27 nov – 2 dec 2019
On my previous visit, I was alone, poor, and not particularly interested in shopping. I therefore could just ignore all the attempts to sell me stuff, and focus on seeing the things I wanted to see. This time in Marrakesh, I am not alone, still poor, but with a wife that loves a bit of shopping. That also brings me into much closer contact with the curious art of Moroccan salesmanship. It can be equally infuriating, fascinating, and funny. The basic tenet seems to be to never, ever give up and have a reply to literally any excuse you can think of. Allow me to share some examples…
At Jemaa el Fna’s 100 or so food stands, where there is intense – and I do mean, intense – competition for your Dirhams:
– Guarantee, no diarrhea!
– (stall number) twentyfive, stay alive!
– No panic, it’s organic!
– (while pointing to a homemade printed menu with a TripAdvisor logo): TripAdvisor recommends us!
– If you don’t like it, you don’t pay (good luck trying to invoke that warranty…)
– We all sell the same shit, but…
– our shit is better;
– at least I am polite, I am not touching you (since some of the hawkers do get very, very close to you)
When you say you have no space in your bag:
– No problem, we can ship it to you! What’s your address?
– If you have space in your heart, you have space in your luggage
When you negotiate hard:
– You are Berber (mountain tribe)
– Making a cutthroat sign with a finger and a big smile, as a gesture of admiration
– You are two times Berber! (when you have negotiated the price way down from the starting point… the next day, you will find another shop selling the exact same product, with a starting price even lower than your “two times berber” end point)
When you respond grumpily to a request to eat or buy somewhere:
(points at the ground behind you) You dropped your smile, you need to pick it up!
When saying you can’t possibly eat somewhere because you already ate and your belly is full:
But you look skinny!
When walking towards the main square:(pointing in the other direction) the square is that way! (Moroccan hustlers can sometimes put just a little dent in your faith in humanity)
When applying Henna to a hand that was grabbed without invitation:
This is free! (and then continue applying it while talking about all the blessings the henna will convey, and end up demanding a lot of money – we faked having only a few dirham, or about 60 eurocents, and even that was too much since it ended up itching like hell and had to be washed off before fully drying)
When saying a price is too high:
It’s a good price, Moroccan price, I need to go home and feed my family too
…When then walking away:
reduce the price rapidly by up to 60%
In the end, thanking profusely for the incredibly generous offers they made us, and a combination of smiles and little white lies, got us out of most of the attempts to make our wallets a bit lighter, but they still got us a few times. As my aunt used to say when I hurt myself when playing too wild, you’re paying a tuition fee…