Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cleaning up a Loreto To-Do List

In spite of the theme of the last several posts, I wanted to assure you, my loyal readers, that Living Loreto is not just an endless round of parties and social events – not quite.  In fact, for all of us who spend months here during the winter season, there are routine errands and chores that must still be dealt with, even when you live in Paradise!

Case in point, this past week, on a day I wasn’t working in the Office, I headed into town mid-morning  and my first stop was a Dali Delicatessen (a favorite, mainly import, food store in town that carries hard to find delicacies, and adds greatly to the variety of what we have available to eat here).  While I did pick up a few things (English Muffins, sliced ham etc) the main purpose of my visit was to meet up with Jose Louis, the owner of Dali in partnership with his wife Beatriz.

I had spoken to Jose earlier about helping me as a translator with the next item on my “To Do” list and so after I had picked up a few things from the store, he and I left Dali and headed down the street to Clinica Mayer one of several Optometrist offices in town.  This past Fall I brought down a new set of frames for my prescription glasses with the intention of ordering lenses for them here.  After asking around earlier in the Season it was recommended to me that Dr. Gil was the best qualified person in town, and he spoke English.  However, every time I had stopped into the office so far this season, it was either closed or the only person working there did not “habla” English.

Now while I do not presume anything approaching fluency in Spanish, I am usually able to manage well enough with my limited vocabulary to understand and communicate simple transactions and information.  But there was no point in even trying to get into the technicalities of prescriptions, types of lenses etc, without the assistance of a fluent Spanish speaker – hence my imposition on my friend Jose to accompany me on this visit.  In short, we were able to find out that Dr. Gil and an English speaking assistant would be making their next visit to Loreto from the mainland in a couple of weeks and the necessary measurements could be made at that time and I could be properly fitted for new lenses which would be made on the mainland and back in Loreto about a week later. 

My plan was to order the lenses for my new frames, and then, after I had got them back and confirmed they had been properly made, order another set of replacement lenses for my current frames.  So getting the proper measurements made for my progressive prescription was vital, and according to the clerk in the store, it was still possible to get both sets of lenses made and delivered before I leave here for the summer.  If you are wondering why I am going to all this trouble to order glasses here, it comes down to one word – price!  My last lenses that I ordered in Canada cost me between $800 and $1,000 dollars – here the same high end lenses would cost under 5,000 pesos or less than $400 US!

Although I am far from being a foreign currency & exchange expert, it is my opinion that this is an example of “national pricing” where certain commodities or services are priced significantly differently in different markets, based on the ability to pay, relative to macro-economics such as wages, exchange rates and costs of living etc.  In the case of prescription lenses, at less than half the North American price, that price is probably double the equivalent value when the average wage levels in the two markets are factored in. In other words, at North American prices a lot of Mexicans would not be able to afford glasses.

After thanking Jose for his assistance, I had another stop to make before my next appointment that day – I wanted to get my car washed while I was at the Dentist for my annual appointment getting my teeth cleaned.  So I headed over to a front yard car wash stand near my Dentist’s office that I had used before but it was closed (perhaps the fishing was good that day?).  But you are never far from a car wash in Loreto and after driving a few blocks I found another one which was apparently thriving with 3 or 4 men working on several cars.  My full size SUV (Ford Expedition) was very dusty dirty inside and out so I wanted to confirm the cost with one of the guys first for full exterior and interior cleaning - it was going to be the usual 100 Peso charge (about $7.50 US) and it would take about an hour and a half.  That was for two guys spending over an hour almost detailing the car inside and out . . . for less than ten bucks!

I walked back a few blocks to the Office of my Dentist, Dr. Ramos, who has been cleaning my teeth here for at least 5 years, which is the only dental care I have had (or needed) during that time.  I have written about Dr. Ramos before: and although I usually only visit him for my annual cleaning appointment and occasionally see him around town, we have become friendly over the years and I know several readers of this Blog have used his services as a result of previous postings.  As I have written before, here the Dentist does the cleaning, not a hygienist assistant, and the appointment took an hour during which Dr. Ramos did what felt like a very thorough job – while he was making an equally thorough examination of my teeth. 

The cost for the cleaning – 500 Pesos or a little over $40.00 US – about 15% of what I was paying in Canada 5 years ago for a hygienist to spend half the time!  Another example of the substantial difference in costs for the same (or better) services here in Mexico, compared to what they would cost in North America.  Having said that, 500 Pesos for an hour’s work probably puts Dr. Ramos in a similar income level, relative to average wages, as a typical Dentist would be where I came from.

So I left the Dentist’s Office with my tongue working overtime exploring the fresh clean interior sensations of my mouth, and made my way back to the car wash where they were finishing up doing the same job on my truck.  When they were all finished I paid them (with a 20% tip) and enjoyed the “clean car experience” on my way back to Loreto Bay, reflecting on how I was able to ask a friendly store keeper to help me order new lenses for my glasses at less than half the price in Canada, and get my car washed for less than $10 dollars while I was having my teeth cleaned for $40 – and people ask me why I like “Living Loreto”!