How many glasses of mint tea can you drink in a day? Every shop owner, whether in the souq or in a traditional store, will offer mint tea. The tea is delicious. It is also a strategy to get you to sit down, talk and stay a while.
A while can often be two hours! Don’t take the tea unless you are ready to linger, like what you see and willing to bargain. You have to bargain hard. You have to get to the point where the seller begins to call you a Berber. Then, you know you are getting closer to the real price. It took me a day to learn this. Yesterday I was called a Berber repeatedly with a great deal of respect.
In Oaxaca, crafts people may offer you a mezcal as a sign of hospitality. There is very little if any pressure. Of course, if you drink more than one, you may lose your sensibilities. Oaxaca prices have very little play in them. Most things are tagged. Some are not. It’s different in Morocco.
There is nothing for sale that has a price tag on it! Yes, there are tags with numbers, but all the sellers tell you these are reference numbers. I expect that they are indeed some type of pricing code, but I couldn’t even begin to decipher this.
If you want something, here is what you do.
Don’t ask for prices first. Decide what you like. Select a group of things. Sit down. Have some tea. Take your time. Watch the presentation of beautiful hand made art. Once you decide on what you like, take out your notebook and pen. Draw a chart like a Scrabble scorecard with the seller’s name on one side and yours on the other. Ask him his price and to write it under his name. Offer less than half his asking price and write that under your name. He will cross it out and write his “best” price. You will say NO and write your best price. Don’t go down too far too fast or you will pay too much! You need to do about four to six to eight rounds of this back and forth. You will get to the fair price when he says he can’t do any better and you say you won’t pay that much.
I had a traveling companion once who said you have to learn to walk away and then you watch the price go down. This is not something we are used to in our culture and at first it feels very uncomfortable. I think a lot of the bargaining mentality also comes with the power of the dollar and the exchange rate. We have such an advantage using dollars in Mexico. Much less so than here in Morocco where the Dirham is tied more closely to the Euro. Now, 8 Dirhams to the dollar — a 20 percent premium. In Mexico, 12.5 or more pesos to the dollar — a 20 percent discount.
I’m figuring there’s about a 40% discount margin. If you end up paying a little more, but you love the piece, you have struck a good bargain.
Rule of Thumb applies to small inexpensive things like baskets you find in the square to very costly, large carpets in shops. However, in the square, you may have to do all those calculations in your head
I’m traveling with Judith Reitman-Texier, founder, La Bedouine argan skin care and La Bedouine Lifestyle.