Tue, 24 Apr 2007

The Carpet Salesman (Part 1)

In 1998, Richard, Christine and I visited Turkey on what is probably the wildest "vacation" we will probably ever take.

Shortly after that time, I wrote a short story that described some of the events of that crazy trip.

Today I came across a blog entry about Turkish carpets (and peripherally about Startup Sales Tips), and it reminded me of this story, which I thought I'd share with you.
I hold salesmen to be some of the slyest, slickest people in the world. They deal with people day in and day out, and no matter what kind of people they are, rich, poor, happy, sad, smart, stupid, their only goal is to get money out of you. If they can't expertly separate you from your money, they aren't a very good salesperson. Used car salesmen get a bad rap, partially because not many people have met any Turkish carpet salesmen.

In the middle of the day on our second day in Istanbul, we're walking down the strategically placed "mosaic museum". Similar to a Disney World amusement park ride, the whole things spills out into a bunch of shops. The difference is that all of the salespeople are pressuring you to come in their shop and have some tea. There's nothing wrong with that, really, if it was easy enough to say "no thank you" and have them leave it at that.

But no, in Turkey, the evolutionary environment is such that the species Salesicus Carpeticus Turcicus has evolved to a higher level. Techniques that these fine specimens have adopted include begging, pleading, challenging, and cajoling unsuspecting tourists who are unfortunate enough to step into their lair.

We were pretty good, actually, turning down most of their requests as politely as possible. Some we acted as if we did not hear them, others I simply stated in Turkish "we're not looking to buy", effectively classifying ourselves as "pseudo-locals", and yet others we simply smiled and shook our heads.

The most devious class of salesperson to be caught by-- and the worst kind, mind you, is the one that appears as if he isn't trying. This technique involves standing up and following you down the bazaar, with a couple of his friends. As you're walking along, he throws his lure, "Why did you come to Turkey if you're not going to buy a carpet?" he asked, innocently enough, in surprisingly good English.

This lure is quite attractive to almost everyone. To some, it is to a certain degree upsetting because it holds true-- indeed, I am in Turkey, why not buy a legendary Turkish carpet? To others, it is a challenge that can not bear ignoring. I mean who is this to suggest I must buy a carpet when I come to Turkey? How dare he?

Either way, the salesperson has made an inroad with you, an avenue, so to speak, where he can attempt to win your heart, your mind, and ultimately, your money. I fell into both categories. At first, I felt he was right, I lived in Turkey for many years, but don't have a carpet to show for it. But that was a fleeting thought, and suddenly I was slightly offended, and responded negatively with, "We're not interested in carpets."

Ah, a negative comment yes, but a comment nonetheless, one that our potential salesman, lagging behind us with his posse, was adept to grasp at. He threw his next sentence like a lasso, and snared us with his expert technique. "Well, come then, to my store," he started, "...don't buy a carpet, allow me to serve you some tea, and tell you a little about the Turkish people and culture through our carpets." This sounded good enough to us, and even I, as a "veteran" of Turkey, was mystified by what he might have to share regarding the people and culture of Turkey as told through its carpetmaking.
Stay tuned for part 2.

Khan Klatt

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