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Can I Help You Spend Your Money?

Chloé Hirschhorn

    After climbing the hill to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next.  I took a step inside, and felt bombarded with items, including much of what Elizabeth Vann called “model goods, mimic goods, real goods, and fake goods.” Although her article “The Limits of Authenticity in Vietnamese Consumer Markets” speaks about a different country, the Turkish bazaar seems to have the same categorization of consumer commodities.  I saw Turkish people shopping for ten-dollar “designer” jeans, and right next store they were buying $400 leather jackets.

    Before I had time to process what I was seeing, I heard someone yell, “are you looking for me?” and even though I wasn’t actually looking for anyone, I turned to see who was asking.  It was a shop owner, selling jewelry and lanterns, who then asked, “can I help you spend your money?”  I was slightly amused, but I smiled and firmly declined, saying that I was only looking.  I took a few more steps in, this time hearing, “I have what you are looking for.”  I turned, even though I knew that he didn’t, because really I wasn’t looking for anything. 

    It was when my friend bought a lollypop and began eating it as we walked that I noticed what was happening.  We passed a shop, a big one filled with traditional dresses and puppets and jewelry.  As we passed by, the shop owner took a step towards us and declared, “You’re eating!”  Unbeknownst to us, his tactics had already worked.  We turned to face his voice, forcing us to look at what was inside, simply by talking in our direction. 

    Except for the pleas for the shoppers to face their stores, I was not hassled in the Grand Bazaar.  I could peacefully look at beautiful for lanterns, hookahs, jewelry, puppets, instruments, cds, all types of clothing, masks, and leather goods, without leaving a place where Turkish people themselves shopped.   The shopkeepers’ tactics were not harmful, but simply amusing, unlike ones I had experienced in previous countries.  Unbeknownst to them, these less intimidating tactics had me coming back to buy things the next day.

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