He tells you. Now it's your turn to join the ritual of bargaining. More...
Take your time and be prepared by reading our tips on bargaining. At the end of the day, settle on a price, pay, and take your purchase with you. (If you're promised a refund on the Value-Added-Tax, be sure you've read this.)
As I mentioned here, "The price of a work of art is the price agreed to by a willing buyer and seller."
You can be disappointed in purchasing a carpet either by discovering that you purchased a fake, or simply by worrying that you paid too much.
You can avoid the first disappointment by going to the MOST REPUTABLE shops and learning about carpet-buying.
You can 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 carpetfor 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 passengers two checked pieces of luggage, plus one carry-on piece and one "personal item" (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