A Message To Medina Shopkeepers

So I went to the medina today. I put on my djellaba and a moroccan style hat, thinking that I’d have fewer problems with people harassing me if I blended in a little. Wrong! It just means that now, instead of “hello my friend, where are you from?” the harassment started with “hello my friend, nice djellaba.” Eventually, I just took to saying “I know” and then ignoring everything else.

So I go into the medina because I was looking to buy something for someone. I went and found a store that had a bunch of the object in question, so I go in and introduce myself to the salesman. I speak in arabic for a while and explain to him what I am looking for and that I live in fes. He finds the thing (I am being vague as christmas is coming up) and shows it to me. It’s not a particularly large item, though it is better than others I’d seen. It’s very nice and I ask how much. He says “800.” I think to myself “800 what? Is that his lucky number or something?” Then I realize that’s the price. It’s at least 4x too high.

So I try and figure out a good way to get out of there, dejected, and I say “I haven’t 800 DH on me. I will come back later, god willing.” He asks me how much I’ve got. I think for a minute and tell him I’ve gott 300DH on me. He asks to see it, so I pull it out, and he says “great!” grabs it, and starts wrapping up my purchase. He’s grinning like a fool.

I think perhaps I could have gotten it for less with better planning. In fact, salesmen of the world, if someone negotiates a lower price, and it’s still more than you expect, pretend you’re doing them a favour by taking that offer. The way he was overjoyed to take 300 makes me feel shitty that he was expecting I’d be dumb enough to pay 800 for it. And the joy shows I still paid way too much.

But that’s fine. I was happy with the price, he was happy, I can live with that. What happened next was much less awesome. I went to this little school supply store near the huge mosque. This tiny, pious looking man is inside. I ask him how much for a poster that has animals on it and their name in Arabic. Because I’m not very good at reading arabic yet. He looks at me, squints, and says “870 DH”. I thought I’d misheard him, but he then wrote it down. I have never paid $110 for a poster in my life, and I sure as hell am not going to start now.

My first reaction wsa to just be really sad. I mean, i  had explained to him I was a student and I wanted to learn his language, and he still tried to charge me at least 100x too much for the item. That’s just a bummer. I know they’re just trying to make a living. SO charge me double. I don’t mind. Hell, charge me triple or quadrouple what you’d charge a local guy. I understand that there’s a honky surecharge. I really don’t mind that much. But ONE HUNDRED TIMES more than a local would pay? That’s baloney. 

My second reaction, the I’m-From-Scranton Reaction, if you will, was much better. The next time this happens to me, I’m going to jump over the counter and take a crap on the floor. Think I’m bluffing? Try me. I’ve got long legs and a short bowel; I can get over the counter, pop the cork, and be back in the street running for home in a matter of seconds.

But I’m not even going to stop there. From now on, every night I am going to have stewed cabbage and lentils for dinner and I’m going to drink a lot of Moroccan beer. Well, continue drinking a lot of Moroccan beer. I very much recommend that you only rip me off a little, and not a startlingly incredible amount. This cannon will be loaded the next time it goes off.

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2 Responses to A Message To Medina Shopkeepers

  1. AZ says:

    Ah… What did Barsoum teach you about bargaining?
    The typical dialog should have been:

    You: “How much for this … It is not that good, you know. Look at this (point to a supposed defect. Who in his right mind would buy it?”
    Shopkeeper: “This is an amazing bla-bla-bla. Only 700”
    You: “Why do you want to rip me off like this? This is not worth even 10”

    Shopkeeper: “Why are you doing this to me? I am an honest merchant. I work from day and night, and everyone in this town knows me. Because I like you, 500, for you only.”

    You: “Everybody would know in this town that you are tipping them off. 500 for this filthy thing? You would have to step on my throat to give you 20”

    Shopkeeper: “Why are you doing this to me? I need to keep my shop. WIth this kind of prices I will go out of business. 400 is my absolutely best price”

    You: “30 because I am in a good mood. If you like it “[[Walking towards to door]
    Shopkeeper: “How can I feed my 15 children if I give this kind of discount. 100 and that is it. I won’t have a face to see my wife and the hungry children (beating his head)”

    You: [now at the door and starting to walk outside]”50 if you like it”[waving the money and pretending to say good buy]

    Shopkeeper: [Running behind you, makes an incredible jump and grabs the money from your hand]”You will not regret it my friend this is the best … You will not find this price anywhere in this country”.

    You get the item and walk home happy that you paid less than 1/10 of the first price.

    The shopkeeper smiles and thinks silently “I got 5 times more than what I paid… Next time I need to start even higher. These people today bargain too hard”….

    Try it….

  2. Scott says:

    Or you could abandon all pretenses of shopping, get yourself a balaclava and become a Moroccan crapper bandit. If you keep up a high enough profile, you’re sure to get steep discounts as soon as they see you walk through the door.

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