"What's In It For Me?" Lessons From Morocco

Anyone who has visited Marrakesh (Marrakech), Morocco knows that it is a unique destination—and sometimes awkward for Americans. The city is packed with guides who aggressively push their services on foreign tourists. Most tourists instinctively distrust these guides, but understand that Marrakesh’s maze of streets is nearly impossible for foreigners to navigate on their own.

These guides profess to be free, but they are not. When they bring you back to your hotel, they will resort to begging and pleading in order to cajole some currency from your pocket. Even more interesting are the revenue sharing arrangements that they have with local vendors. Don’t be surprised if you end up taking detours to specific carpet shops or other stores where the tourist price is much higher than the price for locals.

This type of arrangement is not unusual in many foreign countries, but it certainly feels foreign to most Americans. The idea of someone pushing us toward a store or product for a commission seems repellant, but this same scenario takes place in the U.S. every day. It’s probably why most Americans have a distaste for salespeople and rank them somewhere between lawyers and politicians in the hierarchy of “the kinds of people we trust”.

If you want to earn trust, stop asking, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, start asking, “What will best serve this client?” Sometimes the answer will be a service or product that you provide. Other times it will not. Instead of trying to push a client into a product or service that’s not a perfect match, consider sending them to a provider that will better serve them, without expecting something in return. This not only builds good will with your clients, but also with the businesses to which you refer them. Good will leads to more referrals to you and a growing business.

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March 22, 2008 at 10:05 AM rhoula said...

You are talking about morocco 10 years ago, Thaings have changed.
Most of these guides are honest people that earn a living doing what they do best save you time and money by helping you find things faster.
Where ever you go in the world there is good and bad people, that's what makes a society, but for people to judge all the guides in a city because of what one two or even three other guides did, or by what they read in a travel guide is very wrong.
I suggest that you treat peole right just like you would want people to treat you.
Have a great day.

March 22, 2008 at 1:40 PM Morocco, the lonely planet. said...

I have visited Morocco few times already and I love that country. As a tourist myself at first felt little bit unfortable when asked by different guys to be my personal guide. That's at first, but then realized that when I say "no thanks" they quickly turn away and look for another tourits. It's a way to make a living and quite frankly we need them when we don't know where to shop, where to eat, what to see and they even give me hints and clues on what to avoid. I was given many tips that saved me money and time. So, I recommend that you either hire a professional guide through your travel agency and pay high price or get of these guys to do the same thing or sometimes provide even more services for cheaper. I'll take the latter anytime. Morocco is not a place to fear people, nobody really bothers a tourist to a dangerous level. It's about money and that's it. I love that exotic country!


March 22, 2008 at 6:35 PM Gary Walker said...

I am an American and I bought an apartment in Marrakech two years ago. I spend about 4 months a year there 2-4 weeks each time. I have never been uncomfortable, Moroccans have been very welcoming and the city is 100 times safer than many large American cities. The guide "problem" is really exaggerated in your story. I have walked all over the city and only rarely has someone asked to be my guide and when I say "no" that is the end of it. Ten years ago this was a problem but no more. Morocco is a wonderful country. The only time I am "uncomfortable" in Morocco is when I am asked my nationality since I then immediately have to apologize for the ignorant and arrogant Bush administration and point out that I am also appalled by US foreign policy and arrogance.

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