Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
Shopping in Mexico
I confess, I was born without the shopping gene. When we lived in the USA, if it couldn’t be ordered online and delivered to my door, I didn’t buy it. For me, shopping is an endless, glamour less, thankless job that has got to be done.
I found no joy cruising parking lots in search of the illusive parking space, battling crowds, or standing in checkout lanes. Online shopping saved me. I could sit at home, in my PJ’s at 3:00 a.m. and place my grocery order for delivery the next afternoon.
But now that I live in Mexico I’ve had to get used to shopping in person. When I started shopping here, I went to the grocery stores, and found small selections of items. Instead of a block-long isle with every conceivable type of cereal ever imagined, there was a small isle with a few basic selections. Shopping in grocery stores in the United States you could choose between about 300 varieties of cereal, or ketchup in huge, large, small or sample sizes. Here in the Mexican stores, there seem to be two sizes: small and smaller.
Back in the good old USA, the professional marketers take everything into account: the store layout, the lighting, and accessibility. Never, ever in the USA would you find the bakery section next to the fresh fish. It just would never happen. And merchandise was rarely moved around inside the stores. I could find Minute Rice in my old store with my eyes closed. Here? It is always a guess. It was in isle 3 last week, and in isle 5 this week…if it is in stock at all.
Stock? That is a completely different topic. I’ve learned to be very flexible with “brand names.” For those of you who don’t live in Mexico all year long, you probably don’t know that we can only buy certain items during the “high” season. And speaking of seasons, we all know that you can only get good prices on certain items when they are “in season.” I just was surprised to learn that ice cream has a “season” here.
Now some may read this and see this as complaining. No, not really. Because as time has gone on, I’ve been able to understand a few things, and I’ve been embarrassed when I figured them out.
First, it is a very sad statement on our lifestyle in the USA that we even have 300 kinds of cereal. Do we really need 300 different kinds of cereal? Our grocery stores there are a testament to excess. Packaging was my next discovery. I couldn’t understand why they only had small packages available in the stores. There I was, thinking like an American. Then I saw a Mexican mother walk into our small abarrotes, and ask to buy two disposable diapers. Not two boxes, two diapers. Then it hit me—so many of the Mexicans can’t afford to buy food and household goods in large quantities. With an average daily wage of $53 pesos per day, many can only afford to buy what they need for that day. Some days they can afford no food at all.
Suddenly shopping seems more like a privilege.