The Art of the Deal: Bargaining in Morocco

This is a Hipmunk post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

Given that I’m currently in Morocco and my last post was country (and soup!) related, I wanted to link through to one of most wonderful reads about spending time here, about the art of the deal.

It’s no surprise that bargaining is a way of life in Morocco. The same can be said for many countries in the Levant and throughout Asia and South America. I spent so much time travelling that when I returned to North America in the summer of 2010, I tried to bargain for popsicles in Battery Park City. (Me: “But I’m buying two popsicles – you can’t give me a better price?” Him: “I’m from Bangladesh so I know what you’re doing but you’re in New York. So no. I cannot give you a better price.”)

Bargaining is so prevalent here that people gave me unsolicited advice the moment they found out I was going, much of it very effective. Tell the vendors you’ve been here for weeks. Don’t choose the item you want and ask the price, start with something else and casually then ask for the pricing on your desired piece, almost as an afterthought. Ask around at a bunch of stalls before looping back to the one you want. 

Even the food prices can be negotiated.

But of everything I’ve read, Andrew McCarthy’s recent article on bargaining in Morocco captured the feeling of the country and the chaos of Marrakesh’s souks perfectly, through the eyes of his young son:

“Everything in Morocco is open to negotiation, Sam. When you hear a price, the first thing you say is, “Too much—bezaf—then walk away.”

“But what if I want it?”

Mohamed stops at a stall selling musical instruments and pulls down a thin, square, “storytelling” drum, which is made of goatskin stretched taut over camel bone. He shows Sam how to tap it on both sides to create the beat and continues the lesson.

“When you see something you like, maybe a lamp, you inquire about something else. Then, as you walk out, you ask, ‘And how much is that lamp?’ as though you just noticed it and don’t really care.”

The whole article is worth a read, weaving together history, culture and some fun bargaining tricks in one award-winning story.

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