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On "Bargaining" for Oriental Rugs


Gerome's Oriental Rug Merchant  The image above is a painting made in the late fourth quarter of the nineteenth century created by Orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme.  The image is believed to be an Oriental Rug marketplace in Cairo Egypt.  


After finding that perfect rug online, locally or other, the thought sometimes crosses the consumer's mind: "should I bargain?".  While it really depends from seller to seller, there actually is an etiquette to when and where to negotiate for rugs.  So how and when does the customer know when to bargain?  Here are some general guidelines for what to expect, and what not to expect:

Today's modern rug marketplace is somewhat different from the above classic imagery of Gérôme's "The Carpet Merchant".  Much of the history of purchasing oriental rugs in bazaars and foreign marketplaces did not necessarily revolve around selling items for money.  Quite often was the case that many goods were exchanged through bartering for food, livestock and other necessities.  This is perhaps the epitome of negotiation, as both engaging parties would have what one would consider a commodity with varying characteristics, demand and valuation. 

Reputable Retail Stores & Reputable Online Showrooms:

As a consumer you expect that any reputable seller will provide an element of buyer security in whatever transaction takes place.  Honest business practice should reflect both fair (and often fixed) pricing, eliminating the possibility of "rug burn".  larger retail establishments where the owner is not readily accessible tend to put their best price on the tag.  In this case, such dealers are generally not inclined to give further discounts.  If you are considering several carpets for your home from the same seller, it may be worthwhile to talk about price.  Sometimes designers are given a nominal discount.  Submitting a "low-ball" offer for any one or grouping of rugs at a well known, established dealer typically doesn't play well.  In instances of purchase from a large retail chain, find out whether the rug department is outsourced to a smaller company.  In the event it is, negotiating may be appropriate, even in a large department store as we found out.

The most polite tactic is to ask if there may be any sales soon, or if they have any discounts or advertisements running which may apply to the rugs under consideration.  Never expect a discount, but should you receive a price-break, it may only be 10% off, or a package deal including an underlining for the rug(s).  If you work with a designer, you may be eligible for the previously stated "specialty treatment", as designers are a reliable, steady source of business for such dealers.  Remember that with a reputable seller, part of your investment is for quality but also security from other "buyer beware" aspects of the marketplace.  Again, it is in the seller's best interest to have a long standing client reputation of quality product at fair prices.  

However, if the dealer you're visiting has the Old World Charm of an Istanbul merchant, and reduces the price as you get closer to the door, you may be able to negotiate successful transaction.  Unless you, as the buyer, are extremely skilled and knowledgeable, you'll always wonder if you negotiated the lowest price.  You can always test the waters by making a very low offer.  You'll know soon enough what the mentality of the seller is.  Maybe try turning your back as if headed for the door.  If there is too much play, beware. 

"Garage Showrooms", "Going Out of Business Sales", "Seized Goods 'sales/auctions'":

The above listed vendors are perhaps the most tricky and difficult situations to gauge for any consumer.  These items are often misidentified, shoddy quality imports which no respectable dealer would have in their showroom.  One must always assess the characteristics of the seller, and significantly weight factors of purchasing into their decision.  Who are they now, where will they (or you) be tomorrow: is there an option for return?  Does the desire for the rug outweigh the consequences of a bad "rug burn".  More often than not, no.  One must always remember in most any of the above listed vendors, a novice (or even the hobbyist) is the underdog.  For these types of venues, maximum liberty should be taken in consumer power.  While we don't suggest people purchase from these types of vendors, the case may arise where you have found a rug you like.  Put your best game face on: Never let the vendor know of your preferences.  Tell the seller you are actively researching carpets, and you have several rugs under consideration from various sources.  The people working for these sellers are often best characterised as "charmers", playing a game of flattery with compliments which can easily cloud the real task at hand.  If you find something you love, and feel compelled to make a purchase, be prepared to negotiate hard and be ruthless in your tactics. 

Purchasing over-seas:

Tourist buys Can Burn.  It sounds romantic to select a rug yourself in the surrounding of a Middle Eastern bazaar.  In fact, it's a chancy way of doing business.  There's a large buying gap between the tourist and the seasoned professional rug buyer.  Foreign sources reserve their finest pieces for the discerning importing merchants who buy regularly, and who know an accept only the best.  The local tourist markets often serve as the outlet for less desirable merchandise.  Don't either be misled by the foreign guide with the "key" to the "source".  The end result can be an expensive souvenir for you and a handsome commission for the guide.  I have seen many "finds" from both friends and family.  Almost universally, the better quality and better buy was around the corner rather than a trip halfway around the globe. 


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March 27. 2008 21:50


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