We decided to hit the sunny side of the continent for a bit of R&R - December was a rough month for us. After a good bit of discussion, somehow we ended up deciding on La Paz, Mexico. We found what looked like a great place on AirB&B (and it is!) and made all our reservations, including a car, so we could explore. Ken called the service directly to clarify insurance and prices, because who hasn't had fun with ever-escalating prices in Mexico?
(My first trip to Mexico, with my Mom, years ago, illustrated this perfectly. We laughed for years about "Breakfast Buffet, $2.99" signs at the street. Then on the drive in to the hotel, "Breakfast Buffet, $5.99." Then closer to the hotel, "Breakfast Buffet, $8.99," and by the time you got IN the damned place, "Breakfast Buffet, $12.99." )
So we were expecting the worst, and Ken quizzed the guys at Thrifty quite some bit. Even with all that clarification, he said to me, "I'm sure it will cost about 4 times that when we actually get there." I think the quoted price was close to $200 for a week. But we figured it would be worth it to be able to get to all of the snorkeling I would want.
So we arrive, and sure enough, there are long conversations on the way to the price, and we have great fun with Ivonne, our helpful counter person. She asks who the primary driver will be,and Ken says it will be his wife. "Because she's a better driver?," she asks, and we all laugh. She tells us she mistook another woman in the place as Ken's wife, and we all have a good laugh about that too.Then we get to the price. Yup. Looks like it will be hundreds more. Not quite so funny.
No, no, no, the information that the nice guys at Thrifty Centralized Everything told Ken are not accurate about the insurance requirements of Baja. (Or she is lying. Who knows?) So our choices are a grand plus, for the deluxe, worry about nothing plan, $800 for worry only a bit, and $550 for worry a lot in case it gets scratched in a parking lot, in which you get to pay to have the entire car repainted. Or some such.
And so it begins. Luckily, Ken is nothing if not stubborn and persistent. It's all very polite, and I smile and nod a lot, and try to lay on as much charm as I am capable of, and we have lots of good laughs. BUT - still ridiculous. Ken presses further about what the guys told him. She counters that the insurance requirements are different and those have just changed. Which, or course, means spending a lot more dinero. Naturally.
More back and forth. Well, it turns out that actually the numbers can come down a little. This was after we discussed between the two of us how maybe we'd just hire taxis instead. I'm sure that was just a coincidence. Right? Right. At this point the first concession was made, since we clearly were holding out for a better deal... so she was prepared with the first concession rather than lose us. We weren't going to be the usual gringo pushovers. She asked what airline we came on; we said Alaska, and she typed some numbers on the keyboard and voila, the price came down $200.
Then Ivonne asked us if we were staying at a time share. I say no. She asks again. I can tell that the answer she wants me to give is yes. There is a discount if we are. But, we are not. I say no, again, because then I figure they will need to know which one, for the special price. She explains about the discount. Again. No, I say.
Then she asks if we want to go to a presentation for a time share. There will be a coupon with a discount, for that. I say no, emphatically. I can tell the answer she wants is yes. There is a big discount, she explains. Since I have been in enough of those presentations for a lifetime, I say no, again. Plus we don't have the time. We need to get to La Paz before nightfall. She seems frustrated. She is trying to play a game I'm not playing.
Ken and I talk about just hiring cars.For the princely sum being discussed, we can likely hire a driver, if not a fleet of them, day and night, every day. We talk about doing so. Then, all of a sudden, in comes another fellow, with better English. Again, a coincidence, I am sure.
He explains that what Ivonne has been trying to tell us is that if we sign up for a time share presentation, we don't actually have to ATTEND the presentation. (wink wink) We just sign up for it, pay $60, and get a magic coupon that will bring all the prices down drastically.(To the merely 4X Ken was quoted, IN WRITING, originally. Now we're at $664.) We just all pretend that we are going to attend, and everyone is happy. We express interest. To whom do we talk, asks Ken? Where is this guy?
They point to a guy in a striped tee shirt walking around outside. But of course you don't actually TALK to him. Can't do that. Would get him in trouble. He's from the time shares, you betcha, but not supposed to be. Big Boss Man would be unhappy if he knew we were giving you this special deal.
Where is the coupon, asks Ken? Well, you don't actually GET a coupon, you just pay the guy cash and then we write the cheaper, magic price on the contract. And finally when it's time to pay the $60, the guy who's giving us the car ends up taking it. The guy in the striped t-shirt isn't there. Do we get a receipt? Anything? Oh, no, senor.
Okay, fine. We will "buy" the "coupon." Luckily, Ken has just enough cash to go pay Mr. Sketchy in the parking lot, and everyone is happy.
We now have the super-duper, no-worry plan, at the original estimated 4X what it was supposed to be, and will hopefully be exempt from the spare tire scam that Mom and I were subject to when we tried to leave Mexico. Because this plan supposedly includes everything short of a personal attendant coming with us and polishing the car as we wait at stop signs.
Yup. Welcome to Mexico!