Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ottoman Selling and Negotiation Etiquette Calling to prayer - calling to business 2015

The fading echoes of Bargaining, Ottoman Style

Gateway entrance/exit from the Topkapi
 Palace with the Blue Mosque
in the distance
The intricate etiquette of the Ottoman Empire lingers in many day-to-day rituals still observed in its greatest creation Istanbul.

I have just returned from Istanbul after conducting a couple of Sales Skills courses for Grads from across the world.

View from a Topkapi Palace balcony
of the Bosporus and Asia !
There was some free time to tourist and I joined the group in a visit to the Topkapi Palace. Spring sunlight and the fresh green leaves of the trees made a lovely time of year to visit this, the busiest of modern cities.

Visiting the souvenir shops you can still pick up the courteous approach of selling Turkish style. 

They honour a guest visiting their country. They make you feel at home, accommodate and help you and show off their famous hospitality.

If you keep the following etiquette and customs rules in mind, you will not only show a token of appreciation, Turks will respect you even more.

Until recently, the art of bargaining was one of these but the days the non-negotiable price-tag reigns supreme in most of the city’s retail outlets.

Here as in many stops along the Silk route, the days of camel caravans have long gone, supplanted by multinational retailers, lean ( LEAN) supply-chain management and in an increasingly homogeneous shopping experience. 

Much  changed in the foundation of Modern Turkey with Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, first President of Turkey whose birthday I discover, I share today!

Certain aspects of  the enclosed life of the Sultans is preserved in the museum of Topkapi with its spectacular Treasury of jewels - well worth a visit- an age away and lovely buildings. Yet you are aware you in a special place. None more obviously than when you hear the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer- a little of which I was able to record in the video above.

The calls from the Blue Mosque are then picked up minaret to minaret across the city. 

Perhaps the last echoes of Ottoman style bargaining can be found in the city’s carpet shops particularly those in the Grand Bazaar calling prospects to try before you buy.
 Many of these still take pride in their ancient art of bargaining.

Aleksandr Meerkat keeps watch over
 Mr. Hugh's Turkish black tea
in its traditional tulip shaped glass
Some tips from a tourist guide suggests:-

•          The official prices here have always been artificially inflated to allow for a bargaining margin 20% -30% is the rule of thumb.    
Shopping here involve many aspects of Ottoman etiquette – you will drink tea, exchange polite greetings and sign up how trustworthy the shop keeper is. He in turn will drink tea and exchange polite greetings and size up how gullible you are.

•          Never feel pressurised to buy something. Tea and polite conversation are gratis- if you accept them- you don’t need to buy anything in exchange.( Western social economic rules of reciprocity are not overtly expected) It is important to do your research. Always shop around compare quality or pricing.

•          Before starting to haggle, decide how much you like a carpet or rug and how much you are prepared to pay for it It i important you stick to this ! – the shopkeepers here are professional bargainers and have loads of practise in talking customers into purchases against their better judgement.

•          Your first offer should be around 60% of the initial asking price. The shopkeeper may laugh, feign offence or profess to be puzzled.- this is all part of the ritual.

•          He will then make a counter offer 80-90% - You should look disappointed, explain your have done your research and say you are not prepared to pay that amount. Then you should offer around 70%.

•          By this stage you and the shopkeeper should have eyed each other up. He will cite the price at which he is prepared to sell- if it corresponds with what you were initially happy to pay- you can agree the deal.

 If not you smile shake hands and walk away. 

Let me sign off with the great mystic and poet Rumi ( who died in Konya, Turkey)  on generating the fruits of success

“Water the fruit trees and don’t water the thorns.” 

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