Touts in Training: How to Annoy Everyone in Marrakesh

El Foum Morocco

The Tourist Hustling University of Marrakesh Proper (THUMP): You, Too Can Join The Legion of Touts

Satire by Carl Henn

PROSPECTUS: The Tourist Hustling University of Marrakesh Proper (THUMP) was founded thousands of years ago by the merchants of Djema el Fnaa to ensure that a steady supply of tourists visit their shops and buy things, whether they want to or not.

No experience is required. We will train you in all aspects of tourist hustling, beginning with the basics. For those who display particular promise, you can go all the way to advance tourist hustling. At THUMP, you will learn to leave tourists wondering what hit them!

morocco desert
By Jeep or by camel, Western Sahara in Morocco is a daunting place to travel.

Are you an unemployed, ambitious, young man, from a poor family? Do they pressure you to go out and make money, and to help put food on the table? Are you frustrated because there are no good-paying, decent jobs to be found? Are you tired of hanging around the neighborhood with all the other guys?

There is no other way to make such an easy living as tourist hustling. This may be the job for you!

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. Joaomaximo photo/Flikr. Plenty of touts nearby.
Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. You’ll find no shortage of touts here. Joaomaximo photo/Flikr

Some of the Courses Offered to Touts in Training

  1. How to Identify Tourists: It is easy to identify tourists! Learn their habits. What hotels do they prefer? What time of day do they go to Djema el Fnaa? Do they travel in buses, taxis, or come on foot? How do they dress? Are they wearing cameras and sunglasses? How do they usually act?
  2. How to Approach Tourists: Get over your natural shyness toward strangers. Learn to walk right up to people and start talking. How to start by welcoming them to Marrakesh. Ask where they are from. Make sure to mention Djema el Fnaa right away. Learn what questions should you ask them.
  3. Learn How Not to Take No for an Answer: What to do if they say no thanks – and they ALL say no thanks. Why you should not accept no for an answer. Learn the psychology of tourism – they have money to spend; they are here to spend it! Learn the proper attitude: why shouldn’t I get some?
  4. How to Figure Out How Much Money They Have: Learn to calculate how much they are worth, by the hotel they stay in, the clothes they wear, the kind of jewelry and watch they have, and any other designer goods you can see. Learn their spending patterns: will they buy high ticket items like rugs?
  5. Learn to Speak Their Language: Learn to speak a variety of languages that most tourists speak, and how to be persistent and annoying in all of them. Develop the ability to figure out what language tourists speak in just a few moments, sometimes even before they even open their mouths.
  6. Find Out What They Want To Buy -Watch Their Eyes!: Learn their secret shopping desires. Watch their eyes: what do they like to look at? How long do they spend in front of various shops? Do they pretend to look away if they think you are watching? These are the tricky ones – be very careful!
  7. Every Merchant is Your Cousin or Your Uncle: More tourist psychology: First, you must understand: Tourists do not like to think that you just want to make money off them. Learn to act. Pretend that every merchant is either your uncle or your cousin. Explain that the merchant is a very good man.
  8. Helping Them Negotiate a Good Price: Pricing strategies: Tourist psychology dictates that they must pretend not to have much money, despite their expensive clothes, watches, and jewelry. Learn to play the game. Assure them in a very sincere voice that you will get them a very good, best price.
  9. Ensuring a Good Commission on Sales: It is best to start with a really high offer. Allow the shock to sink in. Wait for them to mutter amongst themselves about how expensive it is. Allow them time to come up with a strategy to barter the price down: the “walk-away” or the “not-really-interested. ”
  10. Collecting Your Fee at the End of the Day: Only amateurs try to collect their commission right away. Be a professional: Come back later in the day to collect your commission, after all the tourists have left for the day. Learn what times of day are prime shopping times, and then plan your schedule.

What Do I have to Do to Be a Successful Tout?

Many young men mistakenly think that it takes years of study and on-site training to become a tourist hustler in Marrakesh. Not so. No experience is needed, and there are new job openings every day. With just a few short courses, you too can hustle the tourists!

  1. Are You an Unemployed but Ambitious Young Man?: Good-paying jobs are scarce in Marrakesh? If you are unemployed through no fault of your own, but you are ambitious, THUMP is for YOU!
  2. Are You Persistent No Matter What Anyone Says?: Poverty is for quitters. If you have the ability to persist in the face of resistance, then you should be able to earn good money starting very soon!
  3. Can You Smell Money?: Do you smell that? It’s money! And they have so much, it’s practically falling out of their pockets. They are here to spend money. If you can sniff it out, you can easily get some.
  4. Do You Know a Sucker When You See One?: Have you ever heard that there is a sucker born every minute? And guess what: they all visit Djema el Fnaa sooner or later, just waiting to be fleeced!
  5. Do You Like to Show Off in Front of Your Friends: Why be a loser, standing on the street corner, broke and bored? You can earn cash, buy cigarettes, and impress your friends as a tourist hustler.

How Much Can I Make as a Tout in Marrakesh?

    1. Tell Them There is No Set Fee: Tourists are always suspicious at first. They will ask you how much it costs to have a guide. Assure them that they can pay you whatever they want. There is no set fee.
    2. Jack the Opening Price WAY Up:  Remember to jack the opening price on everything WAY up.
    3. Ply Them With Mint Tea: Tourists love to have the authentic Moroccan experience! Be sure to ply them with mint tea, served the traditional way, piping hot, in small glasses. Show how to pour it.
    4. Bargain Down to a Deal: As above, start high. Let them bargain down. It makes them feel good.
    5. Never Let The Walk Away Empty-Handed: The stubborn ones will try to walk away. You need to learn a variety of strategies. Apologize and invite them back. Guide them gently by the arm. Say that your uncle has not sold anything yet today; he is willing to give them a special price – a best price!
    6. Returning Later to Collect Your Commission: Refer to the lesson above; Collect commissions later!
    7. Remembering Who Paid What: First rule: You must learn to remember how much tourists paid. Second rule: you must learn the real local price for everything. Rule three: Negotiate commission.
    8. General Tips on Conniving with Merchants: Everyone has to earn a living. Merchants are stuck in their shops, waiting. Your job is to bring them tourists and to convince the tourists to buy stuff.
    9. Earning Lots of Cold, Hard Cash -in Multiple Currencies: The first rule of investing is to diversify. Don’t earn all your income in just one currency. The value of each currency fluctuates daily.
    10. Investing in Bitcoin – Yes or No?: This is only for advanced tourist hustlers with a laptop or iPad, and a good, reliable Internet connection. Is Bitcoin the wave of the future? How much risk is involved?

Funded by the Marrakesh Association of Rug Dealers, Lamp Sellers,   and Vendors of Other Exotic Items

Carl Henn

*THUMP is not a real place. It does not exist. This is a fiction invented by author Carl Henn, who lived in Marrakesh for two years, while in the Peace Corps, 

Carl is originally from Indiana but escaped to Africa in 1981. He currently resides in the DC area. He had a 40-year career in global health, living and working in or on Africa, before moving home and breaking his wrist in a bike accident, then turning to travel writing during the pandemic to pass the time. He got his start in Morocco with Peace Corps and worked in over half of the 54 nations in Africa.

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3 thoughts on “Touts in Training: How to Annoy Everyone in Marrakesh

  1. This is the author of the parody, speaking to you.

    Like the editor, I wish to re-iterate that this piece was meant to amuse, not to offend. I wrote it in response to the articles that travel publications print every year from tourists and travel writers complaining about the tourist hustlers in Marrakesh. Not one of their articles EVER considers WHY young men choose to try their hand at hustling tourists: It’s because of poverty.

    One reader wrote in to denounce the article, GoNomad for publishing it, and me for writing it. I can understand why she was angry. Maybe other readers will be angry too. Tourism offers us a chance to see great things, but also to be selfish and petty.

    I lived in Marrakesh for two years. After a while, I got to know a lot of the guys who hustled tourists. They knew I lived there. They knew I spoke Arabic. They left me alone. I pretty much knew what parts of town they came from. I knew they could not find any other jobs. Marrakesh really has only one major industry: tourism. You either make a living off of it, or you don’t make a living.

    If anyone else is mad about the article, and wants to call me a jerk, that’s OK. But I lived there, and I know the score. Don’t blame the editor, please. He saw the humor and the satire in the piece. He had the courage to run it, knowing it was risky.

  2. I am shocked GoNomad would publish this article. It shows contempt for people of the Third World with limited economic opportunities who are desperately trying to support their families. What is appalling is that the author was in the Peace Corps and had a long career history of work in Africa. He should know better.

    Anyone who has traveled in Asia and Africa has experienced persistent hawkers selling souvenirs and services, including children selling postcards. We have all learned how to navigate this in our travels. One of my most distinct memories of travel in Nepal was the planeloads of men off to indentured servitude in the Middle East leaving with nothing but a small carry-on bag. The multiple family members bidding them farewell was heartbreaking. but the wages earned would be needed to feed the family.

    I have worked as a nurse with colleagues from Southeast Asia who have left their families behind and who regularly send part of their salaries home to support multiple generations of family. Travel should be about broadening our understanding of the world. A flip article such as this one that pokes fun at impoverished people does not accomplish this. We need to show sensitivity and respect for the citizens of the countries we visit and not act like “Ugly Americans.” The editorial staff at GoNomad needs to be more discriminating in the articles it publishes. This article meant to be humorous was offensive.

    1. Linda thank you for commenting. I have been too annoyed too many times to feel anything but contempt for these persistent hawkers. Many people’s visits to Marrakesh have been ruined by touts. Of course, this is a humorous article, and your points are well taken about income inequality, but we stand by the intent here, which is a humor and not malice.

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