Shopping for a Moroccan Rug
It is true that I find a delight in strolling through markets, admiring the many wonderful crafts, smells and tastes present and having a go at haggling. While tasting a little food or smelling the sweet aromas of the market are usually of limited cost, buying crafts can become notoriously expensive for the uninitiated, and Moroccan Rugs are no exception to this. In fact, the mercantile blood of the Moroccans makes them excellent salespeople, much to the pain of the uninitiated tourist’s wallet.
There are countless humorous accounts of the customer’s perspective of the sales tactics of Moroccan Rug Traders – the most outrageous (and we certainly believe the author embellished his story to make it laugh out loud funny and should be taken with a pinch of salt), being from “Dave”. However, we want to offer you the trader’s perspective.
Business in Morocco is in part about building relationships with your partners – both clients and suppliers. At Benisouk, we take great effort to build lasting and strong relationships with our Berber artisans who craft the rugs we sell, contributing a portion of our profits to community projects and providing finance for when they need it and where it wouldn’t be otherwise available. This gives us reliable and good quality suppliers, while also making us part of a wider community of Berber Brethren.
Many moons ago, Benisouk was a Marrakesh market store, long before they moved online. Then, as it still is now, it is customary to invite passing potential customers into the shop and offer them mint tea or coffee. The uninitiated tourist, tanned (or more often red from too much sun) would be charmed by the offer of tea and take it, enjoying the attention. They would usually have a genuine interest in the rugs, but at the same time also lacking the means to take it home or the right amount of money.
At Benisouk, we spent our youth travelling and this has offered us a unique perspective, so we were always interested in the stories the travellers would have to offer. Our passion was sharing our cultures, and our culture was displayed in our rugs. While drinking Mint Tea, we would have been making conversation aimed at trying to get an idea of what the person in front of us would be likely to be interested in. We found the best way for us was to thank the customer for their wonderful stories - we loved listening to them, and then ask if they were interested in rugs. It is because of this approach that we were not the most successful rug seller in the market – because often the answer was no, but we were comfortable with this approach.
Other sellers take a different approach though. They will try to grab your attention and start showing you items they have for sale while trying to work out what you would be most interested in. In the larger rug showrooms, there is a dedicated room for guests, where tea and a little food would be offered, stories would be exchanged and then, once the rug showcasing stage begins, in marches an army of assistants whose job (in this situation) is to be barked at to get this or that rug and for them to be unrolled in front of the guest. This can be gesturally strong – and unnerving to the uninitiated, however, it is showing respect to the customer in that cultural oxymoron. The aggressive tone may put the tourist on guard, as if there was a threat (most likely to the wallet…), but the sales person is trying to show the importance of your satisfaction to them by expressing disappointment that you are not satisfied. Often, the tourist would feel pressured into buying a rug to return the hospitality given, and while that is one function of the mint tea and conversation, every trader knows that it never guarantees a sale. It’s okay to say “I really like your rugs. I need to check with the courier first to see if they can take your rug to my country” or taking pictures and saying you need to consult with someone back at home. There is a whole art to haggling in Morocco, which again is based on giving face to both the customer and the seller in this age long tradition of give and take. The best description we have found for Haggling in Morocco can be found here.
If you are buying a rug from a market, you should take care study the rug you are interested in and to ask lots of questions so you can try to understand the story of the rug. Every rug has a story, and the merchant should be able to tell you where he got it from and what the symbols mean. A knowledgeable salesperson will have answers and their staff would be able to offer congruent answers to the same question. The best merchants take real pride in their rugs and will enjoy sharing their expertise with you. It is always better to buy from a pro than a charlatan, and usually a detailed conversation will separate the two. And remember, you can always even the score by offering a cigarette or something else in exchange for their Mint Tea. We once knew a British Businessman who had made it his habit to carry round the Tea Bags, Sugar and Creamer to offer “Milk Tea” to Rug Traders as an alternative to their Mint Tea…even if it was the “Travelodge” brand.
While Benisouk started off as a market trader, we moved to trading online a few years ago because we appreciated the Western Culture that prefers a less invasive sales method. When you shop online there is no salesperson offering you mint tea or trying to find out about your family or barking orders to have rugs unravelled left right and centre. Instead, you get to look at the rug and consider the rug to make a reasoned purchase decision over a cup of coffee (if mint tea really isn't your thing). You can explore our blog to discover our expertise in Rugs and even message us if you want more information about a particular rug and its story, and if you really want – compare to other sellers (but we can assure you that we’re the best, naturally).
Benisouk are first line traders – meaning we source directly from the artisan who made the rug (in the case of vintage rugs this person may be really old). This assures us of the authenticity and quality of the rug, and also cuts out the middleman so we really can offer you the best deal. While the charm of browsing through the markets will never go away, we can now bring you your Moroccan Rug to your door instead of you coming all the way to our door. Come visit us!