Turkish Haggling

My two week holiday in Turkey is coming to a close and whilst sitting by the bar (for a change) waiting for the bus transfer to the airport I thought I’d reflect on how the shopping experience over here compares to that on the web, a somewhat unusual comparison.

I found in Turkey , you can’t walk past a shop without somebody coming out, smiling at you and cajoling you to come inside “To browse with no hassle, lovelee jubilee”. I like to think of myself as a social chap so if somebody greets me I’ll reply. However by the end of two weeks I had become “Smiling shop keeper” blind.

Sam, my girlfriend, is a professional shopper and can spend days looking at clothes, trying on shoes and marching around department stores and even when she doesn’t buy anything she’ll still class it as a successful days shopping (there must be some female logic in there somewhere).

However in Turkey, Sam could not enjoy her favourite pastime. As the second you set in a shop you are badgered by assistants and have jackets, clothes and general tourist crap thrust upon you.

One of the things I sometimes enjoyed was the fact that nothing had a price and you had to haggle for everything you wanted to buy. This suits me down to the ground as I haggle whenever possible in the UK but over there it was something of a double edged sword.

On the one hand I got a few good deals on shirts and trinkets, where I’d say one price, the shop keeper would say another and we’d generally meet somewhere in the middle and if it was nearer my starting price I’d class it as a good deal (and I’m sure when I left the shop the assistant would be rubbing their hands together). Various shops had signs up saying no haggling, which were absolute BS as when you tried to leave without buying something they’d come over saying “How about this piece of crap (they may not of said crap) normally costs 10 Lira, but for you only 5, lovelee jublee!!” So even in the no haggling shops they haggle.

In the first shop we went into we haggled the price of a leather jacket right down from 400 all the way to 40 which was pretty sweet but as it was the first shop we’d been into I thought I’d need to try a few others first, hey we might have been able to get it for 35.

So shopping continued and we ended up in Jewelers where Sam spotted a 1.5 carat Canary Diamond Ring. It cost 8 big ones so it was going to take some serious negotiations and price dropping before she got that on her pinkie. Over a couple of days we spent a good 4 hours in the place, they kept plying me with free beer, my daughter Ali with free sweets and Sam got to enjoy herself by using all the lingo she’s picked up from watching way too much “Gems TV”. The price continued to tumble down:

– The price started at £8,000
– I get a free beer while Sam talks about inclusions
– £7,500 is the best we can do
– I get another free beer
– Okay we can sell it to you for £7,200
End of Day 1
Next day, they see us approaching and they already have the ring and free beer waiting for us
– Them: The best we can do is £7,500
– Me: Yesterday you said £7,200
– After a fair bit more haggling the price was down to £6,500
– Ali was bored (understandably) so they took her to the sweet shop next door and bought her a big bag of sweets, I got another free beer.

-More technical jewelery talk and ring comparing (I drink beer, Ali eats sweets)
– Ali and I were now really bored so the price dropped to £6K

– We stood up to leave and said we’d think about it and then spent 10 minutes or so talking our way out of the shop, I was getting peeved at this point but Sam really liked the ring so when we said we were going to go and away to think about it we really were

– We set of to Burger King (they was a reward for a 10 year and 37 year old being so patient).

– Got half way when the shop’s owner caught up with us and explained the shops cost price was £5,834 but we could have it for $5,500 as he liked us and just wanted to make the sale.

– Resisted temptation to get arrested for GBH and finally escaped to get to BK (a Whopper does taste the same in Turkey).

– After chatting with Sam and doing a bit of research on the Net on Canary diamond prices we agreed if we could get the price down to £5K it would be a decent investment. So I was destined to go back the next day, refuse all beer and haggle on my own. When we’d first gone in the Jewellery shop we had no intention of buying but they had talked us (well they’d talked Sam round and she’d used her womanly charm on me) and now it was just a case of getting to the right price.

– So the next day I wandered to the Jewellers, was greeted with a warm welcome and I even had to refuse a free beer as I was now there to buy. I told them my final price was £5,000 expecting a few tuts and moans before they agreed but was somewhat surprised when they jumped up and down in disbelief, told me I had insulted them, their family, friends and business and was promptly told to leave the shop and never to return (thank fu$@ for that).

To me the moral of this is, don’t tell somebody “this is our best price” if it clearly isn’t, I was told this at least 5 times so when they actually were saying their best price I did not know or believe them.

I am back in the UK now and must admit won’t be going back to Turkey in a hurry and it also turns out that Sam would rather we spend the 5K on getting block paving and a new fence, so I’m not in the dog house over the ring fiasco. I will continue this post with a comparison to shopping on the web and I must admit when I started writing this post (2 days ago) I could think of loads of comparisons but now I’m struggling for 3 (though if you can think of any please leave a comment), maybe the rest will come back to me after a few beers down the pub this evening 🙂

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. I guess all that heat must have gotten to you Al, £5k for a ring ..ouch. That sounds like a lucky escape 😉

  2. What a great post on how to get free beer whilst on holiday! My parents have bought a holiday home in Turkey and I’m planning on spending a bit of time there doing some writing this winter. You can bet I’ll be in the diamond store everyday 🙂

  3. WOW, that was lucky

    I hope your holiday was a better than shopping. Its a shame there isn’t that much haggling here in the UK as its all RRP so no body bothers arguing.

    I saw a program on TV that showed how to haggle and it was pretty cool.

    I hope you enjoyed it

  4. quick question: are you aiming for Derick Trotter with the ‘luvly jubbly’ 🙂

    • Yeah I think that’s where they got it from, it’s probably not the best of phrases to use when they’re trying to sell something 🙂

  5. I did not understand the “family insulting” part. Turks are generally warm and friendly so why they got the impression that you insulted them?


  6. Just returned from Turkey last week and I feel your pain. Having said that I learned a lot from the Turkish way of doing business (at least in retail).

    We visited a jeweller and looked around for a while. They quickly sussed our budget range (sub £200 – no £5k bling here thankyou!) but offered to drive about six miles to pick us up from the villa the next day when we said we’d no cash with us.

    In the UK, you don’t get that kind of service. People don’t need (or want) one’s business enough to go the extra mile. When have you gone into a shop in the UK and been given the owner’s business card with mobile number, a cold glass of Coke and free transport on your next visit?

    • Yeah I agree the level of service can be really good. We found a restaurant that we went to nearly every other day and at the end of the night the chef always gave us a lift back to the hotel which was really cool.

  7. haha. Chinese, Turkish, Indian merchants are a strange lot. Haggling sometimes seems like a game to them, but then they’ll turn on you at the drop of a hat and accuse you of shaming their family etc!

    You could have got the ring for $5K if your opening bid was about $6.5K. And then slowly and patiently work down, and fool the merchant into thinking he’s being a nice guy by offering a low price.

    Cutting to the chase makes them lose face, and hence the psycho reaction!

  8. Great post, fun to use the power of information on the net to beat the local haggling game. I find myself leaning on it more for each purchase and going to the stored less, unless I need it now.

  9. lilandrew says:

    wow, good story.
    Am going on my first trip abroad to Turkey – on the 7th of July, but having read all these stories about haggling,im feeling quite skeptical, coming from UK, we dont haggle, only at a boot sale, so can i ask for all ur top tips on how to haggle, sounds stupid i know, but im 18 and really dont know lol – but would really help me. Cheers.

  10. Yeah gotta agree – lucky escape. Haggling is not easy at the best of times, let alone in a country that you may be completely clueless about their customs and what is and isn’t insulting.

  11. People liked to do this they thought they got a deal. Now people want no hassles just lowest price when they wlak in. Saturn showed more people just wanted best price no games.

    matt@best etf funds’s last blog post..Bond etf.

  12. Blimey – sounds a nightmare! I’ve never haggled and would hate it, so I hope the wife doesn’t want to go to Turkey! Luckily for me, though, she’d not expect me to buy her expensive jewellery while on holiday!

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