Avoiding the Hawkers

By David Simmonds 

We’ve all been there, right?. You have just spent a day and a half dealing with airports, unplanned layovers and flight delays, knee-destroying plane seats, humorless flight personnel, lost luggage, a view-room that overlooks a parking lot…but it’s OK, because now you’re on the beach, settling into a bright-blue wooden beach chair with a cold Pacifico floating in a bucket of ice and a fresh shrimp cocktail on order. Your heart beat clicks down to about 120 as you gaze out to sea as all your life troubles suddenly seem trivial, or at least manageable. Life is damn good. This well-deserved peace lasts about, oh, two minutes, when the first “salesman” squats next to you, welcoming you to paradise, and oh, by the way, how about a nice piece of “real silver” jewelry, and if that doesn’t work he happens to have a line on some good ganja or blow, or his cousin gives a great massage.

 Now most of us don’t want to be rude. After all, the beach hawkers work very hard and make very little. It’s good, honest work (the part about the drugs is actually rare) and they deserve your respect and kindness. But what you really want is to just be left alone to chill with your numb thoughts. So, how do you handle this without being a crass jerk? First, learn these three words of Spanish ” no gracias, amigo (a)”. Say this in a friendly manner, but with no equivocation. And above all, do not so much as glance at their merchandise, unless, of course, you really are in a buying mood. Then you are likely to barter a good price compared to the shops, as there is no storefront overhead for the seller. Once you show any degree of interest you have opened a door that will not easily close. If you can’t remember the three words, gaze straight ahead and simply shake your head. Generally, the same people work the same beach day after day and they all know one another. Eventually, it will be known that you are not a buyer and will be left alone, more or less.

In town it’s the time-share people who you encounter. It varies from beach town to town, but generally they have a small booth on the sidewalk. They might employ a “hook” to entice you, like “free information” or “$25.00 jeep rental”, and like all successful vultures, they can spot you  two blocks away. You, the savvy traveler, have a couple of workable options. One, when you see you are approaching  a sales booth, cross the street. Of course, you could spend way too much time doing this and it increases your chances of getting run over and badly maimed. A better method is to look and act like a local. If they perceive this they will leave you alone. This means walk with a purpose, like you know where you’re going, even though you have no clue. Lose the bright new t-shirt that advertises the local cantina and the straw hat with the multi-colored headband. Try to have tanned legs and arms. If they still come on to you, and you feel obligated to repsond, just say “I live here”. They’ll probably know you’re lying, but they won’t push the conversation.

Then, when you actually move to magical Mexico and find that time-share sales are one of your only employment opportunities, you will despise people like me who share their dubious wisdom.