The rugs were flying, quite literally, and landing on the floor in front of us. Twenty minutes earlier they had been neatly rolled up at the back of the room. Now five Turkish Rug salesmen were expertly flipping them out onto the floor, a new one every ten seconds. We had been wined; we had been dined; we had been educated. Now the final push was on, the push to get us alone in a room where more multi-thousand dollar rugs would be thrown at us and we would eagerly pull out our credit card with the highest limit.
Peggy was ready. The falling rugs had hypnotized her. Her eyes were glazing over and she was levitating out of her seat as a handsome dark-eyed Turk wooed her with fine words. The last time I had seen that look we had ended up with a timeshare in Mexico. This time I was fortified, however. When the salesmen was passing out drinks to soften us up, I was one of two from our tour group of 30 who ordered arak or raki, the unsweetened Middle-Eastern anis drink with the smell of turpentine and the kick of a mule.
I admit the rugs were beautiful works of art, but I was arak strong. Our cabin in the woods of Southern Oregon did not need a Turkish carpet. “I’m sorry,” Peggy explained to her new best friend. “My husband doesn’t want a rug.” I was truly the bad guy in this scenario and the salesman gave me the look to prove it before he sidled off to corner another victim… oops I mean client.
Buying a rug in Kusadasi is reputedly the quintessential Turkish experience and a whole industry is set up to make sure you have it. The cruise industry is a major partner in this endeavor. Lectures on bargaining and quality are given on board the ship before arrival. Lists are provided of safe, preferred shops (i.e. those that share their profit with the ship). Our tour guide hurried us through ancient Ephesus sergeant-like to make sure we would make it to the shop on time. Tours are tightly scheduled. Each tourist needs the opportunity to buy a carpet. Everyone profits. For the cruise ship this can mean a 50-60 percent kickback.
I hurried Peggy out with the promise of lunch and the opportunity to buy presents for the grandkids. Her brother John and his wife Frances stayed to buy a carpet, however, and ended up with two. Later we celebrated with them in their rambling Texas home as they rolled their children’s inheritance out on the floor.
NEXT BLOG: We visit the Greek Island of Mykonos on our Mediterranean cruise adventure and meet the island’s famous Pelicans up close and personal.