Standards?

Sometimes I forget where I am, only to be reminded when things don’t work out as expected, that I am again only another MIA in a foreign culture prone to all sorts of misunderstandings.

Up until this morning I was pretty certain that credit cards were the way that most of the world had standardized on to do things like secure reservations and make remote payments. In Mexico that’s kinda true, but only up to a certain point.

You can use credit cards in big cities, at the beaches (the internationally frequented ones) but come to the interior and the small cities and you find that it doesn’t work that way.

Note: As a general rule I pay cash for everything here so the experience I am about to describe is as new for me as it probably is for you.

So anyway, yesterday I was making a reservation for a hotel in Sayula and thought I was good only to get an email this morning from the hotel that they were sending me their reservation’s policies and ToS via WhatsApp on my mobile.

‘What? Policies? ToS? To my mobile phone? I was sputtering…Are you trying to annoy me? Give me a heart attack? What!’ I sputtered, ‘Why can’t you damn fools use email’, I thought. ‘Keep using email. Why WhatsApp? Morons. Use email.’

I had asked them on the phone yesterday if they wanted my credit card number to secure the reservation but they said no. And as I said, I thought I was good to go. At least until this morning.

I don’t use WhatsApp. I totally don’t understand what niche the app fills. There already is email and mobile text so what does WhatsApp bring to the party?

So yeah, the app is on my mobile – but if I am going to send someone a message from my mobile device then I am either going to use straight text using my mobile number – if my message is short and pithy and/or I want to reach that person in 2 sec. – or use email if the message is longer and/or if time is not of the essence.

WhatsApp? No. Why? Why not use email? Email works across all your platforms. Why chain yourself to a tiny mobile device with a dinky screen?

So, squinting and trembling with anger at the ToS on my mobile this morning I was increasingly pissed and alarmed that I had to do a number of seemingly pointless, lengthy and stressful exercises to secure my reservation.

Namely that sometime in the next 72 hours I must go to BANAMEX (and stand in line for possibly an eternity), give them 1000 pesos in cash. Wait/watch while the bank clerk counts the money, fills out the forms including the hotel’s bank no., and the provided transaction number. (Hope/pray that she or he doesn’t f* that up.)

And then I have to photograph the freaking bank receipt. Then I have to send the photographed receipt via WhatsApp back to the same number to the attention of some lady by the name of Consuelo Hernandez Virgen.

I went over to complain to my friend and neighbor, Max who looked at me like I was some kind of idiot and said, “Yes, it’s really very easy.”

“Easy? Credit cards are easy! This,’ shaking my phone, ‘Is a major pain in the ass.”

He looked at me again with a certain amount of condescension and repeated, “Yes, it’s really very easy.”

It turns out that credit cards are viewed in the interior of Mexico as being an unsecure form of payment. After some discussion I learned that was from the consumer prospective. Huh?

“What,” Max asked. “Is to protect you from the business hitting your credit card with double or extra charges?” Huh?

I won’t bore you with the rest of the discussion but people here are very used to the idea of using WhatsApp and the above laborious method (have you ever seen the long, out the door bank lines in Mexico?) for making payments and securing reservations.

I really don’t get it. Give me websites, email and credit cards any day.

The world is a mysterious place my friend. One man’s standard turns out to be another man’s headache.

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