The Men and Women in the Market: Flexible Versus Stern


No market experience can compare to the one that took place in Marrakech. At night, the market place filled me with a mix of excitement, fear, and curiosity. Within the first few minutes of being there, I saw snake charmers, heard men calling my group of friends “the Spice Girls,” and smelled scents that I hope to never encounter again. I started to psych myself out, wondering if I would be able to get past the anxiety that was keeping me from bartering. After seeing the most beautiful ceramic plates and jewelry I had ever seen, I realized that my fear of the chaos could not overpower my love for turquoise and silver.

While participating in my first bartering experience, I learned what my key was to the “game”: walking away. Men would much rather make a smaller profit than nothing at all, so after being denied of my final offer, I’d start to leave. Almost immediately, they’d agree to my price. With every man that I purchased from, I got my way. I admit- I got a little bit cocky with my newfound talent. I even started offering a third of the asking price, which made me feel like I was ripping off the business owners. But at the same time, when would I ever be able to do this again?

I only encountered one woman while in this market. She approached my group with an album of henna designs and a voice that oozed of confidence. She spoke better English than any man that I bartered with and she knew exactly how to get her way through her words. She refused to do my selected design for less than 150 dirhams, even after physically seeing that I only had 100 Dh left for that night. I thought we had made an agreement on the price when she grabbed my right arm and quickly started painting flowers on my skin with thick, black ink. When she was finished, she demanded 150 Dh and nothing less. I was surprised only due to the fact that I hadn’t gotten my way on this sale. I borrowed 50 Dh from my roommate and handed the woman the money that she had asked for. Instead of being upset, I saw that she was a feisty businesswoman who knew that her work was worth more than my offer. She was a determined, outspoken Muslim woman, and I respected that.


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