Helpful local scam

Marrakech-helpful-local-scamEverywhere in Marrakesh, but especially at the Djemaa El-Fna square, tourists are approached by friendly looking locals who tell them about a special store that one of their relatives or good friends run somewhere in the adjacent Medina. They sweet-talk the tourists in following them through the maze of the Medina to the store, because there is supposed to be a once-in-a-month special sale, or there are special products can only be bought in this store. Truth is, this helpfulness is not for free: the shop where the tourists are introduced, pays the friendly and helpful seeming would-be guide a commission of 50% on the total sum spent. It is not uncommon in certain regions of the world to pay a commission for a referral, but 50% is extraordinary and means the tourists are overcharged by a large margin, just to pay for their new-found “friend”.

Even worse, if the tourists don’t find anything of their liking, or decide not to buy anything because of the exorbitant prices or for whichever reason, the guide who seemed so helpful and friendly beforehand will miss out on his anticipated commission and can sometimes demand a tip from the tourist. If the tourist declines, they can suddenly become very aggressive, and other locals can join them to surround the tourists to create a threatening atmosphere until a satisfactory tip has been paid. This is a very intimidating strategy, in which a well-meaning tourist can feel threatened and endangered.

Also read: Obtrusive and harrassing locals trying to get us into a restaurant

You will find the prices in the souks (shops) around the Djemaa El-Fna square are approximately three times as high as in other souks in Marrakech, which are less frequented by tourists, and targeted at the local population only.

This commission-and-referral system is not only in effect for shops, but perhaps even more so for restaurants. Don’t mistake this with the system that’s used in many other Mediterranean countries, where a staff member of the restaurant is waiting outside to non-offensively promote his business to tourists walking by. The fake guides in Marrakesh are self-employed and don’t work for a specific restaurant. They just try to lure the unsuspecting tourists into the venue that pays the highest commission, and because of the enormous sums that are at stake (let’s say a group of four spends 1000 Dirham, which is about 90 Euro’s, on a meal, the guides rake in half of that, so 500 Dirhams, or 45 Euro’s just for bringing them in), the competition between these guides is extremely fierce and can lead to aggression towards each other and toward the tourists.

Also read our Marrakesh aggressive taxi guide scam, which is also a result of the extreme commission-and-referral system.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Marrakesh and Morocco Tourist Scams Forum.

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