Remember that contemporary Chinese rugs are produced in different grades, and, although two rugs may look almost identical from the front, there can be considerable gulf in quality and price between the two. Therefore always ask the outlet to tell you the grade (i.e. whether it is a 90-line closed-back or 90-line open-back, for example), as well as the type or range. Outright deception is rare, but less scrupulous dealers have been known "imply", or fail to correct a buyer's assumption, that the rug belongs to the higher grade, or price bracket, than it actually does.
Also some shop assistants, particularly in department stores, make incorrect attributions due to their ignorance of the subject. However, every country has its own trading standards laws, and these also apply to the sale of rugs.
Specialist shops have the advantage of allowing you time to consider a number of rugs, both in the shop and often on the trail basis in your home. They are also tend to have a wide selection of items in different sizes, designs and styles; and you can usually contact them should you experience any problems or require further advice. In addition, staff often have a reasonable understanding of the subject, which can be helpful if you are not sure exactly what you want. The main disadvantage of specialist shops is that they carry extensive stocks and are often located in prestigious locations, which means that relatively high overheads must be passed on to the customer.
Department store offer many of the advantages of a specialist shop, frequently with the addition of credit facilities. However, with a few exceptions, they rarely carry on extensive range of items, and are usually unwilling to negotiate a price. The average store will probably have a fair selection of popular rugs, but unusual or top quality items tend only to be found in the more prestigious establishments. Some stores operate a franchise system, where the rug department is run by an independent dealer, and in this instance their pros and cons are the same as specialist shops.
Auctions are probably the most exciting and unpredictable method of buying a rug. Excellent bargains can be obtained, but unless you have some knowledge of the subject, you can just as easily pay too much. It is therefore essential to do your homework. Always check prices in the shops for similar items, and make an effort to familiarize yourself with the procedure and atmosphere of an auction. The main advantage of auctions, apart from the opportunity of obtaining bargains, is that they are often the only means of buying locally. The main disadvantage are that you have to make an instant decision and full payment must be made at the end of the auction.
Private sales are not usually covered by the laws that govern commercial sales, and the buyer generally has less legal protection (it varies from country to country). Private sales can still be worth considering, because bargains can be obtained. If the seller is private dealer, standard trading regulations will normally apply, and you may well be asked to pay tax on the price.
Catalogue and mail order service are useful for people who are unable to visit retail outlet in person, but you cannot judge the quality from the photograph, and this method of buying is not recommended unless there is a money-back guarantee.
Markets and antique shops can provide bargains, but finding a suitable rug is largely a matter of chance. Most non-specialist traders know little about the subject, so overcharging is just likely as undercharging.
Choosing the best time to buy
Sometimes, the inconvenience of waiting for the best time to buy is more trouble than any financial saving might be worth. However, where possible, try to buy when supply is outstripping demand. A good indication of this is the number of sales, auctions and special offers in your area. The market can be further tested by visiting a number of retail outlets over a few weeks and noting the fluctuation in prices across a range of standard items.