Street hawkers, also known as street sellers, street vendors – and the marketing spawn of Satan ever to walk the earth – are rampant in Morocco.
Like an out-of-touch politician,street traders kept coming back to the same rehearsed routines/offers for example:
THE EARLY-BIRD DISCOUNT
Marrakech Old City Alley. You’re on vacation in Morocco and you want to relax but it’s your first day and you’re feeling energetic, so you wake up with the first throes of daylight and the dawn call to prayer. You stare at the ceiling and think, “Yes, today I will be cultural!” You go outside and the narrow streets of the souqs (street markets) are empty so you wander aimlessly, content with the realisation that even if you do get hopelessly lost, you’ve got all day to un-lose yourself.
An old man with a limp approaches you, so you smile back and think to yourself, “Yes, here I am doing an adventure!” He asks a question and steers you into talking about spices, and invites you to come see his spice shop. You’re too far in to refuse now, you have a rapport, so you follow him. He shows you lots of jars full of spices and various other things that look like they’ve been scooped up off the ground in a park, and asks if you want to buy any. You hadn’t actually planned on buying anything today for the arthritis you’ll get in 25 years’ time but before you can say anything he says, “you’re first person today! Special discount for you!”
THE ‘SYMPATHY FOR YOU’ DISCOUNT
Before you all go gallivanting off to North Africa to seek out the Sympathy for You discount, not everyone will be offered this. The Sympathy for You discount is reserved for those travellers who look poor, most likely good-looking young backpackers on gap years or students on summer vacations, invariably seen wearing rucksacks, shorts, and a bracelet they got from a buddhist retreat in the mountains of Tibet at the start of their trip of self-discovery. Street hawkers will say, “You do not have much money, we understand, yes, so we give you special price.”
THE NEPOTISM DISCOUNT
The Nepotism Discount can only occur after another discount has been offered, and refused. Upon your refusal, the street hawker will grin and say, “okay, okay, we friends anyway, you good person, you can visit my uncle [brother/cousin/grandfather]. Follow!” So you follow him out of politeness, already regretting speaking to the first hawker, and you might end up visiting several different people, selling everything from carpets and scarfs to herbal medicines, teapots, and jewellery that looks silver but is obviously totally not silver. “Real silver!” they’ll cry. “Authentic real silver! I will get my uncle to give you special discount.”
THE ‘SYMPATHY FOR ME’ DISCOUNT
Also known as the Guilt Discount, this is offered to those travellers who have rebuffed all previous offers. The street hawker will then become philosophical and say, “You’re good person. You have good heart. We are friends, yes? You don’t buy anything, that’s okay. We still friends.” Then you think that maybe this guy is all right after all, so you soften and you’re extra polite and pretend that that hideous carpet he’s holding looks nice, and you sip the sugary tea with mint leaves in that you’ve been brought from some random person’s house. The hawker says, “It’s fine, take time, look at what we have, and if you don’t buy, that okay. I know you have good heart anyway. We happy for you to look, but we hope you like something. Grandma very hungry.”
Now you feel guilty and you think, “If I don’t buy anything that poor old widow with the missing teeth rocking from side to side in the corner over there is going to have to gnaw on a shoe for nourishment. Shit.” If you now buy the authentic camel hair carpet for €200 (they accept all major credit cards, PayPal and bitcoin, and offer free shipping to 120 countries), you’ve fallen prey to the Sympathy for Me or Guilt Discount.
THE ‘YOU WIN’ DISCOUNT
After your first offer, the hawker laughs and says, “You silly! This is authentic Argan oil,” then quotes you an absurd price. He then offers you the Early Bird Discount followed by every discount previously mentioned.
You repeat your initial offer, so the hawker says he admires you for sticking to your price but tells you he’s trying to make money for his family etc…bla bla..
You repeat your initial offer, and the hawker says, “Okay! Okay! You are tough, friend. Very tough, but you know fair.” You smile and nod and do a mental fist pump, and again repeat your initial offer, and add, “Yes?” The hawker smiles back, the wide grin of someone you know you shouldn’t trust, “Okay, you win, here’s my final offer, as low as I can go…” and offers you a price still aggravatingly higher than the price you know is fair.
Now if you still refuse and start to walk away, one of two things will happen:
1) The hawker runs up to you and says, “OKAY! DEAL!” and you finally exchange money for goods, and you can carry a bottle of massage oil you’ll never use around for the rest of your trip and lose in a cupboard at home. Or…
2) The hawker runs up to you and says, “Tip, my friend? I help you. You help me.”
You want to scream, but you pretend you don’t hear him and walk away. You’ve had quite enough adventuring for one day. You pull out your phone. It’s only 11 a.m. You sigh loudly.
A hawker hears you and comes over. “You seem tired, my friend. I have something that will help. Follow me. Special price, just for you.”