I arrived at Djemaa al Fna, all keyed up with all of the negotiating skills I thought I so expertly acquired through my years of shopping while traveling. Yeah- not so much- this place was unlike anything I had ever experienced and if you think you know how to bargain, think again before you step your foot in this souk because you will indeed be running with the big boys! (and yes, it's a good thing!)
This has got to be one of the most fun, enriching, and gut-wrenchingly-funny things I've ever done, and I'd do it again weekly if I could. It's like being in a badly acted play, where vendors become abjectly over-emotional, almost heartbroken about having to come to terms with the bottom line price you throw at them.
I fondly recall the gentleman who held up a lighter against a jacket I was haggling about, who came to a teary-eyed point screaming he'd rather BURN it than sell it to me at that price...but guess what, I got the price, and a cute pair of shoes to go with it. And so will you.
Here are a few tips I learned:
- Keep an open mind regarding what you want. If you think you want a red scarf for example, you'll likely be shown an array of hundreds, all with red hues and intricate unique designs, and you'll likely want to buy them all.
- You are the MASTER of all things negotiable! Do not be deterred from the price you are willing to pay. And if you don't achieve success with one vendor, stroll down a few paces and you'll likely find the same items somewhere else so start all over again.
- Poker face, poker face, poker face. Display no emotion.
- Work on your "pretending to be disinterested" act after a few back-and-forths.
- Relish the overly-emotive ham acting of the seller. Take time to appreciate all the work he/she is putting into it, the persuasiveness, the faux-anger, the close-to-tears-sheer-agony of when they finally come around to getting close to your price. It's a show, it's great and it's meant to be enjoyed!
- Remember, this is how it goes. This is how it's MEANT to play out. It's easy to fall into the guilt-ridden trap of feeling as though you're somehow skimping on helping out the local economy, but they love this. It's a passion, it's how business at the souk is done so dive right in. What they will likely find strange or rude is if you actually didn't engage in a negotiation.
NB- need insider travel tips for Morocco? We'll hook you up- just ask at firstname.lastname@example.org