Travel Tips

How Not to Shop in the Grand Bazaar

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My new friend in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey where we enjoyed a frenzied haggling session over bags and wallets.
My new friend in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey where we enjoyed a frenzied haggling session over bags and wallets.

“This combines two things I hate, shopping and haggling,” my husband said as we carefully made our way through the labryinth that is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. With 60 interconnecting streets and 5,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar definitely lives up to its name. And we were no match for the sellers lining the walls. While I do love to shop, I am terrible at haggling. Once a young boy in our neighborhood offered to cut our grass for $10. “How about $12?” I said. See what I mean?

Between dodging sellers who wanted to envelop my neck with a colorful scarf if I even glanced in their direction to my fear of getting lost in the maze and missing our bus, I wasn’t exactly enjoying this shopping excursion. I lacked the necessary skills to pull off a successful purchase.

We had just about come back to the entrance when I spotted them. The display of colorful handbags. Now, I need a new handbag just about as bad as Imelda Marcus needed another pair of heels.  Too many more purchases and I’ll have to open a museum, like the Tassen Museum of Bags and Purses I’d recently visited in Amsterdam. As it was I’d already had a contractor that we were considering using for a renovation once tell me we needed a new room just to house all my handbags.

But it was two days after my birthday and I’d told my husband he could buy me something on this trip. So now that the guilt was alleviated came the hard part. Dealing with the savvy, aggressive, and very motivated handbag seller.

“Madam,” he said politely taking first one arm and then the other and lifting bags of two different colors on my shoulder, “which colors do you like?” Next came offers of a stool for my husband, Chris, to sit on and would he like some tea, perhaps? Before we knew it, our planned purchase of one bag had doubled, and I was looking at two. He then pulled out his calculator and after we turned down a few offers he made in Turkish lira and Euros, he claimed he took American dollars. Isn’t that swell?

Partially on our way to agreement on the price for two and with the handbags already placed in plastic bags and in my hands, he began his hard sell on the wallets. He pulled out three wallets, placing them in the plastic bags and offering another price. “Madam, is good deal. Bags plus wallets.”

“I don’t really care for the wallets,” I said, taking them out of the plastic bags and placing them back on his display. Where they sat for .5 seconds before he whisked them back into my bag. We repeated this dance of the wallets a few more times before my husband shelled out way more American dollars than we probably should have and we were off.

Once back on board  our ship we faced the reality that these were two very large handbags. Which we then had to house for the rest of the trip in our small cabin, then schlep through Venice during our two extra days there. I made one other surprising discovery. One of the wallets was still in my bag, where it must have not made the final return trip to the display. I’ll think of our Turkish seller fondly, should I ever chose to use it.

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