Saturday, May 19, 2018

does that translate to hugs and kisses?

You all know the question. We have all asked it.

You see some new construction in your neighborhood. The first thing you want to know is: "What is it going to be?"

About a month ago, a construction crew started clearing off a block-long lot on the main street through our part of town. Just two blocks from my house.

Within days, trenches for the foundation were dug and dump trucks had delivered large rocks to fill the trenches. The footprint looked far to big to be a residence, and most of the other buildings that face the street in the area are commercial. So, I assumed it was going to be a series of shops.

When I asked who I assumed was the foreman, he confirmed my guess. But, he very firmly added it was just one shop.

That struck me as odd. In the other blocks, there is room for five or six shops. But I did not think about it anymore.

What I did do was watch how quickly the floor was poured and how the basic walls went up just as quickly. The crew obviously knew what they were doing.

Then, I saw it. A new sign has been posted on the wall of the construction site -- offering good wages and benefits for the employees of the new store. An Oxxo. A convenience store.

I assume that Oxxo (and its local rival Kiosko) must do some sort of market studies before they build new stores. When I moved to this area, there was just one. At a gas station on the road to Guadalajara. Melaque now hosts several. Even little Barra de Navidad has two Oxxos and a Kisoko. Now, we will have a third Oxxo.

Like all change, this store will have its opponents. The front line fighters will be northerners. Most of them moved away from their home countries in search of less modernity (even though they are prone to get rather cranky about local customs like loud music and fireworks).

But, there will be some neighborhood opposition, as well. Mainly from the owners of the line of abarrotes (small grocery stores) that line our main street. There are at least six, but I may have forgotten one or two. (I should point out that every Mexican neighbor I talked with gave the new store a thumbs up.)

Oxxo and Kiosko are not exactly competitors with the abarrotes. The abarrotes sell a far wider range of products. Where they do compete is for beverages and snacks -- the life blood of convenience stores.

There is an Oxxo and and a Kiosko within walking distance of my house. The only thing I regularly buy at the Kiosko is my brand of bottled water. Santorini. It is not delivered to my neighborhood, and none of the abarrotes carry that brand.

I do not patronize the Oxxo at the entrance of Barra de Navidad because the staff there are concurrently indifferent and a bit arrogant. The staff at the Kiosko know me by name, know the products I prefer, and always pretend they are happy to see me.

That makes a world of difference. Relationships often trump price in Mexico. That is one reason the abarrotes are vulnerable to convenience stores. They do not compete in price. All of them sell the same product at the same price, and, if that product is offered at a convenience store, it will always be more expensive at the abarrotes.

Difference in attitudes toward customers is true for some abarrotes. Some are run by owners who seem to personally care about their customers. Some seem to see customers as an interruption in their day.

The abarrote nearest to my house is convenient. But that is not why I shop there. The owner always keeps me informed when she will be getting fresh shipments. And she actually laughs at my lame jokes. At my age, these things matter.

So, I will welcome the Oxxo to the neighborhood. It will be more convenient for lugging Santorini water bottles home. And I will now be able to pay my electric, internet, and cellular telephone bills by just walking down the block. Of course, if the staff proves to be as surly as the other Oxxo, my bill-paying and water purchases will remain at Kiosko.

And I will continue doing most of my local grocery shopping at my favorite little store, where I am known by my greeting -- "practiamente perfecto."

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