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Mexico wrote the book on selling to tourists – in a nice way

By John Toth

The Bulletin

I’ve learned many decades ago that when it comes to selling to visitors or tourists, Mexico is in a world of its own.

 They are the experts on pushing sales.

It used to annoy me more before we started cruising. I was very uncomfortable when being pushed to buy something that I really didn’t want. Anyone visiting Mexican ports, especially Cozumel, is going to get some high-pressure sales pitch as soon as they get off the ship.

Even the cruise ship-sponsored excursion has a twist to it. In Costa Maya recently, we were supposed to go snorkeling and then be taken to a beach where we could hang out until it was time to go back to the ship.

The van took us to a local restaurant. The tour guide and the owner had a connection. It was obvious. At least it was not a chain restaurant. It did have a beach front where we could sit in lounge chairs or at tables while we ordered food and drinks.

In Mexico, there is always more to the story than meets the eye. The beachfront was not the best, but it would do. I just got through snorkeling and did not want to go back in the water, anyway. Sharon did, and she made the best of it, since it was such shallow water.

The menu prices were O.K. The $12 fish tacos caught my eye and the $3 water. We could split the tacos as a snack and then eat on the ship later. Wait a minute. I looked down the menu. Mexican beer was only $3, the same as the water.

I had to deviate from my non-alcoholic drinks and order a Tecate. Why not? It was as cheap as the water.

I have to admit that the fish tacos were some of the best I’ve had. The waiter did try to double charge me for the beer, but then he realized it and took it off the check. I gave him a $3 tip.

As soon as our food arrived, a very nice, large dog sat down next to me, waiting for a bite of my fish taco. I was messing with my GoPro and took a while to accommodate him. He didn’t wait around and moved to the next table, where he got his bite.

Even the dog had gringo tourists figured out.

It didn’t take long for a peddler to show up, pushing his wares.

 I wanted a Costa Maya magnet, anyway. He was also showing us his “Mexican Playstation,” which was a handmade spinning top for children. I had a perfect recipient for that toy - my 3-year-old grandson.

He wanted $5 for the magnet and $15 for the spinning top. But the longer I waited, the lower the price sank. He came down to $15 for both.

Then I thought about how this guy is out here all day peddling his wares up and down the beach. That’s a tough way to make a living. I gave him $20.

“Why didn’t you just pay him $15,” asked Sharon, my traveling editor and photographer.

“He can use it more than I can,” I said. “I felt sorry for him.”

As soon as he left, a half dozen more peddlers stopped by. One was selling hammocks. What am I going to do with a hammock? That was just the wrong product to peddle to cruisers. Someone should have warned him that we are not going to carry a hammock back to the ship.

I politely said no to all of them. They accepted it and went on to another table.

In Cozumel, we passed by a skincare and cosmetics shop for women, and the young man was handing out samples. Sharon was going to take it, and I had her give it back. He called me “mean”.

“I don’t want you to waste it on someone with a zero chance of making a sale,” I told him.

We had to pass by his shop a couple of more times because it was close to the restrooms.

 While Sharon was gone, we had a great conversation. He was born in Texas and lived some of his years of childhood in Brownsville in the Valley. That’s where Sharon grew up. Then they got into a conversation.

“How did you get down here?” I asked him. He told us that he came to Cozumel to try his hand at selling at the port.

“Do you like it? Are you doing well?”

Yes, he said, he loves what he does. Business is good. He is doing very well.

“Not everyone is mean like you,” he said. “I’m joking. You’re not mean.”

I gave him The Bulletin’s website.

“Look it up. If you ever decide to move back to Texas, let me know. I’ll hire you to sell ads. You’re good.”

He hasn’t called. I think he has too much fun pushing products on cruisers that they really had no idea they wanted to buy.


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