The Art of the Bargain

Bargaining is unavoidable in Morocco: if you purchase just about anything in a souk, be prepared to bargain. If you approach it in the right spirit and with the right expectations, it can be a lot of fun.

Just remember, it’s a game. A dance with words and gestures, accompanied by copious amounts of mint tea. Here’s some advice:

•    Shop around: browse the products of several merchants to get a sense of what’s available. Some travelers employ a “three shop” rule – not committing to any bargaining until they’ve visited at least three shops with similar goods. Or try one of the government-run exhibitions – they offer fixed prices (which are always too high) but give a good sense of what you’ll find at the souk.
•    Always raise yourself slowly from your first offer. Just because a merchant lowers his offering price by ten percent doesn’t mean you have to raise yours by the same amount. For example, if a merchant offers 100 Dh, and you offer 50, and he lowers to 90, it’s perfectly ok to offer 52, not 60.
•    Don’t go in thinking you’re going to get the deal of the century – most merchants will have had experience with foreign travelers prior to meeting you.
•    On average, in the larger souks, expect to pay about 60% of the first offered price. You may do a little better here, or a little worse there, but in the end, if you can stay in this ballpark, you’re doing fine.
•    Disregard appeals to your pride, manliness (or womanliness), intelligence, and good taste. Similarly disregard any appearance of having given offense. They are both part of the game.
•    Write on a small piece of paper: “I will have many carpets rolled ceremoniously before you. I am free, even having seen ones I admire, to walk away at any time.” Read as a mantra before entering any carpet shop.
•    Morocco’s crafts are highly regionalized, and cities and regions tend to be known for one thing or another. For example, blue and white pottery, known as fassi, will be much more abundant in Fez, it’s city of origin. Read up on the best of local products before going shopping.
•    If you feel intimidated, leave.
•    Enjoy the things you buy, and don’t get caught up in worrying about whether or not you paid too much. If you love them, and will have them forever, then what does it matter in the end?