Sunday, April 28, 2013

Turkey 2013 - Istanbul Day 1 - Carpet Tout Rant

Rugs at a shop in Istanbul.

I was preparing myself for aggressive shopkeepers trying to get you to come into their shops - rug shops mostly but really all souvenir shops and restaurants do this, and not just in Istanbul. That's fine, you can wave them off and keep walking and they're not going to follow you away from their shop or restaurant.

What I wasn't prepared for is that the rug shops have hired people to stake out the tourist areas like Sultanahmet Square near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque and come up to you with a Hey How Are You Today routine. They offer you some unsolicited tourist advice or other chat. Where are you from? Oh America, my brother lives there. Oh, that's a nice camera, are you a professional? My cousin is professional photographer in Atlanta. That's near New Jersey right?  That's the Hagia Sophia over there, it was built in the year 360, have you been?

You try to get rid of them but they FOLLOW you. So ok, have a little conversation, who cares, eventually they will realize I'm not into rugs and find another mark, right?  No, no.  As soon as you didn't tell them to fuck the fuck off right away, they take that as implicit acceptance of their offer of going to their rug shop (when they get around to actually coming to the sales pitch). My first day in Istanbul I had three or four of these little chats.  They take your friendly response and turn it around on you -- you have to channel your internal dickness to get rid of them when the time comes.  What is the Turkish for piss off? I don't know but I suppose they have a phrase for that. There's "Istimez!" which is "It's not wanted!" but that's not vulgar enough.

So, you say (and I read online, and in the guide books) that is is the way of doing business in Turkey/Istanbul. Maybe so. I don't begrudge anyone their livelihood. What I resent is having to be a dick ten times a day.

My second day went much smoother. Wear sunglasses and make no eye contact. I feel sad they have forced me (tourists) to refuse to acknowledge their presence no matter who it is or what they might actually want.

Outside of all the main tourist sites are licensed tour guides trying to sell you their services. They wear laminated badges. The main benefit of contracting their services, besides their presumed knowledge, is they'll get you in past the lines. They are certainly less aggressive than the carpet touts.  So outside the Hagia Sophia, a guy comes up to me, Hey How Are You Doing (see above) and I just say No.  He says, "I'm not tour guide."  Right, I didn't think so. I said, "No, you're a rug guy. Not interested."  He stops following me and I can hear him say in a wounded sniffly voice, "I'm not rug guy."  Bullshit.  If you're not a tour guide and you're not a rug guy why the fuck are you bothering me?  (Maybe the "come with me to this bar I know" scam where you get socked for a $500 bar tab for a beer and some hoods are guarding the door...)

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