The Propriety cushion! If you go into the Bazaar after a tourist or a beautiful elegant woman, it is normal to feel !ike you want to get out of there before you even finish walking through the first street. However, before, one of the most important rules of tradesmen was to have respect for their customers in any condition regardless of who they are. The ways they sit or looked at the customers were according to the rules. They never even thought of attempting to make a pass at any customers. In the Ottoman society, in the early stages, every tradesmen, Muslim or non-Muslim, used to sit on a cushion called the propriety cushion and wouldn’t say’ a word unless the customer wants. Whoever chose to.sit on a stool instead of the cushions used to be sentenced to three days of suspension from the Bazaar. The person who got suspended used to feel aslıamed toward his fıiends and would not come to the Bazaar for fıfteen days instead of three so that what he did could be forgotten. You would not here any words such as “Come on in … How can I help you? … ” When the West achieved a stronger martial and economic power, they increased the pressure on the Ottoman Empire. The first people they contacted were the non-Muslim tradesmen whose languages and religions were similar to them. They were the first ones who stopped sitting on the propriety cushion and starteel inviting the customer into their shops. There is some information about the tradesmen of the Bazaar in the journals of foreign itinerants. In their journals, in addition to the dothes that represent each tradesman’s culture, they talk about the attitudes of the tradesmen as well. They say that even though it is normal to bargain with Armenian and Jewish tradesmen who might sometimes give you fifty percent off, it is wrong and not appropriate to bargain with Muslim tradesmen. ‘ın their journals, they wrote that the price that Muslim tradesmen give is firm and attempting to bargain on the price with them is the same as blaming them for stealing. These itinerants tells how in the ends of 19th centuıy non-Muslim tradesmen would block the customers and invite them to their shop while the Muslim tradesmen would sit on their cushion in a dignified and proud attitude and smoke their hookah. The tradesmen were able to display all of their merchandise in the shops shaped !ike cabinets. The attitude, which die! not draw the customers away, of the Muslim tradesmen, was interpreted as the sign of their lack of greed and expertise on their jobs.
There are such realities that the ones who live them or make them live can not approve of. To run away from these realities is the easy thing to do and may result in the repetition of the same mistakes. While I publish these aıticles from the archives of Taha Toros as the way they are, I see them as self-criticism. “TI1e Grand Bazaar has been a place where many dreadful stories and funny incidents happenecl and where many conmen tricked others. When a customer
comes, the conman right away woulcl get reacly to do ablution for the prayer. He would do his ablution with an insincere prayer on his lips just to show off, make the customers wait intentionally until they get boı·ecl, then would open his notebook with the name of Gocl, aclcl another 20% to the pıice which he alreacly raisecl lOOo/o before anel sel! it, or he woulcl tıy to cleceive an orphan’s mother, who had her chilcl on her anns, caıı-iecl a bag full of valuable shawls, fabrics anel had same jewelıy in her pocket, by saying: “Come on in ma’am, welcome, may Gocl rest his soul, I knew him veıy well”. By tall-dng this way he woulcl arause a pity for the clead anel make the woman feel sad and continue: “Do not worıy! You are no clifferent to me than my own daughter. God knows whenever I see you I feel an eA.’treme sadness in my heaıt. May Gocl forgive your sins. You look wonclerful; of course we will fincl someone suitable anel goocl for you. Take this as your pocket money now. Let’s not rush so we can sel! these for good prices” and he would take the bag full of expensive shawls and fabrics from her and Jet her go. A few days later he woulcl trick the women cliabolically by bı..ıying five hunclrecl liras woıth of shawls and fabrics for only fifty liras and say: “These are only woıth thiıty five- foıty liras at most. However, I have the fear of Gocl in my heaıt anel besides we were really close friencls with your Iate husbancl” and woulcl not give the goods back. He would keep deceiving the woman until she has nothing left to sel!. When the woman woulcl become broke, he would pretencl to have compassian for her and give her five or ten liras and after that if he saw her somewhere, he woulcl act lil<e he die:! not lmow the woman.” “Some others would take the bag to eaclı store to seli the goods on the behalf of the poor woman. When they would sell one shawl for a hunclrecl anel fifty liras anel return to the woman and say “They only pay thiıty liras for this one but I have many memories with your hı..ısbancl anel you need money. Gocl may help us. I do not think it can be sold for foıty” anel give the woman foıty liras out of his “generosity” anel woulel not forget to get his commission out of that money as well. While this Mr. Teacher(traelesmen) puts his hunclrecl anel ten liı·as that he earned “legitimately” in his pocket, the poor woman would say: “God may be pleased with him. If he clid not help me, no one woulcl pay thiıty for it” and go back to her house” The cabinet mentioneel in the Turkish ieliom, “spinning the cabinet” which means being up to something bad, comes from the cabinets that the traclesnıen had. Since the shops were shapecl !ike cabinets before, this negative idiom came to life because of the fa ct that some tradesmen ma ele their cabinets survive iı1 the Bazaar with trickeıy. Let’s continue: “Some would enjoy their day with buffooneıy in the Bazaar. With the mixture of these moral problems, some wealthy tradesmen of the Beelestan became broke in five-ten years.” “Bad taste anel ignorance were at the highest rank in Beclestan. They usecl to make hookahs from broken pitchers, turn hookah mouthpiece to a cigaı·ette holcler, attach a pencil sharpener hanelle on a spoon and attach the long paıt of the spoon on the sharpener anel sel! them to ıııiscognizant non-ıııuslims anel antique clealers. The way they seli their merchanelise was contraıy to Turkish taste anel moral qualities. There had been ones who asked for a hunclrecl liras for the goocl and sold it for five. There were also many tradesmen who woulcl nın cıying to the customer who made a purchase from them and take the items back when they realized that they sold it for too cheap and give the exeuse that the first owner of the item was unhappy with the price. It seems !ike the cabinet owners also tricked poet Sünbül-zade Vehbi Hoca since he complains as the following: “There is not one fair person in the Bazaar For yiğitbaşıs are the most despicable”