Marrakech is an amalgam of cultures, architecture and experiences. The historic medina is rich with Arab culture and seems almost unchanged by time, while the Gueliz neighborhood was built during the years of French control, and has wide boulevards, newer buildings and fast-food chains. There are widespread poverty issues throughout the city, though there are also more luxurious mansions and resorts than you can count.
Through it all, the spirit and hospitality of Moroccans shines through. In Marrakech and throughout the country, Moroccans are proud of their homes and want to show them off to visitors. People are kind, helpful and inviting – even inviting you into their homes for tea and cookies.
Shopping in the Marrakech medina is an experience unlike any other. As you begin to wander the narrow paths of the souks, vendors yell out to you to entice you to visit their stalls, a donkey-pulled cart stacked high with rugs tries to meander through the crowds and men on motorbikes anxiously honk as they try to make their way through.
The real fun begins when you spot something you’re interested in, which is hard to imagine as your senses are already well past the stage of overwhelmed. The price of everything for sale in the souks is up for negotiation, and these vendors are masters in their craft.
This month’s lesson: negotiate like a champion
Here are a few negotiating lessons I picked up after much practice. They hold as true for your next salary or sales deal negotiations as they do for your next shopping trip.
- Know what you bring to the table – and why it’s unique. There’s a wide mix of offerings in the souks, but once you decide on food versus rug, most vendors in the category sell basically the same selection. They’ve become quite good at selling you on why their stall is the one you have to shop at, whether that’s someone hand-carving wood at the front door to signify handmade items or yells of their rock-bottom cost. Do the same: convey why the other party needs to do a deal with you, and why they should adjust their terms to make it happen.
- Create an experience and establish rapport. “My friend, my friend, come look at these beautiful rugs as we sip some tea,” is a common refrain in the medina. Suave vendors go above and beyond to welcome you, greet you as a friend, and serve you countless cups of mint tea in a comfortable seat as they begin showing you rug after rug. They know it gets harder to say no the longer you sit and browse, and their hospitality goes above and beyond to butter you up for a sale.
On the flip side, keep your guard up. Remember what you’re negotiating for, what you want the outcome to be, and stand strong.
- Stick to your bottom line. Nothing in the medina has a price on it. Vendors may throw out an absurd price, often based on nothing but your looks and the language they guess you speak. From there, the game begins. They know you’ll begin bargaining and they’ll do anything possible to keep the price high. They know, however, what they need to make to make a profit and won’t give in to any offers outside that range. As a buyer, you need to do your research to know what’s a fair price and aim to end the bargaining at that point. Vendors make this a true art – some can go on for hours.
Both negotiating parties need to know the bottom-line outcome they’re willing to accept. You’ll start higher or lower to get there, but be prepared to walk away if you can’t get an outcome you’re happy with.
- Be willing to walk away. Often in the medina, the mere turn of your body as you start to walk out of the store is enough for the vendor to give in and say, “OK, OK, for you, 20 dirhams.” That’s not always the case in a business setting, but you still need to know what you absolutely require for a deal to happen and prepare yourself ahead of time to lose it if you can’t meet on your terms.