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Friday, December 28, 2018

How to Really Get Mugged in Mexico!

Not The Way You Think

You've seen the headlines, and you've heard the warnings. Mexico isn't safe! Don't venture outside the resort. People will trick you, skim your credit card, empty your bank account and shake you down.  It is easy to get mugged in Mexico, and some even end up dead. Stay in the resort people say - they will look after you.

We haven't experienced much of the above during our travels so far to this fantastic country. The truth is, we cannot get enough of Mexico, and we are looking for reasons to spend more and more time there. It is one of our favourite destinations. 

Mexico has only served us with pleasant surprises. We love their food, rich culture, natural beauty, and friendly people. We've discovered that the real gems are outside the resorts in popular tourist destinations of Cancun, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Porto Vallarta and others. If you go where people can only speak Spanish, you've arrived at authentic Mexico. That's where you want to be. Then the real adventure begins.

Our most recent and unpleasant experience in Los Cabos confirmed this again for us.

Leave the resort!

If you want to be tricked, have your credit card skimmed and your bank account emptied, all you have to do is accept a "Gift Certificate" from a prestigious Mexican holiday resort, and make the trip as an unsuspecting tourist. They will "take care of you".

We stepped right into this one. Instead of the horror crime stories you read in the news, we discovered that the typical Mexican holiday resort has a much more subtle and civil approach to shaking you down. Here's what happened to us at The Grand Mayan at Vidanta Los Cabos.

Our timeshare company dished out the annual "gift certificates," and we were the lucky recipients of two this year. For around US$300/week and change, plus a nominal daily resort fee, and an exchange fee, we get a week in the off-season with an available holiday resort of our choice. A good deal isn't it? Yes and no. It all adds up once your annual levies and fees come into play and your cost of funds for buying the timeshare in the first place is added in. But, that is a sad story for another time.

Shaken Down

This is how we booked two weeks at The Grand Mayan at Vidanta Los Cabos in early December of this year. We couldn't wait for the welcome break and landed on a sunny winters day after a reasonably pleasant flight with Westjet in San Jose del Cabo.

While we checked in at the resort, we made the disturbing discovery that what is usually a nominal daily resort fee (generally around $15/day) turned into US$60/day per person expense (US$120/day for my wife and I, which translated roughly into CAD$165/day or CAD$1,155 for a week). Luckily we've sent the other Cowboy home to South Africa for Christmas and left the kids at home, or this would really have turned into an even more expensive holiday since the fee is a per-person fee.

However, all is not lost we were assured by the reception that it is not as bad as it sounds. We have the opportunity to get 75% of our resort fee "back" if we spend the money at the resort's spa, restaurant and shops. Oh yes, and then there is the small matter of going to a complimentary breakfast and a short presentation as well. It will not take more than 2 hours of our valuable vacation time we were assured. Yeah, right! We know about these things.

Heck, the prospect of getting back some of the exorbitant resort fee, which we are now paying in a fast sinking CAD$ made me jump at the chance to attend a short presentation and get some of my money back. After five years of dodging the despised breakfast and presentations in these resorts, I was finally outwitted into one. I was a sitting duck.

As you know, the presentation was not just for two hours. It was an almost three-hour highly unpleasant battering to shake us down for a "Vidanta Holiday Club" membership. During this time the price came down from USD$120,000 to below USD$10,000 for a week, and an on-the-spot nominal deposit of USD$900 for something I still cannot comprehend and don't care to understand. We were not in the market for it. We made it clear every step of the way.

What I do know was that when the fourth and final "handler" couldn't get me to agree to the purchase, she finally threw our "client assessment forms" at us across the table while telling us to take our documents to reception and check out. I was ready for war, and my wife had a micro melt-down. She oscillated between disgust for the way in which we were treated, scolded me for losing my temper, and fearing that our holiday just came to an end. All that remained was for someone to escort us off the premises.

No one came. Instead, we dutifully handed over the extorted loot of a resort fee every day on Tacos and breakfasts at the resort's overly priced restaurants. We paid five times the going rate. Drinks at the pool bar made our eyes water when we saw the bill. Let's just say the price of a couple of beers can buy you a case at the local grocery store. You can purchase a small coconut plantation for the fee of a single pina colada.

We changed our flights. We shoved the second week up Vidanta's arse to return prematurely to a snowy Canada, while vowing never to set foot at their facilities again. More importantly, to never fall again for this cleverly disguised and very civil scheme of extortion and skimming. It cannot be good for business and definitely not for the people of Mexico!

From this day onwards we will only spend our Pesos with a local property owner, buy our tacos and beer like locals and invest in Mexico - the real Mexico. Viva la Mexico and Vidanta be damned!

Taco Cowboy

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