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Ten Tips: How to buy an oriental rug

Are you in the market for an Oriental rug? If so, you could be bringing home an heirloom you'll cherish for years to come - or, if you're not careful, you could be saddled with an overpriced rug that isn't all it was cracked up to be. Consider these tips.

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002


1. UNDERSTAND THE LABELS. The Federal Trade Commission requires Oriental rug dealers to label each rug with its country of origin and the distributor's business name. Labels bearing the words Indo-, Sino- or Pak-, for instance, would indicate that a rug came from India, China or Pakistan. Rugs can be called 'tribal" if they were woven by nomadic groups.

2. KNOW WHAT INFLUENCES THE PRICE. A rug's pattern and color will greatly affect its cost. Whether it was handmade or machine-made should have less of an influence.

3. WATCH OUT FOR INFLATED ORIGINAL PRICES. It's not uncommon for retailers to "slash" prices on Oriental rugs from, say, $1,300 down to $500. You may think you're getting a great deal, when in fact the starting price for the rug should have been in the $500 range.

4. BE PREPARED TO HAGGLE. Even if you're shopping in a major department store, you can feel justified asking the salesperson to "do a little better." You'll probably pay too much if you don't do any negotiating. Be extremely wary in a store that displays rugs without price tags.

5. MAKE VALID COST COMPARISONS. As you shop around, compare each rug's price per square foot.

6. DON'T EXPECT MOST RUGS TO APPRECIATE IN VALUE. If the rug you're considering was made after 1950, its value likely won't increase over time. That means it's important for you to choose a rug you really want.

7. KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU. Whether you shop for rugs at department stores, specialty shops, home centers, discounters, mail-order companies or auctions, find out whether you can return the rug without any penalties or take it home for a test drive.

8. IF YOU'RE A BARGAIN HOUND who wants the look of an Oriental rug without spending a fortune, opt for a quality machine-made wool rug, an olefin rug, a dhurrie or a kilim.

9. FOR MORE EXPENSIVE ANTIQUE OR SILK RUGS, see a qualified independent appraiser. Contact the American Society of Appraisers (www.appraisers.org) or the International Society of Appraisers (www.isa-appraisers.org). Expect to pay the appraiser at least $100 an hour.

10. DON'T UNWITTINGLY SUPPORT CHILD LABOR. Children are illegally employed making Oriental rugs in several countries around the world. To avoid contributing to the problem, choose a machine-made rug or look for the following labels on handmade rugs: Rugmark, Kaleen and Wools of New Zealand.

-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey. Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); "Oriental Rugs: A Buyer's Guide" by Lee Allane.

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