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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Haggle, hassle and hustle...


There are three things that your either hate or simply tolerate in Morocco; the haggling, the hassling and the hustling.

Everyone likes a bargain but no one wants to feel ripped off. When you express interest in buying something a Moroccan trader might start his pitch at say 400% of what he's eventually likely to accept. OK it can be fun beating him down but at the same time you are always left with that nagging doubt that you have paid well over the odds no matter what the final agreement. Haggling is part of life in Morocco but it can actually put you off buying things in the first place. I longed for shops with prices on display so at least I could make a purchase fully aware that I paying through the nose rather than being uncertain.

In a recent poll 90% of first time visitors said that they would not come back to Morocco due to the hassle they got on the street. You take turn into a street and, "English? English! Come this way. This way here. HERE. My brother's shop. Beautiful leather. This way, sir. Hey, 'fish and chips', come this way" etc. You manage to shake him but a few steps further on it starts again "English? English! Come this way." Grrr. Sometimes young guys would just start walking next to you talking at you and then demand money saying they had been your guide. And demand they did, quite forcefully. The famous 'tourism police' were nowhere to be seen. It actually made going out on the street, especially in Marrakech, at best a trial and at worst a pain in the bum. A hassle we didn't really need.

And finally, Moroccans hustle. It's what they do. Hustling as tour guides, as cultural advisors, as taxi drivers, for friendship, for sex, to supply drugs - you name it. Moroccans are up for hire. And nearly all tourists are seen as fair game to hustle to. On the street, in a shop, at the airport, in hamams, at the port, in a bar - we were approached. And despite being fully aware of the abject poverty here we turned them down. It just didn't seen right. And whatsmore we were a little afraid.

5 comments:

  1. That's interesting... last week in Marrakech, K and I were almost entirely left alone, wherever we went. Well, there was the occasional approach, but nothing that couldn't be quickly and painlessly batted away. (Exception: the boy of maybe 8 or 9 in the Tanneries district who shouted "f**k your mother" at our backs as we walked away.)

    Totally agree re. the haggling - it's a major disincentive to purchase.

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  2. As to paying over the odds: I entirely sympathise with that taken-advantage-of feeling, but sternly remind myself that, as someone who regularly pays upwards of £2.80 for a sandwich, I really am in no position to sulk in the souk, forsooth.

    (Love the multi-lingual negotiation btw: Triumph of the Bill.)

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  3. I felt the same way in Egypt and Goa. The number of discussions I have had with business people the world over, saying "We're here because you're not hassling us" and they say that all their customers say that, but the other businesses carry on doing it. I suppose while the majority of tourists fall for it, it will continue. The silliest was in Goa when the taxi driver tried to take us shopping when we asked to go to the beach. He refused to accept that as a woman I was not interested in shopping. Sure, he wanted his 10%, but we were paying him to take us to the beach.

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  4. Simon6:29 pm

    I visited Morocco several times between 1980 and 1983 (taking friends on trips from Gibraltar) and hated the hagg/hass/hustling. I have never wanted to go back. However, I thought that perhaps the Moroccans would have learnt how better to allure tourists in the past 25 years: but apparently NOT!

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  5. Anonymous9:28 pm

    Well being a Moroccan who lives in Europe myself I kind of understand what you guys are saying. It can be huge pain when you can't just walk the street normally. At the same time Moroccans are quite entertaining. I guess it's just acting like you're like them and not paying attention..I know it's hard but really. Just do what you want to do and act properly. They take advantage of people who are insecure.

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