ADR Times

Negotiations in Turkey

Istanbul is fascinating.  French poet and politician, Alphonse de
Lamartine, said the following of Istanbul, “If one had but a single
glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”  While sailing
on the Bosphorus Straight, the city skyline is filled with the ancient
juxtaposed by the modern.  The modern skyscrapers and yalıs (waterfront
mansions) adorn the skyline—no doubt to accommodate the ever increasing
population which is currently around 13 million.  Ancient wonders like
the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Galata tower enhance the
magnificent view and remind every visitor and citizen alike that we are
indeed standing on historic grounds. 

Besides the cathedrals, mosques, and palaces, I found myself enthralled
by the ordinary.  Walking through the streets, everything was so
colorful: the bright red pomegranates and oranges at the fruit stands;
the green pistachio and rose and almond flavored desserts at pastry
shops; and, of course my favorite, cinnamon or clove-flavored Turkish

Stopping on
the street for a cup of tea became my favorite pastime—bringing a moment
of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The markets were a completely different experience.  The Spice Market
and the Bazaar were a negotiator’s paradise.  I have been abroad plenty
of times, frequently using bartering skills to acquire souvenirs for
friends and family back home.  Whether it was a woven Andean sweater, a
tailored salwar kameez in India, or scarves in a Beijing market, a basic
level of negotiation skills is needed so as not to be taken advantage
of in other countries.  Bartering for everyday items is simply part of
the culture. 

In the context of a buyer and a seller in a market, negotiations involve
various stages.  Usually these stages are not clearly defined, and
parties rapidly progress through the different phases.  Both parties
must convene—each party must decide that they want to negotiate. 
Opening offers follow the convening phase.  When a market has too many
vendors and not enough buyers, I find it quite advantageous to look at
one item and then walk away, effectively ignoring the vendors as though I
am not yet ready to negotiate for the specific item.  In this way, the
vendor may bid against himself.  I then return to the “negotiation
table” and the negotiation dance begins and I start with the advantage.

Opening offers tend to anchor the negotiation process.  When I lived in
Ecuador, I quickly learned the going rate for particular items; in this
way, I could bypass the typical negotiation dance by throwing out a
reasonable opening offer.   In Turkey though, I did not always know what
a reasonable price was.  To avoid overpaying, I negotiated with various
vendors for items that I had no intention of buying.  This had a dual
purpose.  Not only was I able to learn the going rate, I was able to
avoid the pitfall of becoming emotionally invested in a particular item.
  For example, in the Istanbul bazaar I had been moseying around various
shops inquiring about prices.  After getting a general idea of prices, I
found a beautiful red purse.  Instead of negotiating for the red purse,
I inquired about the price of the green purse next to the red one.  As
the price got closer to what I was willing to pay, I asked if the red
purse was a similar price.  In doing this, the vendor has invested his
time and wants to sell me an item—any item.  More importantly, I avoided
becoming emotionally attached.  When a vendor senses your affinity
towards an item, he has the upper hand in the negotiation.  When that
happens, the price remains higher and I would ultimately pay more simply
because I really wanted it! 

As the negotiation dance winds down, it is time for the buyer and seller
to make a deal, or for the buyer to walk away.  At this stage in the
game, the vendor usually tries to convince me that his offer is a “fair
price” or “good price.” I am friendly and jovial in response and ask for
a “friend price” or a “student discount.”  It is usually a friendly
banter back and forth and we settle on a number that we are both a
little dissatisfied with—I pay a little more than I want to and he
accepts a little less than he wants to. 

Everything is negotiated in Istanbul: the taxis, the tea, the scarves,
the touristy trinkets, the ear of corn you buy from the street vendor,
the Turkish delights.  Described above are just a few “technique” I have
employed.  Do you have any tips or advice for the street-market

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