Whether it is persuading a sunburned tourist to buy a magnet with the Turkish map printed on it or a desperate mother marketing her lazy son with a unibrow to a young lady in a clothing store, the Turkish people have mastered the art of selling. Moreover, they don’t limit themselves to selling souvenirs or merchandise; they are experts at selling completely exaggerated, over-the-top stories and even attempt to persuade complete strangers to marry their child.
Although it is common for a three year-old to amplify and blow up the facts in a story, it is not only common but necessary for people of all ages to do so in Turkey. For example, a seller of normal T-shirts may go on and on about how these shirts were made from cotton handpicked in the Himalayas. After buying the shirt, one may find a label that says “Made in China.” Turkish mothers are seen doing this quite often with their sons. She will walk up to a beautiful woman—and complete stranger— and start boasting of her son’s amazing accomplishments, success in his career and how he goes to the gym every day. Then she will give the lady his phone number and beg her to call her son, who actually turns out to be a couch potato with a beer belly and a thick unibrow.
Being able to relate to the customer is another important sales technique, as the Turkish culture is very warm and highly values family and friends. This may entice a range of approaches from being able to speak even just one word in a tourist’s foreign language or claiming that the seller’s brother’s girlfriend is also from the tourist’s country and amazingly has the exact same name as the tourist. It could also include asking if the tourist has met a specific celebrity from their country like Hannah Montana if the tourist is from the US, Nelson Mandela if from South Africa and Wayne Rooney if from the UK. This shows the seller has at least some knowledge of the buyer’s country, though they are usually quite disappointed when one says he hasn’t met these celebrities. Thus, by the end of the conversation the seller can almost be regarded as a friend and one feels bad if he does not buy something.
Displaying hospitality is another huge marketing strategy used in Turkey. When someone shows the slightest interest in a specific product by simply glancing at a stall covered in souvenirs or pointing at it to a friend, the salesperson will prance out inviting the person into his store before ordering the person tea, which the salesperson pays for, and asking the tourist about his family and beautiful, distant country. He may even buy the person lunch or offer the potential buyer some national Turkish snacks and delicacies. After about fifteen minutes to half an hour, he will start to show the tourist all the exquisite things he has that the tourist could buy. If the tourist thinks the price is too high, then the seller will lower the price slightly, but only because the tourist is now his brother and close friend. By the end of it all, the tourist will probably end up purchasing something, either because the seller went into so much trouble to show him everything or because he bought the buyer lunch and tea.
If one ever visits Turkey and strolls among the quaint Turkish stores, she should not be surprised if she ends up with bags overflowing with gifts and a suitcase stuffed with souvenirs. Why not add a new Turkish boyfriend for that matter as well? What’s not to love?