It was with mixed emotions that I ventured with my family to Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar. I really wanted to see one of the world’s famous places and learn about how it worked, but on the other hand, I detest shopping and I loathed the idea of a few hours of browsing and purchasing items. Would it be a glorified mall trip?
Upon reflecting the day, it was a mixed experience. The most positive aspect were the joy it brought to my wife and daughter, purchasing pillows (Nadia) and belly dancing outfit (Ocean). Ocean especially reminded me that I have a daughter and she loves shopping! She even came home and we watched belly dancing videos together for her to pick up some moves and then she performed for the family! I hope to post the video soon.
The negative was the hassling we received as a family from vendors. I guess walking through the bazaar with an Indiana T-shirt on, three blond children, and carrying several large bags of stuff, would be a signal to vendors that they can make some money off of us! It is so foreign to me however, to sell and use a variety of offers to try to maximize the profits from an interaction with a visitor to my country, or anyone for that matter. For example on the way to the bazaar, we stopped at Taksim Square. The shoe shine men used a ploy on me to drop their brush and so I would pick it up and that would give them an opportunity to quickly start shining my shoes and asking for money. I did give him some Serbian money, but he was asking for 100 Lira $45. Another example was the taxi driver, wanting 50 Lira for a 20 Lira metered taxi ride. It gave me a very negative view of my trip because they try to get as much money from tourists as possible.
It was fascinating to watch the salesmen and their support people. I think it would be very boring to own a shop in the bazaar, attempting daily to sell the same wares to tourists. The vendors looked bored, playing solitaire on their phones, drinking tea, and talking with each other. This is the winter and off season, so business was slow, so I assume in the summer they are busier with sales. I wonder how much vacation time they get and how much do they make a year? Do they get insurance, pregnancy leave, and other benefits? Many were trying to avoid paying government and credit card fees and asked for cash so they don’t need to report their sales to the Turkish IRS. I wonder how many generations they have been working in the bazaar?