Curious what a day looks like when I’m on a sourcing trip? Here’s a sneak peek at a day in the life of an importer (I prefer the title of Treasure Hunter:))
8am: Wake up and enjoy a delicious Moroccan breakfast (holy crap, lucky duck…you’re in Morocco!). Eat now because you might not eat anything else until dinner.
9am: Hit the Medina. Have a couple of places in mind that you definitely want to get to but leave lots of time for perusing other souks. You will be heckled by just about every shop owner… at some point you just have to give in.
10am: It’s time to buy some rugs. Enter rug shop of choice, accept the offering of mint tea (sans sugar) and sit down and make yourself comfortable, you’ll be there for a while. Look at 20-30 rugs. Hmm and haww as the rug dealer assistant lays out carpet after carpet.
10:30am: The assistant will now hold up each carpet one by one. Stay put on the bench and each time he holds one up yell “Hali” (Hall-ee) to keep it or “ishmael” (Ish-May) to take it away.
11am: You’ve now narrowed it down to the 5-10 rugs you like, want, and are prepared to buy. This is when you talk money. Be prepared to get your game face on and bargain, bargain, bargain. Accept another glass of mint tea (no sugar please).
11:30am. You’ve gone back and forth about the price. The dealer started outrageously high and you retort with a (in his eyes) shockingly low number. You are now getting to a number that you are comfortable with. The dealer says this is insulting. He will then tell you that you have expensive taste, you picked all the vintage pieces, you can’t find these pieces anywhere else in the world, and they are no longer making rugs of this color and quality. Take these claims with a grain of salt.
12pm. You have reached your highest offering price and the dealer does not accept. You pretend to walk out of the store. Sometimes they will let you leave. This is ok. Stick to your guns. If they do, come back in an hour and start negotiations again. Most of the time they will follow you out of the store and talk themselves down to the final price that you offered. Tell them how happy you are. Moroccans love for their customers/visitors to “be happy”
1pm: Shake their hands, hug them, be all happy happy joy joy, but decline the last cup of mint tea (you’ll get it again at the next place). Ogle at your new beauties, snap some pics with the seller, and say goodbye to your rugs as they are packed up and prepared to ship back to the states (it might be a while before you see them again).
1:30pm: You’re on a roll! Hit the next place while your bargaining mojo is still on point. Accept a glass of mint tea (no sugar, thank you) and start the process all over again. Because you just got such good deals at the last place you now have bargaining power, confidence, and a little more knowledge about what you can actually get a rug for. Use this momentum and GO FOR IT.
3:30pm. Two glasses of mint tea later and you are again kissing your rugs goodbye and hitting the streets of the medina. Time to change pace a little.
4pm: Stop in the tanneries to see the locals tanning leather and explore their over priced shops of sweet smelling camel, cow and goat hides transformed into beautiful bags and poufs. By now you’ll be tired, and dirty, and sick of the smells of the medina. Be careful which snack you choose. NOTE: All Moroccan street food is not created equal. I assure you.
5pm: Take inventory of what you’ve procured and what you still need to find. Be strategic. Wandering around the tiny, dark streets of the medina is fun…for about 30 minutes. Use your google maps to help you keep track of where you are.
6pm: Give in to the hundreds of locals trying to help you with your bags of goodies. Yes, the offers are annoying. Yes, you can probably manage on your own however, paying an eager boy $5 to carry 30 kilos of stuff through hoards of people, donkeys carrying garbage, and winding passageways is worth it. I REPEAT….is worth it.
7pm: Make your way back to your riad and take a load off. You’ve now been on your feet for 10 hours, hustling through the dusty streets, sifting through stacks on textiles, fending off Moroccan men who believe that trading you for 100 camels is a fare agreement (my mom almost settled for 50!). It’s time to relax with a glass of wine. Oh wait….alcohol is hard to find in Morocco and is a bit taboo. DON’T forget to BYOW. Eat dinner at the Riad. The last thing you want to do is hit the medina again and try to find food. Stay somewhere with good wifi, good food, a comfy bed, and nice views. Luckily, in Morocco, this is not hard to find.
9pm: After a long day and a massive Moroccan meal it’s time for bed. Lay back, think about all the amazing hand woven rugs, soft leather goods, and colorful textiles you selected today.
Life is good. You’re exhausted but get excited. It starts all over again at 8am:)