On July 6th, The Washington Post published an article titled “The magic of carpet shopping in Istanbul” which described, in my view, a realistic and accurate carpet-shopping experience in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s number 1 place to go for carpets galore. I wanted to share this article as well as some of my thoughts with you.
Every time I travel to Istanbul it is a must for me to stop by the Grand Bazaar. I love the experience of browsing, shopping, or even pretending to be a customer to buy a rug. (I also cannot skip visiting Erol Kazanci, owner of Shirvan mentioned in the Washington Post article, both for doing business and admiring his outstanding collection.) The store-owners are all in front of the entrance of their shop waiting to pull you in. They speak every language you can think of. Somehow, they first start with English when they see me, it must be my talent in acting like a tourist . I never give away the fact that I am fluent in Turkish and I know the carpet business inside out. I always go into the store with an open mind to see how I will be treated. Will they give me a correct story of the quality of the weaving, construction of the carpet, whether the dyes are natural or chemical, or will they tell me the actual country where the carpet was made with its associated workmanship? Will they quote a reasonable price relative to my assessment, understanding the fact that “fair price” is a subjective judgment? Unfortunately, much more often than not, I end up having to leave with a disappointment. As a member of the Turkish-American diaspora, I do my share of patriotic contribution by eventually telling them, in Turkish, that their old-fashioned ways may hurt them in the long run in an increasingly globalized economy.
So here are some words of wisdom . In my personal opinion, on an apples-to-apples basis, it is safer and cheaper to buy in the U.S. than in the Grand Bazaar, and your best bargain will most likely be in Cleveland, a city with a very low cost of living. Enjoy the Washington Post article!