Facing me just eighty feet, three inches down from my front door is a little corner grocery store. I know that distance to be true because many a time have I sat on my front step drinking my morning coffee, looked down the street at the front door of the store and thought to myself: “that door is exactly the distance from me as a ultimate frisbee field.” In fact, that’s just what I was doing this morning when I saw the shopkeeper stick his head out and beckon emphatically for me to come down.
So I strolled on over to see what he wanted, and as it turns out, what he wanted was to show me three small bottles of maple-flavored syrup sitting proudly on his shelf. See, just a few days earlier I had gone in there asking for maple-flavored syrup (unfortunately for a maple syrup lover like myself, maple-flavored corn syrup is the best you can do for your pancakes here) and he had lamentably told me that he didn’t stock it. But quite clearly in response to my request, he had quickly set himself to rectifying the problem. And so, even though I had since managed to find a bottle of syrup at another store, I was so impressed and flattered by his effort that I bought a bottle from him anyway.
And that’s why I love my little corner store; because this guy knows what customer service is all about. Every time I go in there, he jumps up eager to take my request or to apologize in advance that the price of milk has gone up 50 centavos because his pendejo supplier is sticking it to him again. Sometimes he even tosses a little extra treat like a candy or stick of gum in my order to apologize for a sudden price change. And if I need a stick of butter at 11 p.m. but don’t have any cash on hand, no problem! Just bring it by when you have it, he’ll say. So of course I make every effort to do as much of my shopping as I can in his shop, which is actually quite easy to do since he’s somehow managed to cram everything from Doritos to toilet plungers to fresh bread to rubber gloves to 15 different types of canned chilies into his little 10 foot-by-10 foot space.
In fact, I’ve become such a loyal customer that I’ll even experience feelings of guilt when I shop at another store. When I do shop at another store, I make sure to approach my door from the opposite end of the street from the corner store and I make sure the bag of groceries is well-obscured behind my back.Sadly, this customer-shop owner relationship is something that has been rapidly disappearing in the states, for of course the mom-and-pop store is rapidly disappearing as well.
Where I’m from in the US, if you run out of milk, you need to get in your car to drive to some hideously generic chain mart where you’ll be waited on by a stoned-out teenager making minimum wage who couldn’t care less whether or not he can help you. But here in Mexico, the mom-and-pop store is alive and well on virtually every block of every city and town in the country. At least it’s alive and well for now. Last fall I read a news article that said that ever-expanding Wal-Mart now controls forty percent of the retail market in Mexico. And there was a quote from some Wal-Mart Mexico executive saying that their biggest rival was still the small, independent shop owner, but that they thought that this was a corner of the market where they could really start to make some inroads process.
I love my tienda...