Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Anything and everything a chap can unload/is sold off the 'barrows in...Istanbul?"

We mentioned in a previous post that the fine art of selling goods here in Istanbul is ruled by one dominating factor: any specific type of item that you want CAN be found, but, more importantly WILL invariably be found in a store, or on a street, that sells it to the exclusion of pretty much anything else. While walking and riding around town in the past few weeks, we have found the following:
* Stores selling nothing but tape. Every possible kind of tape.
* Stores selling nothing but costume jewelry (ok, that's not so strange by anyone's standards, but seriously, you should see these places! Floor to ceiling, room after room).
* A street dedicated entirely to the sale of mannequins. Mannequins of all shapes, sizes, colors, poses, and degrees of anatomical correctness. At first we thought that they were to be sold to clothing stores, but now we've decided that they are used to populate the ubiquitous historical dioramas that seem to be such a passion for Turks. On that note, here's a sample of one of those dioramas -- the Circumcision Room in the Museum of Ethnography in Izmir (which we visited while in Ephesus) as furnished with authentic Ottoman furniture and an appropriately apprehensive young male mannequin (see detail) that just MUST have been special-ordered for the room!

Other good finds:
* A scale store. You know -- bath scales, kitchen scales, hanging scales, scales large enough to weigh small cars. Whatever you might need.
* A store full of industrial-size shrink-wrap machines. Probably for shrink-wrapping the gazillions of tea sets sold to tourists every year.
* And, my personal favorite, this one:

Oh, the irony!

Another interesting aspect of shopping in Istanbul is that storefronts are deceptively small and simple. We might walk into what appears to be a tiny jeans boutique and find out that below it are two gigantic floors of super-cheap underwear. In fact, we went into the building across the street from our apartment window because we could see some clothing racks and occasionally someone hanging out the window smoking, and we wanted to find out if they could see into our windows. So now we know that we live next door to a massive (at least four story) bargain-basement-priced lollapalooza of a clothing store. It looks like nothing from the street, but you could literally get lost inside, and come out with a completely new wardrobe for under $100.

So perhaps in some ways Istanbul is a shopper's paradise. And we've decided that the Stamboulis are absolutely going about their marketing in the right way. There's psychology in all of this -- if you walk past enough stores that are all selling toilet seat lids with jungle animals on them, you really start to think "Hey, maybe I could use a tiger in the toilet." Plus, you know that if you pass up the deals on that street, when you DO decide you need whatever it was, you will have to come all the way back there because you sure aren't going to find it anywhere else!

Just some random musings...

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