31 May 2010

No Free Lunch

Since arriving, I have been constantly bombarded by men who want me to buy a timeshare in Puerto Vallarta. They sit in little kiosks on the main drag and yell out things like Are you a tourist? Where are you from? I like your earrings. Lady come and talk to me. I smile, ignore them and keep walking. That’s when they get rude. What’s the matter, you can’t even say hello? Do you have something against Mexicans? And the latest; You must be from Arizona.

It seems to be much worse than when I was here in November. Maybe it is just that there are less tourists so I am more available to holler at. It does get on my nerves but, as I said, I just keep on walking. Unfortunately, they are now in the shops.
In several of the big stores I’ve gone into on the Malecón, I’ve been offered free merchandise in exchange for going to a sales pitch breakfast. The first place I encountered this was in one of the big Huichol art stores. I was totally hounded by the sales gal who kept upping the amount of free gifts I would get, which included close to $100 worth of merchandise. All I had to do was go to a free breakfast at a resort and then listen to a 60 minute presentation. I kept telling her I wasn’t interested so she took me over to the manager who explained that the sales lady wouldn’t get any “points” if I didn’t agree. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I know darn well you don’t get something for nothing, so was not even interested in pursuing the possibility of this seemingly great offer.
Last week I was in a store where I’ve bought things in the past. After I’d finished talking to the manager and discussing what I would buy, another of the smarmy timeshare guys approached me. I came to find out that the shops are working with these guys and that there is commission for all involved. This obnoxious punk, (who happened to be American), would not shut up going on and on about the dinner he would take me to, the $150 dollars of free merchandise, that he would even throw in a free massage; like I’d ever even want to eat a meal with this freak. I had to get out of the store. I could see that my manager buddy was clearly uncomfortable with the young kid’s sales tactics. I took him aside and said I would be back when said jerk was not there.

Yesterday I went back to make my purchases. I was having a nice chat with my friend and asked how could it be possible to get all this stuff for free. Apparently it was possible and he would even get a higher commission on his sales. I thought about it; an hour or two of horrible marketing crap for free goods. Maybe it was worth it. But I also knew that they would want personal details from me and I was not going to do that. My buddy told me that I did not have to give out any info. I only needed to show that I had a credit card, but to cover the name and number when showing it. I asked if they would require an address or email and he said no. What the hell, I signed up for the breakfast/presentation this morning.
At 8:30 I was at the shop. Two young guys from the presentation company soon appeared and I was whisked away in a taxi. They were neat and clean but had a real air of used-car-salesman about them. All the while on the ride to the hotel where the presentation was to be, one guy could not stop talking about all the deals he could get me and all the tours he could arrange and probably some other “deals” but by then I’d shut out his banter. I knew at this point I’d made a mistake and I probably should have taken some valium before going off to the event.
Before we got out of the cab, the guy grabbed a card from the driver and wrote down his phone number so that I could call him tomorrow for another free breakfast, free presentation, and more free money. I looked down at the business card onto which he had written his name. It was for some nightclub whose slogan was “Wanna come?” under which was “visit us and receive a free lap dance”. I glared at him and said, “Free lap dance?” He laughed nervously and said it wasn’t his card.

We got out and were approached by two more sleazy guys. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what made my skin crawl. Maybe it was the salon styled hair with too much product, or more likely it was their bad auras. I was trying not to hyperventilate and cringe as I was forced to shake hands with another slimy salesman and the marketing manager. Since all of them spoke English quite well, and since they reverted to English every time I said something in Spanish, we spoke in English. But then they’d turn to each other and rattle off in Spanish about where they were taking me and other stuff. I spoke up in Spanish just to keep them on their toes in case they tried to pull a fast one and thought I wouldn’t understand.
I was escorted up to a rented conference area and this is when I really wanted to cut and run. Everything abut it was geared towards intimidation and discomfort. Before we went into the outer office to talk to the receptionist, the marketing manager asked me the same questions that everyone else had asked me; was I over 30, was I single, was I American, did I have a credit card.
Walking into the office I felt like a trapped rat. The first thing out of the young woman’s mouth was a request for ID with a printed address. I said no; they were not even getting my last name, let alone my address. For five minutes various people walked in and out and spoke on phones and tried to explain that it wasn’t anything other than to enter the info in their computer and my details would never again be used. Right. Finally the big boss, a snooty 30-something Brit walked in, looked down his nose at me and said that giving my address was a Mexican government regulation since, after all, they were “responsible” for me. Right.

I should have just walked out the minute they asked for an address, or at least told them what I thought of their hard-core tactics, but for some reason I am just too polite. They finally realized that no one was going to make a commission off of me today and someone had lost the taxi fare that had brought me there. I was escorted out by two pouty-faced, pissed off sales men, acting like two year olds who’d had a toy taken away. They left me at the front of the hotel, pointed out the bus stop across the street, and huffed off.
All I wanted to do was get back to the hotel and take a shower. Nothing was really lost on this adventure except that they now know which hotel I am in, but they can’t really do anything with that.
How in the world can a group off people be so offensive, loathsome, and rude, yet get people to but their product? How can they possibly have any friends? What do they do at night; devil worship?
Oh well, another day, another experience and in three days I will be out of Vallarta so they can’t possibly hunt me down to hassle me.