Nov 14, 2009, 6:17 PM
Post #2 of 3
Well, as a visitor to México you really don't even scratch the surface of understanding (how things are done in) México. Reading Ned Crouch's Mexicans and Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code is a good start (as well as Crouch’s webcast from the Library of Congress on this topic). Putting into practice his admonition that one doesn’t say, “They don’t understand,” but instead one says, “I don’t understand,” is harder.
"People didn't return phone calls. They didn't return e-mails." This goes back to the last sentence above. Business, real business, is seldom conducted by phone and certainly not by email in México. That is just a fact of life and there is little you can do to overcome it. Phone calls (assuming the person ever even got the message) aren't returned or emails answered because that customer who is standing or sitting right in front of them comes first! When there are enough customers standing or sitting in front of someone, the phone or email message may grow so old that it's immaterial whether it's answered or not…so it probably isn't answered.
The guy you actually got on the phone didn't reply because he had too many folks who wanted to order in person, and they were (and always will be) more important to him than you are. Particularly when your attitude was typically American, i.e., rude, "We had to stay on top of them ..almost hound them to get anything done....We didn't want to be like that ....be pushy, but we we're forced to." You will never succeed in doing business in México with that attitude.
I order things by email from Mexican suppliers all the time. After I don't get an answer within a couple of days I call them and inquire if they received my email order. When they invariably say they didn't, I immediately re-send the order, wait 15 minutes or so, then call again to see if they got the order and if they had any questions about it. I politely ask if the prices (which I included in my order) were correct, and if not, what were the correct prices. If there is some price or delivery change from my original email, I write a new one using the new information and then go through the same process. It would be much easier to just go there and deal with them face-to-face, but that is not just difficult in my situation, but impossible.
Of course all of this transpires in Spanish. My Spanish isn't all that good, but I can keep it simple and I ALWAYS keep it polite and respectful, e.g., I always use Usted rather than tu, even when speaking to the lowliest secretary and certainly when writing an email. When writing an email it always begins, Estimado Señor XXXXX: or Estimada Señorita XXXXX:
ALL business conducted in México should be kept on this, to us, very, very formal, respectful level. You would never address someone you are doing business with by their first name unless you have become "bosom buddies" AND you are asked to use that form of address. That shipping clerk is always Señor García, never Juan. That secretary is always Señorita Morales, never Rosa. After of enough of this you might find out that Señor Martes really gets your messages from Rosa. But the biggee is that it is YOU who have to change, not the Mexicans you are doing business with. Read Crouch's book!
Just a side note about formality and respectfullness. Under no circumstances would I address my mother-in-law or father-in-law using anything but the respectful, formal Usted and I always address them as Señora or Señor, even though I have known them for almost ten years. That's just the Mexican way.
It's impossible for an American to be too polite or respectful in México, but it's sure easy for an American to be perceived as rude in México. Strive for the former and maybe, just maybe, you can avoid the latter.
(This post was edited by mazbook1 on Nov 14, 2009, 6:23 PM)