A tout is a British term for a person who attempts to get paid for activities they have not be asked to perform. Alternately, the tout may be equivalent in American English to the term scalper, a person who resells tickets for events at a marked up value. Further some restaurants in tourist areas will employ a tout to direct people to restaurants or bars. The tout may not only receive a tip for the tourist, but also a fee from the business to which the tourist is directed. The tout can perform other activities that are generally deemed either illegal or misleading.
Examples of tout behavior can be found in many countries. For example, a person stopped at a stoplight might have someone on foot race up to wash his or her window. The window washer expects a tip. This is a common practice among people who are homeless and who live under overpasses. People may wave such a tout away, or refuse to give a tip. Since one has not contracted the service, one is not obligated to pay for it.
In England, a tout may wait at the site of tour bus stops and quickly begin to unload people’s luggage. They again stand expectant of a tip. However, they are not contracted to perform this service, unlike a hotel or airport employee.
In Ireland, an equivalent term to tout is spy or informer. This is particularly the case when a tout gathers information at horse or dog races about the fitness of animals. He may listen in on conversations regarding the health of the animals and then sell predictions to bettors.
This practice is somewhat equal to insider trading, since betting implies taking a risk. Most racehorse and dog owners attempt to discourage tout behavior. It can result in overall loss of money and is viewed with distaste.
The tout as scalper will stand outside events selling tickets at sometimes two to three times their value. They are most effective when such tickets are no longer available. However, just as with American scalpers, verifying that the tout actually holds a real ticket is important. It is far better to look for someone selling a ticket at face value. Some people end up with an extra ticket or two and may simply want to get their money back.