This is another piece of info for those of you who are new to India in general. The native Indians per se would not require such a deliberation as their instinct is already seasoned than a novice visitor to India.
Without much of preface let us get to the subject. We are talking about the so called touts one has to deal with when visiting the popular attractions in India. So who is a tout anyway?
Well, we are talking about someone who is irritatingly aggressive, not courteous , do not take a polite no as an answer, and of course with an ulterior profit motive. In short someone who is trying to exploit ignorance or situation of a novice visitor.
Having said that we are not talking about everyone who is trying to sell anything to a visitor. Shrewd and aggressive they may be, but as long as fair and courteous you would not have any complaint either.
A tout usually don't take a no as an answer. The real problem lies there. They are infinitely optimistic and pester a prospective customer to the limit. You know the getting under the skin effect.
You come out of a railway station in a popular tourist town. Someone - in fact a bunch of them - offers a taxi service or hotel booking. A mob chase you, they lure you by elbowing each other. Some how you lug that huge backpack and nudges your way out. So far so good. Nothing abnormal . This is India at her chaotic best. By now you've almost wriggled out of the crowd , the great majority of the mob now retreats and run after another batch of passengers coming out of the railway station. You no more feels like a pop star which was a case a minute earlier. However a few lingers on around you. So far the plot has followed verbatim the classic Indian railway station scenario.
Now starts the part two of action. You've already done your research and finalized the hotel you are going to stay. Or at least you are sure of the area to which you want to go. You enquires the taxi driver. In all probability he would quote a rate up-front, reasonable or unreasonable. You either agree for it , or negotiates , if you are confident enough of a better rate. That who it ought to be.
Sometimes the story takes a slight twist. The man informs you that the hotel you are enquiring about was burned down or got closed recently or something as convincing like that. This is your first serious signal that a tout is around. Your doubt will be rather confirmed soon when he tells you that there is a better hotel he can take you. And what happens if you agree to it ? You get bad rate and he gets the commission.
The scope is generally expanded by including an offer to a 'nearby' souvenir shop that gives 'special' rates.
Though detecting a tout is rather easy , there is no 'standard operating procedure' to deal with them. Avoid a suspected deal if possible, at least stop the dealings the moment you realize that you are taken for a ride.
Having said that , a little understanding of the background goes a long way in 'dealing' with a tout. First of all you need to change yourself into the India mode.
What does it means ? A few things, especially related to etiquettes and reactions. In the west people are programmed to react or respond. Not so in India. Not giving a response is also a response in India. If one thing a tout can not stand in the world is a no response situation. They are smart enough to not waste their time on a
If you think a polite ( or firm ) no is a decline , you are way off the mark. For a tout 'no' is read as 'may be' and a no response is 'no'!
If you got this concept right, you can evade an unsolicited pestering tout, if not bargain well with them.
Look at this. A batch of greedy tourists were lured by an unusually high rate in currency conversion. Yes they got it, but it was some colorful and neatly printed lottery tickets than the Indian currency notes! The moral of the story is simple. Be prudent; do not go after any unrealistic offers; rub throughly to find out where the catch is.
So far we've talked about touts as if they are an unwelcome elements , that has to be kept at an arms distance. Are they really bad with a con intention always?
Not exactly. At least not all the touts are bad.
The trick is in using them to your advantage. A tout melts like bee wax , the moment he realize that you are in control and willing for his service. After all he is interested in business rather than deriving some pleasure out of pestering people. How that chemistry is established is in your hand, at least partially.
A tout knows the area like the back of his palm. Just imagine you are interested in the few monuments off the well trodden tourist trail. And the tout can take you to the nook and cranny of an alien place with amazing efficiency. Left alone, probably you would not have visited that 'hidden gem' that is not mentioned in any guide books.
Suddenly you realize that the tout is the best local resource available for you and indeed friendly. And once you commission a tout , you are practically a 'sold' item for the rest of the touts. Meaning , you are no more mobbed by the rest. Though the touts are often frown up on , it is not unusual to find touts who makes your tour rather memorable. Some of them are astonishingly knowledgeable and you no more wants to think that he is a tout.
So if you are little lucky , a lot patient and bit curious , a useful tout is not too far away.