Monday, June 18, 2012

Ali Bob and the Tunisian Thieves: Forty Ways to Lose Your Dinars

2012 06 17
Underway from Cap Bon to Hammamet

Meet Habib: Taxi Driver or Thief?
Is There a Difference?

Let me quote to the best of my ability from one of the travel guides to Morocco which we stole from Pirate Bay: “You do not tip the taxi drivers in Morocco; they have to learn to live on what they steal from you”.

A loose reading of the above will disclose that there is a great deal of ambiguity here. Moralists we are not. Fun we are having. Doing business in Tunisia requires a different approach.  If you like moral certainty stay at home and watch some Jimmy Swaggart reruns.

If you arrive at Sidi Bou Said in a state of inviolate naivete, as we seem to have done aboard Meredith, you will come to financial grief in the tourist traps of Side Bou Said.  Here are some of the various ways we found ourselves beaten by Tunisian vendors.

The Taxi Cons

Having ridden taxis in Fes, Morocco we were hardly virgins as we stepped into the elegantly coiffured Habib's faded yellow machine. By the time we stepped out we could have run a roadside brothel in Vegas.

Somehow his quoted tour of Carthage at  “quarante dinars” fee (TD40) morphed into a demand for TD100 by the time we were returned to the marina. We were familiar enough with taxi procedures to know you always settle the price before you climb in the cab but we had done this. Apparently it is not always enough. Matters were resolved amicably enough which meant we ended up getting ... well you know. (Vegas & whorehouse are your clues)

Habib by the way was quite taken with his own photo; he stared at the one above for a good three minutes before returning the playbook to me. I think he would have framed his own image and hung it as a shrine in his cab if only the playbook could print.

It did not end there with the taxis.  Next day we taxied into Sidi Bou Said town and I asked about the fare before we got into the cab.  The driver assured us "I am metered" so you have no worries.  Cab 2 fare was TD5.66 (about €3 so no big deal)

On our return we grabbed a third cab whose driver was silent about fares.  The fare on his meter was TD1.18 for the exact same trip, point to point.  

I have no idea how Cab 2 rigged the meter but we were going uphill in his cab.  Maybe there is an inclinometer built in or something.  I am definitely not ready for the big leagues.    

The "METERED" Fuel Con

The Pickup Truck has a big Tank
in the back.At Least I Hope It's Fuel.
The Port Captain arranged a fuel delivery for us. The marina at Sid Bou Said does not have a fuel dock no matter what the Imray Guide says.  Fuel cost TD1.20 per litre and there was a TD65 delivery fee.

Fuel Seems very inexpensive.

According to the meter on the fuel truck I took 130 litres.  By the hour meter, and my fuel consumption is extremely constant, I needed 80 litres.  

Again I have no idea how the guy rigged the fuel meter.  But it cost me.  I paid TD221 for 80 litres of fuel.  That is the same €1.37 I was paying in Spain.  

The "My Computer Doesn't Work So I Cannot Print a Receipt" Scam

This one at least is kind of obvious.  The Port Captain tried two times not to issue receipts to us for monies paid to him.  With no receipt there is no evidence we paid anything and the money can be pocketed without threat of discovery.  This does not affect us directly because he is ripping off the marina but when you travel between marinas they can ask for proof that you paid your last marina bill.  If you do not have the proof trouble ensues.

The Baksheesh Scam

Again we came to Sidi Bou Said knowing full well we would encounter baksheesh culture.  We did expect there to be some honour amongst thieves however so we were disappointed when the Port Captain so readily threw us out when the Italians arrived.  I know they represented a whole new fertile field of bribes but we paid good money in good faith and I sort of think I got ripped off.  My bribe should have bought me more peace of mind.  :)

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