Saturday, June 12, 2010
The medina in Marrakesh is one big market. I am sure many people live here too but it is definitely devoted to commerce. There are specific areas devoted to different styles or types of handiwork or items for sale but it is also all jumbled together.
In one area you will find that most vendors work in wood, other spots metal or fabrics or leather. Spices elsewhere, meats somewhere else, a group of recycled tire craft people in another area and so on. There is never a firm rule to who sells what where, so you will find it gets all jumbled up too. Sometimes the best sale prices might come from the lonely fish out of water vendor of a specific product in a sea of other goods. Other times the competition heats up among sellers of similar goods. They also seem to share goods, in that if you request a specific size that they don't have they sometimes ask you to wait and they will run off somewhere to get it from another stall. With Linda wearing one end of the size range in sandals and me the other we saw this more than once.
Sometimes there are more specific souks. The term souk (or souq) means market place, and is usually open air. It might refer to the entire market, but also be a set of stalls all selling the same stuff within a larger market, for example the fish souk or the leather souk where they not only work the leather they sell it too. Once you get into one of those you might find that you get free demos on how they do the work (weaving for example), but they certainly hope that you will buy once they have you in their clutches. The worst thing of course is to ask "how much?", especially if you are not really interested, because then the games begin.
The bargaining I usually leave to Linda, but she is hard-ass. The usual method is to ask a price, and you are given one to which you respond with a price much less, like half or less, maybe a third. He scoffs and come down a fraction, and you come up a bit. It goes on like that and you eventually agree on something in the neighbourhood of half or a bit more of the original price, maybe less than that if lucky or he realizes you are not so new at this and his price at the beginning was deliberately high. You may also decide to close the deal early because he is a bit desperate and you have already found the "real price" elsewhere and can convince him of that. It might also take walking away to get the deal you want. If he follows you, you know you've got him. First sale of the day is also good as closing that sale may mean good luck to the seller for the rest of the day. Last sale might also be good value.
Linda's style however, is to offer her low ball price and stick to it. She usually gets it too, making the sellers cry to boot. They often call her Fatima, or "you a Berber woman!" which is begrudgingly a compliment, but is also describing her as cheap! However once you have closed the sale with handshakes all around, you are now their friend and you might get invited for tea. Of course if you buy more than one item the bargaining power is better, or if you come back later to buy from the same person again you are way ahead of the game.