Every morning we had established a ritual of walking from our resort over to starbucks for iced coffee and unlimited internet. The Starbucks is located in a little plaza that also houses several shops and carts and stands. That morning, we had decided that instead of our plan to stick around the resort pool and swim-up bar, we wanted to find an adventure. So before our Starbucks visit, we talked with some guys at one of the stands that had been calling out to us all week to buy tours from him. All of their tours had already left for the day, but they had a tour that sounded fun the next day to visit some Cenotes and swim and snorkle with sea turtles. While Lonnie sorted out the details with the guy at the stand, I headed over to Starbucks.
When Lonnie came back, not only had he booked our turtle tour, but he had also met a gentleman that worked for a travel agency in the plaza who had come out to caution Lonnie not to book tours with that stand as they were time share scammers and were not supposed to be selling tours. Of course, Lonnie had already booked and paid for the tour, so we shrugged our shoulders and braced ourselves for a timeshare pitch. No big deal, I have played the timeshare game before. Also while talking with his new travel agency friend, Lonnie was able to find us a fun adventure for that afternoon of an ATV ride into the jungle, zip-lining, and swimming in a cenote, YAY! It was an awesome adventure!
The next morning we went over to the plaza to catch our tour bus to our turtle adventure. The plaza was chaotically crowded with people and vans and buses sorting themselves out and leaving for day tours. As the plaza got less crowded…. and less crowded…. and the time that we were supposed to leave came and went… we got more and more concerned that there were games afoot! We went over to the guys at the stand where we had booked the tour, and there were a couple other concerned couples there already. The guys in the stand were speaking spanish, but it was obvious by their body language and my VERY limited understanding of the language, that indeed, there were shenanigans. We soon learned that they guy who booked our tour had taken our cash, and several other couples cash, and gone to gamble. It was not the first time he had done so. (Side note: as the day progressed and we had to report this guy to several people, they were all extremely helpful and considerate to use, but their attitude toward the guy who stole all the money was so different than it would have been here in the US, they acted sad for him as though he had a disease that he could not control and was not just a thief and a criminal.) They promised us our money back, but refused to put it in writing for me, and asked us to come back to the stand at 1030am when their boss would arrive with our refund. By this time the whole plaza knew what was going on and Lonnie’s travel agent buddy had come over to talk to us, and try to help us. We told him we were coming back at 1030am to which he replies, “Yes, that’s what they do. They will tell you to keep coming back later and later because they know you have to go back to the US and will give up. This happens all the time.” He encouraged us to report the stand to the plaza management and contact the police if when we came back they still would not give us a refund. He also took the opportunity to offer to book us on a tour for that day since ours wasn’t happening…lol. I passed. I was at that emotional place we call “DONE!” So off we went back to our resort for brunch and time killing.
Ten-thirty arrived and we went back to the stand and sure enough, they told us that their boss was not there as he had to go back to town to the bank to get more money for the other couples who had been scammed. They asked that we come back in an hour. Lonnie could see that I was about to go postal on them, so he took my hand and suggested that we head over to Starbucks for some of my favorite lemonade/iced tea stuff, and a wifi fix. While I sipped my tea and cooled off (literally and figuratively… Mexico is HOT! lol) on the Starbucks patio, Lonnie went to the bathroom. It occurred to me a couple times that he had been in there a very long time and I thought maybe he had become a victim of Montezuma’s Revenge, when he suddenly appeared on the patio with a handful of cash and a shit-eating grin.
He hadn’t been in the bathroom. He had gone back to the stand and when the guys continued to hem and haw and make excuses, he decided to take matters into his own hands and began to walk around the plaza telling everyone what they had done to all of us (one of the couples was out over $600 as they had booked 3 tours with that asshole), and making sure to do so loudly and with giant gestures to ensure they knew what he was doing. Within minutes one of the stand guys went over to Lonnie with all the money they owed us plus a bit more.
Stand guy: I don’t have exact change for you, can you change this?
Lonnie: I think I’ll just keep the extra, it’s the least you can do for what you put us through this morning.
Stand guy: Ok sir. I’m very sorry and I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.
Stand guy: 0
Moral of the story: When in Mexico (…or any of those types of tourist areas, I would imagine), be careful who you give your money to! (Which we learned again when I gave Jessi the sterling silver elephant ring that I bought her down there and it promptly turned her finger green.)
|The “bad place” is the stand behind that silver car.