Monday, January 08, 2018

hoping for change

My village has a change problem.

Not that the village is opposed to change. Quite the contrary. The villages around our bay live off of tourist pesos. And the residents are constantly looking for new ways to entertain tourists while receiving pesos in exchange.

It is the pesos that is the problem.

Most of the residents and visitors rely on access to money through two Banamex ATMs. One in Barra de Navidad. The other in San Patricio. During high tourist visits, long lines form at each of the ATMs -- when they are working.

And what comes out? If I request $6,000 (Mx), the machine gives me two $100 notes, four $200 notes, and ten $500 notes. The bank's explanation is that the reliance on $500 notes is to cut down on the number of times the machines need to be refilled during high usage periods.

It is the $500 notes that cause the problem in our economy. Very few purchases add up to $500. That leaves customers in the position of handing a large note to the proprietor of a small shop. And the customer (often a northern tourist) cannot understand why the shop has no change. The answer to that is because the previous customer paid with a $500 note and then wandered off with all of the shopkeeper's change.

I was having lunch today at a local restaurant where the staff knows me. One group of northerners at a table next to mine paid for their bill with a $500 note. The restaurant did not have enough change. So, the waiter asked me to change it.

A few minutes later, the same waiter stopped at my table holding a portrait of Miguel Hidalgo. Another group of northerners were paying for their meal with a large note -- this time, a $1,000 note. Same routine. I changed it.

I was doubly surprised by the $1,000 note. First, that it existed in our little town. It is only the second one I have seen here in the nine years I have lived on the bay. (They are as common as tortillas in places like San Miguel de Allende. But not here.) Second, that anyone could have imagined that a little restaurant would have change for a bill that size.

Because I live here, I do not bother carrying around $500 notes. They are a nuisance to everyone. And are almost as useless as currency as carrying around Confederate script. Granny Clampett does not live here.

As soon as I get my handful of $500 notes from the ATM, I immediately get in line at the bank and convert all of them into $100 or $200 notes. It takes a little extra time, but it also keeps me from over-complicating other people's lives. People who are usually eking out a living as entrepreneurs.

Admittedly, my solution has its rough spots, as well. Three times last month, I went to the bank to get change and I was told the tellers had none. Sure enough. The teller opened his drawer. It was filled with nothing but $500 notes -- just like the ATM.

So, that is my suggestion. Be a good neighbor and get your change at the source. It takes a little more time, but you will be seen as a courteous customer rather than someone draining a shopkeeper's meager change reserves.

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