Having visited the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul the week before Christmas, I’ve got myself convinced that these are the best salespeople on the planet. Granted they’ve had over 500 years to hone their craft, but these guys are GOOD. They’ve got the basics of good salesmanship covered…never ask a closed end yes/no question, learn about the prospects needs so you can personalize the pitch etc. But these guys have taken a skill and turned it into an art form.
Anywhere else in the world, if you make eye contact, they’ve got you. Here, they almost assault you from all sides before you can even look around…”you American?”, “Here, come to my shop, it’s very near,” “Of course you’re in Istanbul to buy a rug, some come see the best.” But assault is probably the wrong word…it may feel that way to a Westerner initially, but you’ll find out pretty quickly it’s more of a personal invitation. Courtesy according to the guidebooks, dictates that if they do get you, you have to go to their shop, have some tea and small talk and then get down to the important business of the day… home décor. It’s not an unpleasant experience but the concept of “NO” has no meaning other than, “you haven’t addressed my real need yet.”
Still and all, visiting the Bazaar is a real trip, it’s well organized chaos and if you’ve been there you know the oxymoron makes sense. There are sections dedicated to category…leather, rugs, silver, gold, antiques and street maps with vendor locations are available. In fact, the streets in the Bazaar are better marked than many cities I’ve been in.
A funny thing happens when you sit down for a cup of tea, or better yet, Turkish Coffee (which I was humored to find out was called “Greek Coffee” in Greece). Nobody bugs you. It’s like there’s this unwritten rule that if you’re on the move you’re fair game. But if you’re eating or drinking, then your personal space is inviolate. And while there are Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s all over the city, there are none in the Bazaar and that means….no cardboard “Go cups”. If you’re going to have coffee you have sit down, relax, engage in conversation (and smoke…everybody smokes everywhere there). It is very civilized approach I think.