paying for good service/negotiating

This article in Fast Company mentioned this concept briefly this week, and of course it’s kind of a classic idea in business and, if I may, in US culture. We will pay extra for good service. That’s what the article said, but I think the We in this sense is people from the United States. Sure a lot of other people too, but don’t think I would make that generalization about humanity overall.

I guess it was innately ingrained in me that OF COURSE good service is worth extra money. I worked in retail, and other customer service jobs, including waitressing. It took maybe until my early twenties to realize that I too considered the extra money well spent if it included good service. Not to say that I would always shell out– generally I look for places that will give me good customer service as an added value. I haven’t had a lot of extra money during my life. But sometimes, when I see that it is really good service, or I feel like treating myself, or I just don’t feel like risking bad customer service, I will pay for the good stuff.

I only became aware of this as possibly a cultural thing first when I lived in the UK and was consistently offended at shitty service. And my friends were like, “Lower your expectations. You’re not in ‘America.’ People don’t tip that well here.” And then here in Mexico. An ex-boyfriend was trying to get his export business off the ground and met up with me after a meeting with a Mexican-American broker from Houston: “He gave me some really good advice. He told me that gringos will pay for better service.”

I was like, pff. “Duh.” But I was actually in a way proud that this had been the advice from one Mexican to another in dealing with my people. And moreso because my boyfriend also seemed to respect it. It’s worth it to pay someone to do a good job.

And this is something that I keep realizing here– that a lot of people here don’t seem to have that expectation. I have a lot of friends here who are from a different [higher] economic class than I am, and more often than you might expect they are the ones telling me I pay too much for services. (Maids, the doorman I hired for my birthday party.) I am also sometimes shocked at how little people offer to pay me for things, and even more shocked when they are surprised to be turned down. That could be a different story I guess, but my point is– I take for granted that it’s worth it to pay people well, as long as they’re honest, because they will care more about doing a good job if they know you value it. A lot of people don’t seem to think that is kind of a cornerstone of adult life like I do?

Another aspect of this, I guess just how big of a gringa I am, came across yesterday. I was taking a taxi in Estado de Mexico, where taxis are quite a bit pricier than in DF because they don’t take fares off the street. I got a promise of a fair-enough rate for a ten- or twelve-minute ride, 50 pesos. I told the dispatcher and the driver where I was going – Sexta Sección, Altavitta – but as we got to Sexta Sección, it turned out that Altavitta was not there, only near there. So we got a little bit turned around, no more than four or five minutes though. And the whole while the guy was doing that Mexican sigh “oooh” thing, I guess a sort of tsk tsk equivalent, giving you warning that they consider you to have been in the wrong, basically.

We were going from the bottom right corner of this map to the top left, basically – the Carl’s Junior at the junction to near La Cúspide, which is a mall. Sexta Sección, a housing development, is on the right side of the Superavenida Lomas Verdes, and Altavitta, a set of high-rise apartment towers, is on the left.

So when he dropped me off at Altavitta, I handed him 60 pesos. He looked at me and said 75. “But they told me 50.” “But that was to Sexta Sección.” “But I told you guys Altavitta, too.” He looked at the cash in his hand, realizing what I had done, that I had preempted his surcharge, and smiled. “Ok, sí, señorita, está bien.”

Do you know how much better that experience was with him smiling? A). And B) It was also quite gratifying to have him realize what I had done. That I had paid him for his trouble without him asking. And C) pretty satisfying too, to know that I had curbed a finagling.

Really the bottom line, to me, is that I paid him fairly. And that he appreciated it. And that that made the experience better for me.

The flip side of this, back to contrasting Mexico to the rest of my experience, is that this “common knowledge” seems to be so uncommon that a lot of people completely bend over backwards for nothing. To the point that I wonder how they survive, if they are spending all that time on just, what, being nice? On a related note the new happiness index came out. Mexico is 3rd in terms of life satisfaction, even while it is one of the hardest working countries for the least money worldwide.


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