How the scam works:
Turkey is an amazing country to visit, but it has the most aggressive street vendors in the world. Walking through the streets of Istanbul or Urgup (Cappadocia), victims are approached by extremely pushy men urging them to come into their shops and buy.
Some victims might not see a problem with this, since they are on vacation. However, once inside the shop, merchants won't let you go until you buy something. They are not shy of standing in front of the door – especially if you are a woman – and pushing you back to purchase an item. “Please, please, buy, buy – discount, discount!”.
Oftentimes they even become physical. You are not in North America, so don't think you can sue for harassment – for any touch you get. We are not kidding; the Internet forums are jam-packed with traveler complaints on this topic.
As well, if you actually consider purchasing some memorabilia anyways, the Turkish merchants will have two prices: one for locals, one for foreigners. However, Turkey is not the only country where you might experience this. The same thing happens in other countries, such as Morocco or Egypt.
Watch the video below to see in action the carpet salesmen scam exposed on Travel and Escape.
How to avoid:
If you decide to go inside the shop, just be ready for a serious one-on-one bargaining. Never pay the asking price. If they are aggressive salesmen like they prove to be, they should be able to handle a little bit of negotiation. If you want to buy something, try to negotiate in Turkish Lira, otherwise they will convert it at a rate 20% higher than the current. As a rule of thumb, in any country you visit you should ALWAYS have local petty cash when deciding to visit the street markets.
Also be aware of the Turkish Carpet Salesmen Scam. There are hundreds of them around Istanbul, inviting you in to show you a “125-year old rug”, which is actually much newer. Indeed, there are legitimate carpet dealers, since Turkey is well known for their beautiful rugs, but without proper word-of-mouth and a real certificate it is almost impossible to detect which one is which. The best thing to do extensive research before arriving so you would know how to recognize a fake.