Monday, August 11, 2008

24 Pesos is 24 Pesos!

For some reason my tolerance level right now for all acts of stupidity and general bureaucratic bullshit is at zero. Zero. Maybe it has something to do with the "legal" destruction of the property in front of my house, the "legal" shenanigans of my neighbor, Fatso, the fact that I haven't been at my best lately or maybe even the fact that there is NO CRIME ON ISLA MUJERES. Whatever. So the other day at the grocery store, I decided to not just shrug my shoulders and walk away. Here's what happened, with a little history first.

A few months ago our local grocery store, Super Express, started giving out cards that they then swipe when you buy groceries and you accumulate points. I wasn't sure what they were going to eventually do with the points, but I wanted one of those cards. Every time I asked at the checkout for a card, they gave me the traditional answer of "No Hay". Which means I don't have any, I'm not even going to look for any to give to you and better luck next time. Every time I went to the store I asked to receive one and received either the standard "No Hay", or worse, that blank stare. Even though my Mexican neighbors in line all had one. I finally had to do some serious flirting with the little gay checkout boy and he reached under the counter and brought out a stack, a STACK, of cards and just handed me one! Mission accomplished.

The purpose of these cards was officially launched last week. It is a redemption program. One of those "Use 2 points and get this item for XXX amount!" type of things. They have signs on every shelf of the store right now. One of the items the other day was tuna fish. All kinds of tuna fish was up for offer at buy 2 get 1 free. So B threw 3 of us favorite tins in the cart.

At the checkout she swiped the first can. 24 pesos. Second can. 24 pesos. Third can. 24 pesos. Hold on a second. That third one should have been free. We questioned her about it. She looked at us, shrugged her shoulders and continued running the rest of the groceries through. We again told her that that tuna was 3 for the price of 2. She rang for the supervisor. We repeated ourselves. The supervisor went back to the tuna fish aisle. She came back with a sign for tuna fish with vegetables on sale. We had the ones packed in vinaigrette. She almost stuck her tongue out at us as we looked at her. We said that was the wrong sign. She told us to get out of line. Before we could even do this, she called the security guard over to make sure we did!

We removed ourselves to the end of the checkout and I then asked the security guard to come with me. I grabbed one of the cans of tuna and off we went. Sure enough. There was the sign still hanging from the shelf advertising tuna in vinaigrette as 3 x 2! The supervisor had just grabbed the first tuna sign on the shelf and returned with it. The guard removed the sign and back we went.

He took it and the can of tuna to the supervisor who inspected both like they were covered with mucousy germs. She then gave him back the can of tuna, went to the cash register, entered some kind of code and came back to where we standing. She literally thrust 24 pesos at us and stomped away. No word of apology, nothing but disdain written all over her. We thanked the guard for his assistance and left.

Normally we would have just walked away, mad at the stupidity and stubbornness. I don't know what was different about that day. Maybe the fact that the dollar is going down faster than the Titanic and 24 pesos is 24 pesos!


Anonymous said...

I know EXACTLY the attitude you encountered, and that is one of the big reasons I only enter that store when I'm desperate for something I can't get anywhere else. It's the blank stare and shrugging of the shoulders and no interest in helping you at all that gets me. I guess you can't expect the employees to excel in customer service when management clearly isn't interested either. I'm not sure Mexicans have the same expectation of customer service as we foreigners do, therefore, they get away with treating their customers poorly. Sad. I'm glad you persisted!

Anonymous said...

They are trying to take advantage of the American .. but 24 pesos can buy you a SOL.
KW from Michigan

Anonymous said...

Along those same lines….. something that has always bugged me about Mexico (everywhere I have been anyway) is why is it so hard to get change back? If my change is 24 pesos, give me 24 pesos. I am not talking about the times I try to pay my breakfast bill with a $200 and the restaurant owner has to go looking for change in order to break the $200.

Anonymous said...

24 pesos for a can of tuna?? I thought you were living in Mexico!
-Jason from St Thomas

Brenda said...

That must have either been a big can of tuna or some special kind to pay 24 pesos per can for. At that price don't blame you for fighting for the correct price.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Good for you! If you were a little Mexican lady, I know you would have fought for that 24 pesos too. I have done the same in Mega when the sign for onions said $3.85 and the onions rang up at $8.00 per kilo. The sign turned out to be left from the previous day, but they graciously honoured it.
Now, we have some ongoing stuff with Donasusa, they always round up if the amount has some stray centavos which annoys me. Then one day, Husband went to buy milk, it rang up at the wrong price. The guy was totally put out when Husband insisted that he come and see the sign.
When we next went into the store, the price signs were missing on the milk. Husband says that the guy gives him the evil eye and gossips about him to the other clerks.
Hey, we're on a fixed income, I don't do anything to cheat them, I only want what is advertised.

heatherinparadise said...

I spoke with a man from DF who insisted that this inattention to customer service and poor retail attitude is a Yucatan thing, not a Mexican thing. I've never lived anywhere else, so I don't know if he was right or not.

It's maddening, that blank look of death.

IslaZina said...

I just recovered my Google password, so I hope this post is accepted.
Wayne, you didn't tell them your money tree died! We gringos all start out with one. On the other hand, how were they to know. You came from La Gloria to buy tuna. Last time I checked, lets say 10 minutes ago, it was 10 pesos a can! the cashier you flirted with probably knew where you lived and was puzzled, therefore, about what the issue was! Are you sure it wasn't to be three cans for 24 pesos? That would be a deal!

islagringo said...

Readers: They were the big cans, 354 grams. Not sure what that is in ounces.

anonymous: sure wish you would come out of hiding! I hate that store also and will only go in when FORCED to. Always try to get in one of the guy check out lines. They go faster and they care.

kw: I know where 24 pesos can buy me 2 Sols!

jackie: ah, that is an entirely different subject and one that I encountered everywhere in Mexico. I hate it but have adjusted and know where I can cash a big bill (like 200 pesos!) and where I can't. On the island, they round up to the nearest 50 centavos. In Cancun you will still get 20 and 10 centavo pieces. Nobody will even bother to bend over to pick those up off the street! I save my 10, 20 and 50 centavo pieces and when I have enough, I give them to my carpenter who donates them to his church. Win, win!

Jason: utilities and taxes are way cheap here but the cost of groceries is not. I don't now how the local people even mangage to eat sometimes!

brenda: see note about size. I hate tuna so really would never have made a deal of it except I was taking no attitude that day!

theresa: I'm with you. I don't cheat and I don't want to be cheated! What I really love is to get too much change back and then tell them that the cambio is no correcto and watch their reaction! They get all defensive until they realize I'm trying to give them money back. Of course, I would never have given that cow any money back that day.

heather: sadly he was mistaken, or exhibiting the better than all other Mexicans combined DF attitude. I have travelled to and in 28 of the 31 Mexican states and let me tell you, poor customer service is nationwide. Of course, there are exceptions, but not giving a shit is the rule. And couldn't you just sometimes reach out and slap that blank look right off their faces!!!

islagringo said...

islazina: it doesn't matter that my money tree died or was chopped down. I just can't seem to get that huge $ tattoo off my forehead! The gay checkout gave me the card, he was not the one I was dealing with on the tuna day. Otherwise there probably would have been no problem. But you are right, they think (and probably most correctly) that we all live in La Gloria.

IslaZina said...

Let me come back with my liberal ways to defend Mexican service. I have worked to overcome problems with the help of Mexican friends. They explained that the help in the stores is particularly terrified of us gringos.
As soon as we open our mouths, they panic. They assume we can't speak Spanish. They know that whatever they said about their English on the application isn't close to true.
Even if the first words out of our mouths are in Spanish, our accent throws them. "No halbando ingles."
Pero escachame! Habla espanol! I force them to listen, to admit neither of us is as stupid as we look. They do come around after repeated expsore and some joking around.
I was in the Super on Saturday looking for paper towels. I couldn't find them. I asked a worker. No se.
Aqui. En esta espacio no hay. Cambio locale? No se.
Then an obviously frequent Mexican shopper came by. She told the worker AND me that the store hasn't had paper towels in at least a week and took down the markers on the shelves where they used to be. A bad sign.
But if you think about the worker not knowing. Well, it probably wasn't her department. And I am constantly amazed at how many Mexicans don't know about paper towels. Napkins, ok. Towels, what for? Dry newspaper has been used for decades to scratch windows clean. Rags to do floors. Paper towels? Not very green of us.
I have had two women work for me now who CAN'T get started unless I have non absorbing, synthetic light weight rags that last months. I don't get it. They don't pick anything up. They don't clean. All they do is dry quickly. And last forever. So says the commercial.
Logic doesn't apply.

Hollito said...

This poor retail attitude can not only be found in Yucatan...head over to Eddie Willers and read "You know when you´ve been gringo´ed" there... :-)

In Mexico City I once went into a (not so small) bakery (it is called "Meisterback" and is in the same building as the restaurant "Nibelungengarten" - my relatives wanted to go there) and wanted to buy a cake, dark bread and cookies for, let´s say, 350 Pesos. Because I already knew the strange habits of salespersons in MX, I mentioned I only had a 500 Peso note.

They refused to sell me anything because they claimed they did not have enough change.

Not even 150 Pesos? In a bakery with 3 salespersons, at 11 am? Yeah, shure...

So I had to keep my money. And I wondered how stores like this could survive.

islagringo said...

zina: that gave me a chuckle! they are afraid of us? maybe they are afraid that we are going to yell at them. i've seen that happen more than once around here. You are right though about humor. If you can get them to laugh, you win!

Here's a good example of Mexican service and a good one to keep in mind: a friend of mine went to a big fabric store in Cancun. She wanted to buy a particular kind of strapping. She took a small piece of black with her, although she was looking for various colors. She asked a salesclerk, "do you have any of this?" the salesclerk looked at it and her and said "No" My friend walked away, thought about it for a second and then went back to the same salesclerk and asked "do you have any of this in other colors?" this time the salesclerk replied "yes"

I guess sometimes it's all in the way you ask the question!

holito: NEVER tell them how much money you have before they ring up your purchase. Although I have seen them refuse to sell a half consumed bottle of Coke to somebody because they didn't have change. They just took the bottle and threw it away and brushed the person out of line.

harvestmoon said...

Oh Wayne, I am SURE it is worse on la isla, but even here on the mainland I get blank stares on the 3x2 stuff. Grocery shopping can be SO difficult in the supers. Soriana recently had a 3x2 on something, there was a LONG line behind me as a checked out and true to form, no 3x2 when the item was swiped. I explained to the girl the 3x2, she shrugged and I told her to void the sale. That is ALWAYS a MAJOR headache and the shoppers waiting in line weren't all that happy but I only got the stuff (it wasn't tuna :)) because of the 3x2.

You know our water saga - last time Jamie went to fill up, Bodega charged him 26.82/garrafon. Needless to say, we're done with the water dance. :)

But hey! You got your card!

Hollito said...

"NEVER tell them how much money you have before they ring up your purchase."

Mhhh...and then? They sum it all up, I put the 500 Peso note on the desk and they say "No hay cambio"...
That does not make it any better, right? ;-)

Sirena said...

I've felt your pain. When I lived on Isla I never got over feeling like a giant dollar sign walking into a store. Either that or supposedly I was too soft in the head to know what a reasonable price was. I knew going in that if the price wasn't marked, I'd be asked three times as much as an Isleno. I'd try to get into the game by telling myself, "it's an opportunistic culture, could I blame them?" However, I too had my breaking point with something so basic as a taxi ride. One day, I took a taxi to a destination that had always cost 12 pesos in the past. This time I gave the driver a 20 and he only gave me five pesos back. I was done playing 'amiga.' I needed three more pesos and he wasn't going to give it to me. I was fed-up and we started screaming at each other. We got out of the taxi he showed me a phone number on the car and told me to call and report him. I thought what a joke, call his amigo, no thanks. It wasn't the three pesos, Lord help me, it was the principle of it. Hpwever, it's kind of a catch-22. One of the reasons I think the Islenos are so nice to the US tourists(in contrast to how we are to the Mexicans at home) is because we spend a lot of money there and tip well. Where else can I find a waiter who will run fifty yards across hot sand to bring me a beer? Sometimes I sure felt like a princess.