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Extreme Networking

In a previous post I discussed the sales techniques common throughout Morocco, but I didn’t go into detail. In this post I’ll provide an example of how well the Moroccans are networked for creating local commerce. In fact, they are so good at networking I call it “Extreme Networking”.

Last October, 2012, Lisa and I had just arrived in Tangier, Morocco after taking a ferry from Algeciras, Spain. When we arrived at the port, we were approached by a friendly Moroccan who introduced himself as a guide waiting for a group of tourists. He spoke fluent English and explained that many Tangierians know several languages because Tangier is a destination for European tourists (we had met several Moroccans who not only spoke their native Arabic, but they also spoke English, Spanish and French). He asked where we were from, where we were going, etc. and then proceeded to tell us about himself. His party arrived so Lisa and I walked outside and waited for a transport to take us into Tangier about 30 minutes away.

Once in Tangier, we exited the bus onto a small parking lot where several taxi drivers waited. One of the drivers had a cardboard sign that read “Tucson”. I thought this was odd and wondered if there were other visitors from Tucson or perhaps it referred to a city in Northern Africa called Tucson. I was out of my element and confused, but then I realized the sign was for us when the driver holding the sign approached. He said that his friend at the port had called and told him that we were arriving. He offered to drive us to our hotel and since we didn’t know where the hotel was, we accepted. While driving to the hotel, the driver offered to be our guide while in Tangier. We said we’d think about it, but first wanted to freshen up at the hotel.

Once at the hotel and rested, we realized that we needed a guide since we had no idea how to get anywhere. We went down to the lobby to ask the receptionist for the guide’s phone number. The receptionist didn’t know who the guide was, so we decided to explore on our own. We starting walking into town, but before we exited the hotel grounds another man approached us and said he was a friend of the taxi driver and that he’d show us the city. I thought “Come on… does everyone in Tangier know we are here and want a slice of the pie?” We agreed to our new guide’s offer and began our tour.

After an hour of touring, we heard unfamiliar chanting broadcasted from the minarets of the local mosques. This meant prayer time and hence, our guide said he needed to go to the mosque. He also said that he would drop us off at his cousin’s shop (who had the best views of the city) to wait until he returned. We proceeded to the shop and met his “cousin”, the shop owner, who then took us up 4 flights of stairs to his rooftop. After a short time viewing the city, the shop owner offered us some mint tea in his showroom. We accepted and descended the staircase into a large room. While drinking our tea, the shop owner presented his rugs, tablecloths, wall hangings, etc. Lisa resisted purchasing anything so soon, but I eventually bought a jalaba (see photo); not in his shop, but his “cousin’s” shop nearby.

What’s important about this post is not that we bought a jalaba, but how we were manipulated (so-to-speak) by the extensive network common throughout Morocco. We learned that Moroccans, no matter where we traveled, earned commissions from each other for transactions they had referred. Hence, the taxi driver paid a commission to the guide at the port; the tour guide at the hotel paid a commission to the taxi driver; the shop owner paid a commission to the tour guide, etc. It’s a great way to provide incentives to friends and acquaintances to refer business. In the U.S., we have similar versions of networking, but not as extensive or omnipresent as in Morocco. In short, Moroccan’s just don’t network, they network to the extreme.

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