Negotiating Mexico City; Learn the best negotiating skills!

Negotiating Mexico City; Learn the best negotiating skills!

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Destination: Mexico City, Mexico
Date: October 1999
Trent and I down in Mexico doing business in the early days
Like the quality of pics taken by this old digital camera?
October 1999

Well in preparing for this weeks post, I got out my old picture files and began looking through trip photos we have taken in the past.  Some are very exciting and I look forward to sharing my little insights on those, but the first set of digital photos I have are of our travels to Mexico City.  Back in 1999 we had just purchased our first digital camera– Can’t believe anyone ever lived without one!– and at that time we were visiting Mexico City frequently for work purposes.  In 1999 our business was only two-years-old and Trent used me much like a secretary in those days.  On trips like these I’d find a wonderful grandparent (either mine or Trent’s folks) to take over the house responsibilities and the kids and we would head down to drum up some business.

Enjoying the local pastries
Mexico City, 1999
Looking so professional as we sat for a seven course wedding dinner of a clients daughter
The clients daughter was actually married in the middle of a polo field while we watched
on jumbo screens, listening to an 80 piece orchestra, and visited with other guests.
It was an amazing wedding that lasted until 10pm the following day!

In 1999 we had to go down to Mexico City three times.  Twice we were on official business trips meeting with clients but the last was for a wonderful wedding of one of our clients daughters.  This was exciting and adventurous and we couldn’t wait to do a little bit of sight-seeing.  Though I’m not sure how helpful I can be on visiting Mexico City today, with this post,  I figure I’d blog about this one trip in particular just so you can see some ridiculously old photos of Trent and I back in the day.

A pic taken of a head on one of the pyramids of Tetotihuacan
October 1999
One of the pyramids shown at Teotihuacan
You can hike all the way to the top!
July 1999

One of the first things I wanted to do, and Trent wanted to show me, were the Aztec ruins near Mexico City. According to the website: it reads “Teotihuacan is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, the archaeological site of Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the so-called “street of the dead”, and its colorful well-preserved murals.”  Since this is only a 25 mile drive, approximately one hour by taxi, it is well worth the time to see.  I couldn’t believe how amazing it was to see these ancient ruins in real life.  The pyramid shapes and the stories told by local guides was very intriguing.  At the time of our visit there was also a lot of local shopping near the base of this ancient city gates and some deals to be had, especially the hand woven table clothes and linens that all have the Aztec calendar woven into their patterns.

The canals of Xochimilco with their barges

Xochimilco pronounced Shoshemilkco
Xochimilco was another favorite for me.  This is a city that is built on the water with many canals that run through artificial islands.  As described on website it reads:
“Built in the 16th century by the Spanish on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the old Aztec capital, Mexico City is now one of the world’s largest and most densely populated cities. It has five Aztec temples, the ruins of which have been identified, a cathedral (the largest on the continent) and some fine 19th- and 20th-century public buildings such as the Palacio de las Bellas Artes. Xochimilco lies 28 km south of Mexico City. With its network of canals and artificial islands, it testifies to the efforts of the Aztec people to build a habitat in the midst of an unfavourable environment. “

On a barge touring Xochimilco
October 1999
My sister “K” joined us on our trip and we
loved getting serenaded by mariachis
October 1999
The locals will sell anything boat side so Trent took the advantage of
buying both my sister “K” and I, a bouquet of flowers
October 1999

Basically when we arrived we jumped on one of the many tourist boats waiting to take us on a tour of the canals.  Then while we were in our personal boat (almost like a huge, covered, gondola which can fit about ten to twenty passengers) our guide slowly pushed us through the water using large sticks on the canal floor.  It is a relaxing ride.  While traveling the canal many local vendors paddled up to our boat to sell their wares, food, and even entertainment.

Someone was enjoying their meal more than someone else
Xochimilco October 1999

While we were there we had a very sweet woman paddle up in a canoe with fresh roasted corn that was roasting right on her canoe.  When Trent gave her the signal that we would like some, she quickly began to prepare the corn for our consumption.  I watched as she turned the corn, pulled out some butter, cut the butter into slabs, and then after petting her dog once, who was also on the canoe, she reached for my pad of butter and used her hands to run it up and down the corn cob until it melted.  She then added some Mexican spices, that I’m sure were delicious, but since I had just watched the dog petting I couldn’t get myself to eat the corn.  Trent paid the kind woman and sent her on her way and then proceeded to eat both his corn and mine.  We also had our own mariachis that day and had the fun of using a local woman’s toilet on one of the artificial islands where she lived.  We simply pulled up in our boat at the signed marked “W.C.”, water-closet, (international sign for bathroom) and paid to use her bathroom in her very sad, dilapidated home.  I couldn’t help but pay her a little extra for some renovations.

My sister “K” just enjoyed the W.C. on the shores of Xochimilco
October 1999
“Senor Cheap Skate” in Mexico City

Xochimilco is also the place where Trent earned his nickname, “Señor Cheap Skate”  While going through the many shops located around the area, I had Trent negotiating prices for me.  It made sense that since he speaks Spanish, and at the time my Spanish was very limited.  (I’m proud to say I now have a pretty good set of Spanish negotiating skills).  Anyway…. this is still a major tourist attraction in Mexico and though you may be able to get cheaper prices in areas that don’t attract many tourist this is not the place to get the cheapest deals in town.  So while we went from shop to shop and Trent continued to try and get the prices lower and lower the vendors began teasing with him in Spanish.  Before we knew it “Señor Cheap Skate” was being called back to shops to try and complete the deals he had started to negotiate but then walked away from when he didn’t feel the vendor was coming down enough on price.  He did get many things discounted very low and it was all said in a spirit of humor. To this day, Trent is pretty proud of his nickname he earned way back in Xochimilco!

So glad to have shared this experience with my sister
“K” and I  Xochimilco 1999

Negotiating Etiquette
Pretty much every foreign country runs on much different economical base than we do in the US.  As an American we are used to posted prices and paying that price.  This is not the case in tourist areas outside of the US.  The posted prices you see or hear are what the vendor would like to get.  That does not mean that is what he/she will sell the item for, so by paying the posted price is actually inflating the price of the item in which you are buying.  I have now negotiated for items all over the world and sometimes feel I have been both taken advantage of or taken advantage of seller.  Recently, on a trip to Dubai a good friend shared a tip that I think is worth passing on.
1) Figure out how much you would like to pay for the item
2) Have that exact amount of money in your pocket (yes having change is important in the art of negotiation)
3) Tell the vendor what you would like to purchase and for how much
4) Though you haven’t agreed on your price you’d like to pay, give the vendor the money
5) This is where the magic happens.  Once the money is in the vendors hands it is almost impossible for them not to complete the sale.  Before giving them the money and only negotiating the price the money was not real, but now the money is real since you just handed it to them.
6) If they still want more money then you have to make the mental decision if you are willing to budge. Since you have already decided at step one that that is the best price you are willing to pay then you must ask for your money to be handed back to you.
7) This is where the ball is in the vendors court.  You’ve given them the money, and they either now how to hand it back to you and let you walk out, or they will most likely start grabbing a grocery bag and finish the sale before anyone else sees what a great deal you just received.
This is seriously the best way to negotiate.  It puts the element of decision into their hands and you can feel good knowing you haven’t taken advantage of anyone and you received the price you desired.  Once the cash is in hand they can almost never hand it back to you.  Try it, it works!  Thanks to our friends “S. & J.” we have been using this skill every time we enter a foreign country.  I must also give a little shout out to my daughter, Bailey, who has mastered these skills and astounds me with the items she is able to negotiate.  It is a great life skill to have.

Street performers near the National Museum of Anthropology
October 1999
The Aztec calendar on display at the National Museum of Anthropology
October 1999
Trent and I just outside Mexico City visiting a little town called Queretaro
October 1999

There is so much to do in Mexico City. It really is one of my very favorite big cities in the world.  From the National Museum of Anthropology, The Palace of Fine Arts, Soumaya Museum, the Frida Kahlo Museum there are so many museums to explore.  The restaurants are also amazing.  Don’t be afraid to try the delicious flat steaks with lots of lime juice at places like the Angus Butcher House, La Alcantarilla, or La Mansion.

The Palace of Fine Arts Museum
The Soumaya Museum
A statue found in the National Museum of Anthropology
A self portrait made by Frieda Kahalo

While in Mexico visit a spa at a local hotel, I’m always amazed at how different spa treatments can be from one country to another.  Last of all see the historic side of Mexico City itself by going to the Zocalo, the main plaza or square of the city.  Just watching the hustle and bustle of the city life is fun to watch. Also make sure to take in the Angel of Independence which is a central landmark of the new city.

El Zocalo
The Angel of Independence Landmark

 It is all amazing as long as you are being smart, keep your wallet close by, separate your valuables, and don’t walk down any sketchy streets.
As always Safe and Happy Travels!