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It’s always good to hire a tour guide. Two main reasons I can think of now. 1. He can show you details about a place you might’ve otherwise missed, and 2. He keeps people from driving you crazy in the souq. My guide was Aziz. And a very sweet man at that. We picked him up at a cafe and he presented wearing a sports jacket, nice polo shirt, and slacks. Spiffy. I liked him instantly. And he didn’t skip a beat. Immediately upon being sat in the car he began describing to me Fes and how it has the largest medina in the whole of Africa. And how it is more tranquil than Marrakech. But I already knew that part! What a laid-back, calm place this is. So different from the hustle of Marrakech.
Of course there’s the requisite visit to the handicraft center to see the pottery being made from start to finish, and then being sat in front of a book of mosaic examples to choose the perfect piece to be made specifically for you and then shipped home. For $1200 for a table about 15″ diameter. But other than that, it’s a wonderful experience to see Fes with a guide.
Flour and grains
Buying things in Morocco is a big commitment. You don’t just buy something, you create a relationship with the shop owner. It’s not easy.
Massive quantities of mint tea are consumed during the process and endless question-answering like where are you from? Or, is this your first trip to Morocco? And lots of comments, like: our insert-product-here are made by women, we offer fair prices, if you don’t buy, that’s ok, just look. Or, “Now we are family. You are my sister. I offer you family price when you return.” It’s actually sweet. They do a good job.
But having bought many, many rugs (or whatever) in my past, I know what I want and I don’t want the bullshit that goes along with it. I don’t care about the relationship. Well, it’s not so much the relationship I don’t want, it’s that I don’t want to invest the time it takes to make a purchase. Sit! Have some tea! Let’s get to know each other! Argh. “No thank you,” I plead. “I’m just here to buy a rug quick.” I ask for a neutral-colored, small rug. “3×5 rug in light color?” he confirms. I nod to the affirmative and he shows me a room-sized red rug. Again I tell him what I want and emphasize it this time with ‘I don’t have time to shop.’ To which he pulls out about 25 more rugs for his man to unfold (and later put away!) for me.
They figure if they show me everything I’ll be more apt to buy one. But that’s not true! If they show me what I want, like he eventually did, I will most likely be torn as to which of these beauties I will purchase and I might buy more than one, like I almost did this time! I had a hard time selecting just one but I stuck to my guns and named my price and sat there until he agreed, bantering back and forth about how I just can’t do more than $X. Thankfully, he considers me his sister and even loves me (or so he says), so I got the deal. And it was a good deal for both of us and we were happy.
This makes me think about selling in my profession: dentistry. It’s a relationship business we always say. Well, yes, it is but only if the customer wants a relationship. But some people just want to buy and we need to make it easy for those people to buy, too! A big lesson for me.