“North American retailers could learn a thing or two about wooing customers,” I think to myself as I settle into a Turkish carpet showroom. I’m being offered traditional appetizers and refreshments, from raki to Turkish tea. I consider myself to be a worldly shopper: I am always on the lookout for unique purchases that represent the country I’ve visited. Istanbul brought my shopping experience to another level altogether. The Grand Bazaar could keep you busy for days scouring thousands of stalls selling everything from jewelry to Turkish Delight. But it was the intricacies, as well as the science that goes into making traditional Turkish carpets that really opened my eyes.
Purchasing a carpet was not a part of the itinerary, but this impromptu stop at an operational Turkish silk carpet factory after a morning exploring Ephesus is unexpectedly enjoyable and educational.
The first part of our visit guides us through the process of pre-production (watching silk threads extracted from the silkworm cocoons) and production (watching the carpet makers at work). We’re then led into the showroom.
The Turkish carpet is one of the country’s most popular textiles—and exports. It is thought that the nomadic tribes of Turkey were the founders of carpet making. The dyes that were used hundreds of years ago, including local plant life like roots, beetles and soil, are all still used today.
The presenter starts by showing our group a couple of less expensive carpets and works his way up to the ones that equal the price of a small mortgage. We are encouraged to touch the carpets and even walk on them. My four-year-old niece rolls around without any of the staff blinking an eye!
- Testing out the goods
We learn that a carpet’s value is determined not only by its age, but also by its knots per square inch. Turkish carpets actually appreciate over time. Who would have thought that a carpet that has been walked on for 100 years would be considered an antique? Some are worth upwards of $100,000. We learn that the more knots, the pricier the carpet. A higher percentage of silk vs. cotton will demand a higher price, as well.
My only regret about the tour was that I did not end up purchasing a carpet that day. I had a hard time making a decision and couldn’t choose a design. However I intend to make it back to Turkey someday soon so that I can choose a Turkish carpet that speaks to the amazing, centuries-old tradition.
The carpet guarantee
Although carpets are sold in many different retail outlets and markets across the country, I would recommend doing your research at a government-supported carpet factory before considering a purchase. Be sure to purchase your carpet from a store or factory that supplies a certificate of origin and authenticity that guarantees your purchase. Although this guarantee excludes buyer’s remorse, it does apply to circumstances such as: the carpet is damaged while in transit, or a qualified Turkish carpet appraiser discovers discrepancies with the vendor’s provenance of goods or with the written declaration of the quality and materials used in the crafting of the article purchased. A government-supported factory will also guarantee to refund your money in full if you can find the same item, with the same quality, at a lower price.