Attempting to negotiate in a Moroccan souk is uncomfortable and hilarious at the same time. Having traveled to other developing countries, I did my best to prepare mentally. Unlike other places where haggling is common, Moroccans have unique techniques.
Based on my experiences to date,
I believeMoroccans are the BEST hagglers in the world.
I give them major props. I walked into the souks thinking “yea, I got this” and walked out every single time shaking my head. They really know what they’re doing. Since my trip, I’ve taken time to analyze their methods in an effort to better understand their negotiation tactics. I learned quite a bit traveling through Morocco, specifically how to negotiate better under insane pressure.
This post offers advice for those who want to really know how to haggle in Morocco. Most of these tips can be applied to generic negotiations around the world as well. If you haven’t been to Morocco before, you’ll need some background on what it’s like to shop in a souk. That link includes six things you need to know before going.
If you can master negotiating in Morocco, you’ll be able to negotiate with anyone, anywhere.
How to Negotiate Like a Moroccan in Morocco
- Research Price Points: Remember what your Mama told you, you better shop around! It’s insane how many of the shops in the souks sell the exact same product and charge dramatically different prices (and the shops are inches away from one another). In order to know an accurate starting price, you have to do your research. NEVER buy the first rug you see. Instead, ask what price they’re looking for and gauge costs as you look around. You’ll soon come up with an average starting price that seems fair. It requires patience, but knowledge is power.
- Don’t Overreact: So you’re walking through the souks, and there it is, the perfect rug. You didn’t think you’d find it but voila! It’s staring at you and you freak out. Unfortunately, by doing this, they already have a leg up as they can USE THIS AGAINST YOU. Act casual and calm. Hide your freak and manage your reaction till you complete purchase!
- Know The Item: Even if you think you know everything about the product, you should still do your research. You should know what types of questions to ask on the spot. For instance, if you want to buy a Moroccan rug, you’ll want to know a few things: Is it handmade? How long did it take to make? What material is it made out of? How does it feel? You can use these questions to inform the seller that you came prepared – this can also help intimidate them. Asking these questions will help determine how much it cost to make (time, material, etc). By knowing all of this, you can naturally assume an upper hand.
- Be Specific With What You Want: If the seller KNOWS that you want the red (whatever) and they only have yellow, then they will feel bad and potentially offer a discount. I’ve sometimes pretended to want a certain color, knowing they don’t have it. Then I can say I like the product, but it’s not exactly what I was looking for. You can use this on anything, and yes, it is a bit deceiving. That aside, what specifically are you looking for? Do you want a specific color or pattern? Do you “need” a certain size? Being specific and knowing what they have will also help speed up the process and ensure you walk away with exactly what you want.
- Know Your Audience: I remember a man in Thailand shook my hand because I beat him out on negotiating the amount of his tuk tuk to local prices. He was impressed and we both laughed about it. In Morocco, you *could* offend someone if you propose an amount too small. Being sensitive to the starting price is important here so make sure you are aware. This holds true obviously in any type of negotiating, know your audience.
- Know the Counter Argument: Moroccans have “if-then” scenarios completely thought through for everything you’re about to say. Therefore, in order to effectively haggle, you must think through both sides to be prepared with a response. In other words, they could potentially take the guilt-trip route and say things like: “My Grandmother worked on this rug her entire life” or “We don’t make any money, you are our last customer of the day.” If they say this, you’ll need a planned reaction to prove you’re not caught off guard, which will help in gaining the negotiating power back in conversation. You could respond with something simple: “I can appreciate that, and also want to make sure this is a fair price for both of us.”
- Prepare For Pressure: A common tactic used throughout the souks and also in real life is when the negotiation is done via an intense time constraint. Obviously, this tactic is used to apply pressure and get you to answer questions in a speedy back and forth. In Morocco, it might look like: “Are you buying this or not? Tell me yes or no.” In a negotiation outside of souk life, it might be a first round phone interview with a Recruiter asking for your expected salary. You should know the answers in advance so you’re ready. In fact, try talking faster than they are talking and see if you can trick them into saying your price point 🙂
- Know your Maximum Spend: Before you agree or settle on a purchase, know exactly how much you’re willing to spend. Do NOT go over this maximum. Stay strong.
- Play Good Cop/Bad Cop: If you’re traveling with a friend, use this to your advantage. Agree on who will be “Good” and who will be “Bad”. Chances are there will be two of you and one of them. They already have a leg up because they do this ON THE DAILY. For this approach, you will want to find a happy medium between the two cops. In other words, the Bad Cop can’t rip apart the item and the Good Cop can’t oversell it. The Good Cop can come and state the pros while the Bad Cop can point out the flaws and why it wouldn’t be worth the amount. Finding balance between the both of you will ultimately show yes, you’re interested, but hey this product isn’t perfect because of X, Y, or Z . And THAT is why there should be some sort of discount applied.
- Don’t Share A # First: They will undoubtedly ask: “How much will you pay, I give you a good offer.” Avoid this trap! You should never state a price point without knowing theirs first. Make them talk first, and then you can react based on what you already know is the average – since you did your research, right 😉
- Patience is Key: The most patient people will always win, so make sure you have enough time to enter a proper negotiation. Silence and pauses in conversation are especially important, because they won’t know what you’re thinking. It could also lead them to believe you’re not interested, causing them to talk more and potentially lower price.
- Walk Away: I would only actually recommend the idea of walking away when you do not absolutely need the item, as there of course is the potential risk that they may not scream after you. But hey, no risk, no gain right? This tactic is best applied when you’re REALLY close to the amount you will pay. Also, if you think that based on dialogue thus far, they will drop to that amount by walking away.
Well, oh my gosh, I just shared all the secrets 🙂 Honestly though, overall, the best negotiators in the world are only the best because they are well prepared. Every Moroccan man and woman in these souks know exactly what you’re going to say, how you’ll react under pressure, and what the counter is in advance. Generalization? Sure, but this was my experience for two weeks and I was constantly impressed by their skills. If you go in having read all of these tips, you’ll be ready to face pretty much any negotiation.
NOTE: Some products in the souks are REALLY nice and do actually cost a pretty penny. Others, however, like my 1 dirham ring broke later that day. So just know that obviously the more you’re willing to spend, likely the better the product.
NOTE #2: The more common purchases have a pretty standard pricing rubric and you may not be able to negotiate much. For instance, Sahara desert scarves are sold frequently, with a common price point at 40 dirham. They will start around 80, you say 20, they laugh, they go down to 60, you go up to 40, and then you’re done Right? Ehhh. Remember to be patient and keep going – and then you’ll hit 40.
Looking for a hotel in Marrakech? I recommend Les Borjs De La Kasbah
Visiting any souks while in Morocco? Check out my blog on things to know before going