There’s an expression in French: “C’est un vrai marchand de tapis” which literally means “he’s a real carpet salesman” but which actually means someone who haggles over small sums.
I’ve managed to find nearly everything I need to make our gîte in Blois as perfect as possible, but I am still missing two small bedside rugs. I can’t find anything I liked, new or old, at a decent price although I have found two large rugs without much problem. With the arrival of winter, especially for barefoot Australian guests, I am starting actively to look again.
It’s Sunday and we’re at the market. I’m waiting for the fish to be gutted so I stroll over to a little stall selling carpets and rugs. This is not a particularly cheap market, I might add. I ask the lady how much a small one would cost as there are obviously no prices. “Oh, I’ll ask my husband. He’ll be here in a minute”. A friendly man arrives and says, “One hundred euro. Pure silk”.
“Oh, that’s too expensive I’m afraid,” I answer. “It’s for my gîte and I can’t afford to spend too much. I’m not saying it isn’t worth that much, just that it’s above my budget.” I don’t really care whether I buy them or not and am certainly not paying a hundred euro each. “Well”, he says, “tell me how much you’d be prepared to spend.”
“More like two for a hundred,” I say. “Ok, you can have two for a hundred”, he says, just like that. I’m flabbergasted, but I don’t show it. “I just need to check with my husband”, I answer. He goes off to his truck to find the second rug while I go back to the fish stall and tell Relationnel that I’ve found the rugs I’m looking for. “Go ahead,” he says. “You know what we need.” “Yes, but I still want you to have a look.”
I’m wondering if maybe these rugs are fake or something. I go back and chat with the lady. The man returns without the second rug but says that he has two others that are the same, just a different colour. I hum and ha, though I really think the second colour is probably better anyway.
Relationnel arrives and turns the rug over and looks at the label. He approves so I hand over the cash and the man rolls them both up. As we walk away, I explain to Relationnel what happened. He is astonished, “Bravo!” he says. I never bargain for anything usually – I’m totally hopeless, he’s much better at it. “He’s not a marchand de tapis for nothing”, he says. I walk along feeling very pleased with myself!
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