Are you a shopaholic eagerly looking forward to shopping in the incredible moroccan bazaars? Then you need to learn to grow a backbone, because only schmucks pay sticker price in morocco
In my last blog post, I introduced the sensory overload that are the souks (bazaars) of Marrakech. Everywhere you look are shiny, unique, and often handmade trinkets and goods that suit every taste, attractively displayed with street hawkers jealously vying for your attention.
If you’re anything like me, your money starts burning a hole in your pocket the instant you enter a new city. My goal is for everything in my house to have a story behind it, to be able to point to anything in my house and have a memory evoked by it.
In any other European country, prices are set in stone. In most of Morocco, everything you know about shopping gets thrown out the window. It’s a haggler’s market, and you have to develop a strong backbone and know how to read the shop owner to determine how far you can go. Just like in poker, it’s not about the cards, but about reading your opponent (or, in this case, the store owner).
Not to make this a feminist issue, but this is especially difficult for women because we are trained from a young age to make other people happy, to be “yes” men, to “keep the peace”, as it were. Haggling in the souks is a great exercise in developing the kind of strength and independence that is incredibly beneficial in the “men’s clubs” of Corporate America!
Remember these rules, and you will pay less for your goodies than any other gullible tourist:
Rules for haggling in the souks:
You stop at a kiosk to admire a gorgeous pair of babouche slippers. They’re handcrafted, made of leather etched with the design of a camel across the top of the foot. The leather is supple, smooth as butter and feels like a dream. Enter the shop owner.
He’ll start by praising the quality of the slippers, telling you that his slippers are the best quality you’ll find anywhere in the Marrakech Medina. He’ll boast that he has a master shoemaker who uses only the best materials and dying processes. He’ll tell you that his price is a steal, and that he won’t go any lower (he will). Then he gives you a number that’s just low enough to make you consider just paying full price, but high enough to give you pause.
1. Don’t show too much interest or enthusiasm in the product you want
We all learn this cardinal rule when car shopping at a dealership. While the owner is telling you all about the item, act disinterested or unenthusiastic. Don’t focus on any one item for too long either – shift your attention to other items in the shop while the owner talks, giving noncommittal grunts and acknowledgements as he talks before eventually circling back around to the pair of babouches that you actually want. This is all a game of poker, and you can’t give away any tells. The instant your façade cracks, you may as well walk away, find another kiosk selling a similar item, and start again.
2. Never ever ever accept the first offer
The first price you get is way above what the item is worth. It’s given because the shop owner expects you to haggle. Counter with a low offer that you would happily shell out for the slippers (sometimes, you can offer as much as 70% lower than their initial asking price; that’s how high they mark up their goods). Don’t worry about the price insulting the shop owner (some may fake insult or injury, or even hurl insults at you) – it’s all part of the game.
3. Rarely accept the second offer
If the owner thinks you’re a pushover, they’ll outright refuse your second offer. If you’ve succeeded at steps 1 and 2, there’s a chance they may accept your counteroffer. Often, however, they’ll continue testing you by proposing a number between the two haggled prices. Unless you really don’t want to haggle anymore, don’t accept this second offer.
4. Don’t show your cards
I.E. don’t show them how much money you have. This may seem obvious, but sometimes the shop owner will ask you how much you have to spend, or ask to see how much you have, and then make a second or third offer based off of how much cash you have. It’s not rude to refuse to do so.
5. Consider proposing a bundle price
If the shop owner has a few pairs of babouches (or whatever item you’re interested in) that you really like, propose a price to the shop owner that makes each individual pair the price you are willing to pay. A lot of times, the shop owner will go for it and you’ll get more for less.
6. DOn’t just stop at one or two rounds of haggling
The more we haggle, the more guilt we tend to feel. But don’t worry: the shop owner will never accept an offer that’s less than what the piece is actually worth, and often even your lowest offer is still more than enough to cover all costs of operation. Haggle away.
6. Be prepared to walk away
Sometimes the shop owner will completely refuse to haggle with you in an attempt to pressure you into paying full price. The instant you start walking away, one of three things will happen:
- The shop owner will concede and give you the item for your proposed price
- The shop owner will make a last-ditch effort to persuade/guilt you into paying full price for the item by again heralding the “incredible” quality and expense that went into making the item
- The shop owner will let you go
If #3 happens, don’t turn back around. Part of the shop owner’s tactic for #3 is to make you reconsider leaving. Think of it like a game of chicken: each party is waiting to see who will turn away (or come back, in this case) first. If the shop owner doesn’t do #1 or #2, then look for another kiosk and try again.
By haggling like this, I was able to get the price of a pair of babouche slippers down from 800 dirham (~$80) to about 100 dirham (~$10). And even then, I’m pretty sure I paid too much.