Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Xmas Tree, 2008 or “Bring a Local, Pay Less”
I think in the interest of being “independent” and wanting to soak up the full range of cultural experiences here in Turkey, we have sometimes tried to negotiate the ins and outs of commerce and travel in Turkey without help – and with our limited Turkish language skills. This results in a predictable outcome: the desired “rich cultural experience” along with a considerably lighter wallet.
The Turkish word for foreigner is yubanci (yew-ban-gee), and all of us yubanci generally pay yubanci prices. Unless it’s a department store, nothing has a price tag on it. The price is what the market will bear, so to speak, and when the market can’t speak Turkish, the price is high. For example, I once called the VW dealer here to get a quote on the cost for an oil change. They flatly refused to quote me a price until I had given them my license plate number over the phone. (Your license plate will show whether you are a foreigner or not.) I refused to tell them, so they quoted me 250 YTL ($150), we did no business together. Sometimes this upsets me, but I’ve accepted that I will always pay more than a Turk, and as long as I am happy with the stated price for the desired item, then it shouldn’t matter that someone else will pay half that. I just let it go.
But every once in a while, I’ve made my point about being independent, I feel good about making an effort, and I just want to compete on a level playing field for once. It’s time to bring in the local. And not just any local. A Woman.
As you may recall, last year after a long search we finally found a small place that sold us a Charlie Brown christmas tree for $100 after we bargained (we thought) fairly hard (see 12/26/07 blog entry – Christmas in Turkey, Part 1). This year, however, my husband, his boss and his boss’s Turkish wife headed out to a different nursery out on the Eskisehir highway. They picked out a lush, quite handsome specimen of a conifer and then went to start the deal with the three burly Turkish men who ran the place. My husband and his boss quietly backed away and just let the boss’s wife do her stuff. My husband said he even felt sorry for the poor Turkish guys. It was just no contest. Turkish women can be fearless negotiators. They just tell you what’s what and then you do it.
Tree on left: Christmas 2007
Contest: Four non-Turkish speaking foreigners negotiate for a tree.
Winner: No contest, game to the Turkish tree guy.
Cost = $100. Wrestled it home in the Renault’s trunk.
Tree on right: Christmas 2008
Contest: 1 Turkish woman vs. 3 burly Turkish men.
Winner: No contest - game, set and match to Turkish woman.
Cost = $60 DELIVERED TO OUR DOOR, 10 miles away.
And the most wonderful part of all was that my husband had the tree delivered as a surprise, and when the kids and I came off the elevator and it was sitting right in front of our apartment door, they thought Santa had brought us a tree. Would’ve paid the $100 just for the pure joy on their faces. But don’t tell the Turks.