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How To Shop The Souks Of Morocco (PHOTOS)

06/08/2012 07:31 am ET | Updated Aug 08, 2012
  • Howard Steven Friedman Statistician and health economist for the United Nations; Teacher, Columbia University

When visiting Morocco, one of the most exciting and enjoyable cultural activities is shopping in the souk (market). For Americans who are accustomed to walking into a store and having the fixed prices of items clearly displayed this can be a stressful time. After all, prices are not displayed since they are negotiable and, as with any market system, whether it be a shopping district or Wall Street, the person who is best informed has the advantage.

I receive many questions from my American friends who aren't used to negotiating like this. Here are some common questions/answers:

"How do I know how much I should pay?" You never know what is the "best price" you can negotiate but whenever I travel to markets where negotiating is a requirement, I consult with friends in the area to get an idea of what prices I should pay for a variety of goods. Armed with this information, I can walk around the souk with a fairly accurate estimate of what the negotiated price should be.

"What is the best negotiation strategy?" I find that the most persuasive ways to negotiate are silence and simply walking away if you feel the prices are unfair.

"So many merchants sell the same item, how do you pick which one to negotiate with?" I usually ask a few sellers for how much they want for the same item. The seller than gives me the most reasonable starting price (often still two or three times the final price) who also is not overly aggressive is usually the one I work with.

"What if I can't get the seller anywhere near the target price I was told I should pay?" Your choices are simple, walk away or agree to pay much more than you probably should. Just remember, you lived a wonderful life before buying that item in the market and you will probably live a terrific life without purchasing it. If you like shopping, then enjoy the process of negotiating. If you don't, then head to a great museum or restaurant as it can be stressful, frustrating and tiring for those who aren't inclined to bargain.

I didn't purchase anything on my trip to the souk this time, as I was busy taking photos for you to enjoy of my recent trip to a souk in Rabat, Morocco.

Rabat, Morocco

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