Guild of Merchants
VILIS AD BIS PRETII (Cheap At Twice The Price)
The Early Days
Founded in The Colour of Magic, the youngest major Guild in Ankh-Morpork was originally known as the Guild Of Merchants and Traders, and is also known as the Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly it was formed largely in self-defense, traders being a prime target for barbarian heroes and both merchants and their customers being prime targets of the members of the Thieves' Guild. It seems that while one could be a customer of a thief or a customer of a merchant, rarely was one a customer of both. Given that thieves are mobile and thus can create customers wherever they go while shop keepers are largely bound to keep their, er, shops and thus are dependent upon their customers finding them, something had to be done to level the playing field, and by preference something that didn't require the shop keepers to actually do much of anything themselves.
A Guild Begets an Industry... sort of
Along with attempting to protect its members, the Guild is responsible for helping them to become rich. This is known as "planned income-redistribution", and a key strategy in this scheme involves the difficult task of making Ankh-Morpork appear attractive to foreigners - in order of, course, to sell more stuff. To this end the Guild has produced a visitors' guide to Ankh-Morpork (or more likely, a visitors' guide to another city whose name has been replaced throughout with "Ankh-Morpork"). Called Wellcome to Ankh-Morporke, Citie of One Thousand Surprises, the guide is a masterpiece of doublespeak and innuendo; at best the Guide nods at reality when they pass in the street. Take for example The Shades, a neighborhood so dangerous the Watch only patrols it in pairs, and even then only during day light hours. In the hands of the Merchants' Guild, The Shades becomes...
'a folklorique network of old alleys and picturesque streets, wherre exitement and romans lurke arounde everry corner and much may be heard the traditional street cries of old time also the laughing visages of the denuizens as they goe about their business private'.
The Guild's first public face was that of an otherwise forgettable man named Rerpf, who was also the first 'Vice-Guildmaster In Charge Of Tourism'. To non-guild members this was somewhat confusing, as tourism was itself an industry newly formed by the newly formed Guild itself. Tourism seems largely to consist of people traveling long distances so that they may be sold more stuff which they must then take back home with them.
Even after hearing the newly-formed Guild explain their newly-formed industry, most non-guild members remained somewhat confused; they thought it more proper for an industry to exist 'before' its Guild does, and believed the Merchants had gotten it all backwards, or at least sideways. It might help at this point to introduce Twoflower, the Disc's first tourist. Having been among the first to experience Twoflower following his arrival in Ankh-Morpork, the merchants knew him to grossly and (even more astonishingly) happily over-pay for everything. Upon receiving news that Twoflower had been spotted in The Broken Drum and thus believing he and his money to be in imminent danger of thieves, the Merchants hastily formed their Guild, largely to protect him (and his ability to make them rich). Having done so, however, the Guild still needed a legitimate reason to interfere in the burgeoning relationship between Twoflower and the thieves, and so created the industry of tourism.
Aside from an annual 'Fire Sale' in observance of its anniversary, The Guild hosts an annual dinner in a room above The (now) Mended Drum, a masterful way for the merchants to thank those who have contributed to their income-redistribution throughout the previous year without, again, having to actually do much of anything themselves. The Chairmanship of the Guild also changes annually with leading and respected merchants being put forward for the position. The current chair is held by the greengrocer Robert Parker.
The almost-Guild president
Moist von Lipwig had been elected Guild President with the perk of a nearly-gold chain of office, when Vetinari made the modest suggestion that he might want to become Master of the Royal Mint instead. No doubt the Guild has deferred the offer and will approach him again at a more opportune time.