Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cheap Trick – Greatest Hits (We got greedy)

Banderas Bay Regatta
Connie and I are on the boat, at anchor, at La Cruz after sailing over this afternoon from Marina Vallarta where we had been for four days while we repaired a hole in the hull.  This afternoon we buttoned up everything that could move then motored out of the crowded harbor, dodging super yachts, party boats and run abouts.  On exit into the famous Banderas Bay we found strong winds and waves from the west and we found ourselves in the middle of the Banderas Bay Regatta with 27 (I counted) large sailboats beating about in the rollers, spray over the bow, hulls leaning way over, beers spilling everywhere.  Since our course from the harbor to the anchorage evidently went through the race course we just jumped in there with everyone else.

Connie took off the sail cover, removed the sail ties, centered the traveler, went below to close the hatches and port holes and open up the holding tank, loosened the mainsheet, raised the topping lift, rigged the jib sheets, freed the main halyard, attached it to the head of the mainsail and raised the huge mainsail.  She then came to the cockpit and finished off the main halyard, untied the roller reefing and pulled out the massive genoa and winched it tight on a port tack.  I steered.

Note that Connie is right here next to me while I write this, telling me what to say.

Then, once on course, I turned the helm over to Connie who steered us the two hours up the bay to our anchorage where she went forward, dropped the anchor, raised it back up when I didn’t like the set, then dropped it again in another place, secured the rode with the bridle, tidied up the deck then went below to open up all the hatches and port holes.  I steered. 

Then we made dinner and decided to write a little blog story about our morning where we were victims of a cheap trick, or perhaps we just got greedy.  

Just now picking out tunes on the IPOD we found an album named “Cheap Trick –Greatest Hits”.  It was mislabeled and was not the songs we were expecting to find.  And it reminded us of our morning’s adventure.

Two days previous we were finishing up a huge provisioning stop at the big grocery store, Soriana.  We had met this nice young man in the store and he helped us with our wine purchase.  We chatted. He spoke very good English as he had spent some time in the states.   We joked, we laughed, and we got along pretty well.  After the checkout we talked some more and he asked if he could see our big receipt so we showed it to him.  It was for about 2600 pesos, which is about 200 US Dollars. It took two shopping carts to carry it all.  Good prices in Mexico.

Villa de Palmar - Nice
When Ricardo saw the receipt he asked, “Would you like a refund for your shopping today?”  We stood still long enough for Ricardo to give us more info and it turned out that he was pushing something like a timeshare thing where they reimburse you for a large purchase if you spend a few hours looking at property.  He laid out the deal:  We go to a resort, get a nice breakfast, see the facility, talk to an agent then after 90 minutes we are free to go and take 2000 pesos with us in the free taxi back to the marina.  And, if it all went well, he would give us a bottle of rum the next time we saw him in the grocery store.
What the heck, let’s do it.  This will pay for our groceries or our two days dock fees!

 The next morning at 8:00 AM we met Ricardo at the marina and he took us to the Villa de Palmar in a taxi.  He explained in the car that we needed to meet certain qualifications which we mostly did.  The exception was that we were staying in a boat at the marina and not in a hotel.  Evidently they wanted their clients to be staying in a hotel.  So we agreed to pretend that we were staying at the Condominium Flamingo with friends. 

Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta
We had a nice breakfast with a nice young man named Guiermo and then toured the resort with him.  Then we got some facts and figures and met the boss, Thomas, who tried to sell us a fractional share in the resort.  Sort of like a timeshare but with some improvements.   We gracefully declined, sat through a few minutes of pressure sale techniques then we were done… and gathered up our 2000 peso “gift”.  We then found the resort gym and got some free showers before being delivered back to the marina by taxi; morning complete, 2000 pesos richer.
The next day we walked the malecon in old town PV, went to the Mercado municipal, saw the church, enjoyed the art and the people then returned to Soriana to pick up a few groceries and our promised bottle of rum.  Ricardo was his usual charming self and he got us a nice bottle of Bacardi Anejo; then came the second pitch. 

He explains that he receives only a small commission - $34 – on our visit to Villa de Palmar  but he knows a second place that will double his commission . “Want to do it again for 3000 pesos this time?  I’ve got a friend who has another development.”  This is when we got greedy.  We said yes... Well, Scott said yes, Connie said no, we have too much work to do on the boat.  But we agreed to meet Ricardo again in the morning and this time we’d meet his buddy Rudy.

Tempting isn't it?
The next morning Rudy showed up but not Ricardo.  We went with Rudy in the taxi and he started coaching us on what to say this time.  And again we were not to mention that we had a boat.  He told us what hotel to say we were in and even gave us a room number to use.  We are both thinking, “Don’t you think they will call the hotel to check if we are registered to that room?” Why is it so bad to be in the marina that we have to lie? Are marinas so ghetto that Mexicanos look down their noses at its inhabitants?  Why didn’t we ask him these questions? Why didn’t we say no and ask him to take us home now.  Well, we didn’t like it but we played along thinking that it worked the first time, and we will get 3000 pesos, free breakfast, and the rum!

On entry to the resort, Puerto Bahia, on a hill overlooking the town of La Cruz, a young lady checked our credentials and asked us where we were staying and we told them the LIE.  Yes, we lied, knowingly and with malice.  They insisted on knowing the exact hotel room number.  This should have signaled us that something was amiss. But again, our greed blinded us.

Again we had a nice waterfront breakfast at a beach club with the sales guy, Hugh, an ex-patriot from California.  He was working for ReMax in the states then transferred down here to work with ReMax in Mexico.  He showed us around town and we pretended that we had never been in La Cruz before.  We then toured the development and Hugh told us all about the financial aspects of their offerings.  This took a few hours and pretty soon we were getting tired and hungry. Hugh would write numbers on a pad and show them to us, then refer to pamphlets but each time he would put them aside. If I tried to grab the paperwork to look at the figures he would move them away. We had nothing on paper to take with us or to read over at our leisure.  I started pressuring Hugh to wrap it up as we were told this would only take 90 minutes.  Connie saw him nod to someone else then he grabbed up his papers and said he was checking out.

Puerto Bahia Resort and Spa- Translates as Port Bay which it is neither. It is inland.
Ivan enters, sales exec, young man evil smile.  Ivan dropped the price somewhat then tried another tactic to get us to buy the property, today, now, gotta do it right now to get this great deal.  That’s when I told Ivan there was no way I was going to make this kind of decision today.  Ivan was not happy hearing this. Connie tried to smooth things over and that’s how we played it, Scott getting upset, Connie smoothing things over.

After I turned down Ivan he took us downstairs to the intake/output (soon to be shot put) room where we met a nice looking older Mexican lady named Aula who checked our paperwork and made sure we knew what the offer was. We had surely been discovered by this time as faking our hotel room. 
Connie's nose grows longer.  Liar!

Hugh’s offer had been 35k.  Ivan had dropped it to 18k.  Then Aula changed that to 12.8k.  Wow, with all these numbers whirling in our heads and all these different deals on the table it was hard to keep up.  We just wanted our 3000 pesos and our taxi.  Aula asked us about the hotel we were staying in and asked us if we were staying in the front mezzanine area or the ocean view terrace as she used to work there; uh oh.  We lied again and told her the ocean view rooms.  Was this a trick question? She took our paperwork and left.  

Then this big guy came over and sat down and started up with us again, this time offering us another 2500 pesos to go with him tomorrow to see a different property.  We had to tell him firmly NO.  The big guy tried to talk more numbers but I got a look at his wrist watch, the only clock in the place, and saw that we’d been there four hours already, and told him quite strongly that it was time for us to go.
Big guy left and was replaced by the young lady who had first checked us in.  She had a wad of cash with her and our invitation paperwork.  Then she dropped the bomb. “I called your hotel and you are not staying there. You look familiar to me. Do you live here? You need to tell me the truth.”

So, there we were, 4.5 hours into this ordeal with nothing to show for it but a digested breakfast and we had to fess up and tell the woman that Rudy told us to say the hotel when really we were on a boat.  She said that Rudy should not have done that then she asked us to write out what happened on a piece of paper.  We did so, eying that pile of cash she had on the table.  Then she left, taking the wad of money with her.

A taxi driver was called into the room and then a different woman went with the taxi driver to the door and motioned us outside.  I didn’t budge.  Connie went out the door.  I went to the open door.  Other customers were watching.  I held the door open and she tried to shut it.  I’m asking here for our compensation and telling her that we think we were treated unfairly. She threatened to call security if we didn’t leave immediately; tough gal.  She called us liars. We told her that we were only doing what we were told to do by their agent.   It was getting ugly and we knew we’d lost out and we’d better just exit with what little grace was left us.

I guess we were lucky that we didn’t have to walk to the bus stop.  Our taxi ride was swift as we griped to the Spanish speaking driver who listened to our complaints empathetically. He’s heard the tone of voice before and just nodded.  We found ourselves standing on the pavement where we had taken the taxi five hours previously.  We were miffed, insulted, embarrassed, angry, foolish, and needed to vent; hence this blog, thank you readers.

 Monkey is not happy.
This whole episode is still puzzling.  Did we get scammed?  Did the development company knowingly have its agent in the field coerce us into a little lie so that in the end, if we didn’t buy something, they could accuse us of lying and deny us our promised “gift”?  

What about the first deal?  It went just fine and we got our “gift.”  Was this just a setup for the second deal? Did Ricardo know what would happen or was he just passing on a lead to a buddy?  

In the end we feel like we pulled a cheap trick on Villa de Palmar and got our groceries paid for. In the end we feel now that Puerto Bahia played a cheap trick on us, taking five hours of our time.  Cheap trick both ways.  And we took a hit to our conscience because after all, we did LIE.   Cheap Trick – Greatest Hits.  Greed will get you nothing in the end.  

Lessons learned:  Stick to something you know.  Sail the boat. Stay away from smooth talking sales reps and timeshare gimmicks. 

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