The New Year’s “shopping spree” culminates at the lottery line
OSMAN CAKLI- Though the crowds were smaller than usual at the Eminonu Spice Bazaar, a shopping hotspot in the days leading up to New Year’s, there was still a sizeable throng. According to local shopkeepers, those who can afford to shop has decreased in comparison to past years. The biggest reason for this has been the fall in the number of tourists. Another reason, however, is the loss of purchasing power.
THE CROWD THAT DOES NOT BUY
We are at the Spice Bazaar, often the chosen location for New Year’s shopping. The stands of roasted and dried nuts are full to the brim, and though the size of the crowd is unsatisfactory for the shopkeepers, there is still a considerable mass of people bustling about. The stands may be full, but most people prefer to pass by. The shopkeepers stand at the front, shouting as though they were in their local farmer’s market: “Come, come, I have double roasted nuts…” No one takes notice. Besides the workers, there are at most one to two customers in the shops.
In one store we stop at, the prices of the nuts and fruits most preferred by those who will spend New Year's Eve at home are as follows: One kilogram of hazelnuts for 300 Turkish Liras (TL), salted peanuts for 170, almonds for 400, roasted almonds for 470, cashews for 455. Almost all the customers stepping foot into the store are tourists. We make our exit and continue towards the street where souvenirs are sold.
THE STORES ARE READY FOR NEW YEAR’S, THE CUSTOMERS ARE NOT
The local shopkeepers are fully prepared. Multicolored lights, New Year’s trees, snow globes, toy reindeer, and flowers decorate the displays. Yet no more than two out of every ten stores are full. The shopkeepers in these stores explain: “This time of year tends to be crowded here, and we make money. It has lost its appeal now. The tourists aren’t here either. These streets would usually be jam-packed with people. You call this a crowd? Well, our people aren’t showing up either, and even if they did, what would they be able to buy?”
Though the colorful appearance of the bazaar is not reflected in the sentiments of the shopkeepers, there are some who feel fulfilled. Expressing his content at his earnings, one shopkeeper simply says, “Thank God.”
THOSE WHO HEAR THE PRICES RUN
Those who want to decorate their homes for the New Year’s with pine trees are confronted with prices ranging from 150 TL to 5,000 TL. The prices vary according to the height of the tree. A tradesman in the bazaar for several years, Ali tells us that there is little interest in ornaments this year due to the prices. He adds, “Our rents have also been increased.”
Lamenting over rising input costs, the shopkeeper named Ali informs us that this situation is necessarily reflected in the price tags. Right at that moment, two customers looking at the pine trees ask, “How much for the trees?” Ali responds: “Sister, just as long as you like it, we can agree on the price for that one-meter tree.” Upon receiving this answer, the customers wait around a little before disappearing once more into the crowds of the bazaar. A similar incident occurs, this time with regard to the New Year’s hats. Those who are unhappy with the prices go quietly on their way. After the scene is repeated multiple times, we head towards another store.
THE MOST ASKED QUESTION: HOW MUCH?
For those who want to buy gifts for their relatives, snow globes are stocked at the front of the shelves. In front of stand that is garnering a lot of attention, we ask the shopkeeper the most frequently repeated question in the bazaar: "How much?" The price of snow globes, ordered in size from small to large, ranges from 50 to 250 TL. When he sees that we are not acting like customers, the interest of the shopkeeper wanes. The souvenir shops are relatively more crowded. But everyone prefers to look at the labels first. Few people have bags. When we ask a woman who wants to buy gifts for her children, “Are you shopping for New Year’s?” she says with a smile, “Yes, but it is rather expensive.” She adds that she does not want to leave empty-handed and so will look around a little more.
Those who have resorted to putting their stocks in a lottery ticket to fix their personal economies, find themselves waiting in the line at the exit of the bazaar, hoping against hope that the ticket they buy might be the winning one.