Shopping in Morocco …. how can I describe it properly. It’s like a dance. It’s not an argument although voices are often raised and even tears can come into play. It’s like a duel and when both players are experienced at their craft it can be a delight to observe.
However, when you are one of the players (and especially not a very experienced one) it can be intimidating. But I had done the research and realised that it was a must. Not only to get a reasonable deal (because really people, the shopkeeper will always win in this haggling process when dealing with me) – but also to preserve the proper decorum and relationship between the seller and the buyer.
So here’s the thing. You find the shop and you know what you want. There are very seldom any prices on the products. You are encouraged to pick up and try and feel the product. Sniff it. Try it on. Whatever. But don’t ask the price. No, no, no. That is not part of this stage of the dance.
First you have to see the quality of the workmanship. You have to admire the fabric, the leather, the stitching. You have to agree with the seller that this is of the highest quality. In fact so good you have never seen anything like it before. Don’t worry. This process will not necessarily mean that you will be paying more than anyone else. It is a compliment paid to the shopkeeper to show him – before you haggle – that you truly appreciate the fine goods in his shop.
Finally, after having tried it on, exclaimed with joy, taken it off, tried it on again – you ask the question. How much?
Stage 2 – this is when the price becomes the total focus of your discussion. We have now left behind the quality of the product. He tells you how he is making nothing on this. He is just selling this as a favour to help out the dressmaker/shoemaker/potterymaker. You say that is too much. You don’t have that much money on you. Well then how much do you have? Then you take 50% off what he asked and say that you will pay him that much. He looks at you in shock. His eyes are round and staring. “Look, look at this beautiful shoe/dress/plate. I cannot sell it to you for this. I am giving this away. No I cannot do that”.
We then start the back and forth – he asks for this – you offer that – he lowers what he is asking – you lower your offering. Oh my goodness. I hate this part. But I have to respect the rules.
Eventually you make an offer – he holds out his hand to shake on it. You take it and you know that you have paid too much. You just KNOW it. By the delight in his eyes, by the hand clasped to his heart. BUT … what the hell. It is beautiful, it is from Morocco. It is exotic and it is yours. Pack it up – take it home – never think again about how much you paid for it.
JUST ENJOY IT.