Haggling in Morocco is unlike anything else I’ve ever encountered before. The first price you are given can be absolutely astronomical as I found out on a recent trip to Fez.
Finding two attractive pieces of hand-painted Moroccan ceramics (see below), I asked for the best price and was told 900 dirhams. In other words: GBP £73, EUR €83 or USD $95. Apparently, this price already included a discount for buying two items…
What did I pay in the end? 130 dirhams (£10.50, €12 or $14). Could it have been cheaper… probably. Looking back, I made three mistakes during the negotiating process.
Mistake #1: Telling the salesmen where you come from. So in pretty much every shop, before they give you a price they will ask you where you come from. Maybe some of them are genuinely interested but knowing where you come from also means they can estimate how much they think you can afford to part with. If I was there again, I would definitely not say I came from the UK.
Mistake #2: Admitting you’ve never been to Morocco before. Soon after being asked about where you come from the next question is often: “Have you been to Morocco before”? Again, it’s easy to presume they are just genuinely interested but really they are gauging how experienced you are in dealing with Moroccan salesmen. Even if you’ve never been there before I don’t think there is much harm in pretending you’ve been there many a time and know it well.
Mistake #3: Giving a price range. After the initial figure of 900 dirhams, I offered 100 dirhams (expecting to get shown out the shop for my ridiculous offer). I was asked to give a better offer so I said “Around 120 to 130”. So, of course, they chose the higher of the two. State what you want to pay and stick to it.
Despite these mistakes, there were some things I clearly did right:
Success #1: Knowing how much I wanted to pay before negotiating. It is hard to tell how much these items actually cost to produce but you need to know what they are worth to you and how much you are prepared to pay for them. I had bought ceramic tiles before in Istanbul in Turkey and had paid about £5 each so I suggested just under £10 for the two items. Even though this was 100 dirhams and he had suggested 900 it seemed a ridiculously low offer but I knew that was roughly the value of these items.
Success #2: Knowing if they are seriously considering your offer. So after the offer of 100 dirhams, I fully expected to be shown the door but what happened? The salesman spoke to his brother in Arabic and then asked me for a better price. By discussing it, he showed to me that he was considering it. He didn’t dismiss it immediately and seeing that gave me more confidence to increase my offer by just 20 / 30 dirhams.
Success #3: Not sticking to the “halve it” rule. Before going to Fez I had read that a good start to haggling was to reply with half the price you were initially offered. If I had done this, in this situation I would still have been paying way over the real value of these items.
I’m clearly not the best authority on haggling in Morocco. No doubt someone will be able to tell me they got these items for less. However, I am happy with the price I paid and I am happy with the items. Considering I had no idea what to expect from their method of negotiating and also not being particularly confident in these situations, I don’t think I did too badly.
If I went back, I would clearly do things differently, but I hope my advice might be able to help some other people get the best value for their souvenirs in the markets of Morocco.