Monday, July 31, 2023


I was pulled over yesterday while pulling my trailer in the city of Pachuco. This is not unusual and we're expecting it to happen more as we head north. The Dodge Charger cop car was filled with several officers, which is how they do this. It's a team effort. The charge, according to the young officer, was driving a vehicle too heavy on the highway, more than 2.5 tons (my truck is less than that). Big rigs and buses zoomed by me while I sat there, engine running, in the rain. 

The thing about something like this, which on its surface is complete bullshit, is that perhaps its true. Perhaps I broke some law. I started texting my buddy who suggested I get him to show me in his law book where this regulation existed. I declined that strategy because the language barrier was going to make it tedious. Meanwhile, the officer took my drivers license. This is when hostage negotiations begin.

Once they have your license, you're going to have to negotiate to get it back. I was informed there was a fine. Sure, a fine, whatever. But if I were to pay his supervisor directly, the fine would only be half. He never told me the amount of the fine, only that I had to pay one. 

I told him, sure, I'll pay the fine, if you give me a receipt. This is code for make it official. He told me he couldn't give me a receipt right now, but if I wanted to come to the police station to pick up my license on Wednesday, I could pay it there and get a receipt. This was a Sunday, I was clearly a traveler, so he figured this would entice me to pay him now.

I told him, sure, I'll come Wednesday, just give me the address. He looked a little surprised I had called his bluff. But really, I would have come back Wednesday.

Well, he said, if you drive north on the tourist corridor, they will check your license periodically, you will need it. I knew this was complete nonsense. I pointed to the GPS screen on my truck and told him I've got about 23 minutes to my destination, I'll take my chances and return Wednesday.

He's not happy about this and goes back to his car to talk to his buddies, which I found out later included his supervisor. Meanwhile I started taking photos. I did this conspicuously, so that they knew I was taking photos. I was documenting mordida, the Mexican form of "commonly occurring petty corruption." 

Within minutes of entering Mexico and seeing my first speed limit sign in kilometers, I was pulled over for mordida. I never even had time to do my half plus 10% on the fly calculations before they nabbed me. I was speeding, they had clocked me, I was dead to rights. I should have gone to the police station to pick up my license and pay the official fine, but I didn't. I paid the cops on the spot in cash, which certainly went into their beer budget. This was in Sonoyta Mexico, which I had to travel through several more times on our trip, eliciting the response from me each time of, "F%#k this sh#$$y little town." I was intent on not paying mordida again, if possible.

We were pulled over again months later in Tultitlan, outside of Mexico City. This time my friends bus was supposedly smoking too much. There is no visual infraction for such thing, as it's a scientifically calculated infraction that would need to be measured at some sort of smog station. This is what he gathered when he insisted they show him the broken ordinance. We spent about an hour there, while they threatened to arrest him and impound his bus. He held his ground and eventually the fine started dropping until they just let him go. We had been warned the police in this town were in cahoots with the cartels and liked to prey on tourists. We should have gone around.

Five years ago we went through the same process, pulled over on a toll road for not having the proper permit for driving in Mexico state. Foreign plated vehicles must apply for this free permit, which is on a Mexican government website, only in Spanish. Knowing you need this is some sort of magic knowledge and acquiring one in a foreign language required an alternate web browser, some serious language fluency and a copy shop. They hate electronic copies. They threatened to impound my Jeep and my buddies truck, fine us a bunch of money, and generally make us miserable. After a couple hours, their demands were reduced to "just buy us dinner," and then in frustration, the cops wandered off, supposedly to find their supervisor. We just drove off, having paid nothing.

Back to my story, I was not arguing the law, not being belligerent. I was warm and comfortable in my truck with the engine running, while this young officer was getting soaked in the rain. He mentioned this and I gave him a somewhat sincere, "Lo siento." I had all the time in the world, which is key to these negotiations. I'll wait until you produce a receipt. I'll come back Wednesday, if you so desire. I will not give you a bribe. 

He asked me if I had been pulled over in Mexico before and I told him, yes, four times. Did you receive a ticket? I smiled and said no. Technically I never got a ticket in that sh#$$y little town.

The supervisor exited the patrol car and immediately covered his face with a shamaugh. He preferred not to be photographed. He walked up to his officer, they spoke a few words, and the supervisor handed me back my license. I wasn't playing. Time to cut their losses and seek out the next victim. 

So amongst my very few complaints about Mexico, we have trash fires, topes (speed bumps), and I need to add mordida to the list. Also, coming in fourth place is fireworks. It's not uncommon to hear random explosions at any time. Just Mexico being Mexico. But bribery is certainly a bigger issue.

Is this all worth it? Is the trouble and fear caused by these interactions worth the trouble? Of course. Mexico is a beautiful country with friendly people and a rich, ancient culture (when they're willing to admit it). I have had no problems with crime (other than cops), no petty theft, no aggressive and often mentally ill panhandlers, and an awful lot of very helpful people who want us to succeed here. I enjoy Mexico quite a bit, but they're never going to get a handle on real crime if they can't get a handle on their cops. You can't turn the people agains the criminals, if they can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. It's a US problem as well, now that I think about it.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Fecal Matters

We're planning to spend next week higher in the mountains of Mexico. Here we will find virtually no services. Most interesting, both RV parks don't have dump stations. The logistical cogs in my head creak into motion as I attempt to figure out how many days I can "reasonably" go without dumping my 38 gallon black tank. Black tanks contain human waste, if you weren't familiar with the term.

The reality of that 38 gallons is it takes about 3 gallons of water as a base. So it's really about 35 gallons. Then there's the fact that the RV gets a bit ... ripe ... at around 55-60% capacity. That's around 17 gallons. We tend to use about 5 gallons of capacity a day, so that's three days of odor free usage. We have tank enzyme treatment, but we're running low, as it's not sold in Mexico. We may splurge with our rations and double up while in the mountains.

There are two RV parks, one for three nights and one for two nights, followed by a full service RV park elsewhere. With planning, we should be fine with our tanks. We've scouted a dumps station we can hit between RV parks, so theoretically we won't need to break camp and go find a place at the first site: three days - move and dump - two days - new RV park with services. Will the dump site be open? Will we fit? We assume so, but it's Mexico. It is what it is. We may have find ourselves searching for a hole that morning.

These logistics are dreaded by a lot of people, who also dread dumping tanks. There are tales of horribly disgusting accidents, and for most older couples, the men almost always end up doing this work. I kinda like it. I've got clear connectors on my hoses so I can see the state of my tanks, potential clogs, and the overall flow. I don't mind the smell and I've never had a black tank accident. Maybe my attitude will change when my hands are covered in other peoples business.

Dump Station

As I write this, I am waiting for the propane truck to arrive. This will be my first propane fill in Mexico. I have two, 30 pound propane tanks and we've completely used one. We use propane primarily for cooking and hot water, and almost nothing for heating this trip. Our maiden voyage of ten days during the winter saw us blow through both tanks, so usage really depends on the season. We're expecting cold temperatures in the mountains, with no power, which means we'll be using the propane heater. This seemed like a good time to fill that empty tank, while contemplating how to dump the others.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Mexico RV Paradox

Mexican RV parks are about infrastructure challenges. My five year mission is to explore Mexico's Pueblos Magicos while being able to work uninterrupted from my RV. To do this I bought a new RV and we installed a pretty slick electrical system for energy independence along with Starlink for Internet. I can go indefinitely on solar, or a few days unplugged, if I need air conditioning. 

In Mexican RV parks, we've seen dangerously low and high power conditions along with complete power outages for days. Today we woke up to clogged sewage lines. Very low water pressure is the norm. When I researched RVing in Mexico I found disappointed campers, people who were not prepared for these situations. Preparing for this trip meant preparing for all these problems.

My RV has survived all these challenges with flying colors. We are currently at an RV park with 15 amp power, basically an extension cord. The mornings are cold, so I'll turn on our electric fireplace, which probably has a 20 amp draw. It takes the 15 amps of power from the RV park and 5 amps from my battery bank, which is recharged in an hour. But there was a cost to all this. 

Not only did I spend a fortunate on the electrical system, but the RV and truck were expensive, which gets us to the paradox. The roads in Mexico are terrible. RVs on these roads rattle apart, mine included. One of the services I look for upon arrival in any RV park is references to RV repair folks. Something has either broken on the last leg of the journey or there's something that wasn't fixed from before. 

RVs get a 10 year import permit for Mexico and the consensus is they will likely be destroyed or close to worthless after 10 years on Mexican roads. The paradox then is that my expensive, prepared RV will be sacrificed during that 10 year permit. This was implied before we started, but the reality of it is hitting home. My original plans were to return four more times, but we recently discussed what that would look like.

We wouldn't come down the coast in summer ever again. It was horribly hot and humid. We wouldn't do short days of 3-4 hours of driving, as that prolongs the pain. I think the coastal route had very bad roads, but I'm told they were not uncommon. I am still holding out hope that we find a way back that isn't as brutal as the way down, a quick toll road from Central Mexico to Texas with nice pavement. I'm told that doesn't exist, but I need to believe for the sake of the next four trips. 

The other option is to just leave the RV here, but since I tow it, I still have to make the long drive. My buddy has a bus, and he could just hop on a plane. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Cactus and Labor Opportunities (Limitations)

One of the nice surprises in Mexico is fresh nopales, or cactus. Since I visited five years ago, I've been eating nopales every morning with breakfast, They're tasty and healthy, especially chopped up in scrambled eggs. However, there's a small problem and it's about labor.

Fresh nopales in the United States tend to be sold in paddles, with the cactus spines still on them. There's really no way to justify the labor of removing the spines as a processing step. The cost of the nopales would need to go beyond a comfortable price for the small local community that eats them. It's not a big community, in fact many restaurants have stopped serving them because the demand is small and they don't stay fresh long enough.

The first time I bought nopales back home, I spent the time to remove the cactus spines, impaling myself a couple times, dicing the nopales, cooking them up to reduce the sticky sap, and well, that was the last time I did that -- and it was just one paddle! What a giant pain in the ass. The second option was to buy them in a jar, and that's what I've been doing for years now. Jarred nopales aren't exactly fresh and they're spiced like the (only) company that sells them wants to spice them.

Nopales in Mexico are different. They're amazingly fresh and sold on the streets. The spines are removed, as the labor to do so is inconsequential. For a couple bucks, you can have a huge supply. I currently have a stash in my freezer, because one bag could feed a giant family for a week. When we went and talked with one of the nopales ladies in the market, she was carefully cutting the nopales into a bag, an extra prep step that again, had an inconsequential cost added to it. She was kind enough to give us an excellent recipe with fresh spices sold nearby. We made a big batch of nopales we've been eating since then. 

So we have the same North American product, sold differently and essentially one viable and the other not viable because of labor costs. As various regions of the United States struggle with different income tiers, this is something to keep in mind. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, while my California minimum wage is $15.50/hour (it's about $1.54 in Mexico). What is good for Idaho, may not work in California. 

This is especially true with high labor activities like selling Magic singles. My $15.50/hour employees are selling in the same market as stores with $7.25/hour employees. It doesn't make much sense for me to compete in that marketplace. Of course, I could buy a machine that does sorting, but those costs need to be factored in agains the $7.25/hour stores. Is it competitive? I bet it is, but I'm not sure. Perhaps we just don't sell Magic singles, much like how you're going to get the spines if you want nopales in the United States. The extra processing step may not be financially viable, even if Magic singles are the healthy add on for the game trade.

Building a Community Around a Brand (Necromunda)

I have ordered most Necromunda products and carried them for a while, but the game isn't really played in my store, so they end up going away. The new edition seemed like a great opportunity to try again. How many times will I try? Well, I had a dozen or so rulebooks sell of the last edition, so I knew there was interest. I thought I might try once again, because as a retailer, this chasing of potential is what I do.

So I ordered half a dozen copies, what I sold in the first six weeks of the last release, and... I was allocated down to one copy. I'm passing on that one copy. For a new game, not allowing me to capitalize on that buzz is death. Worse, imagine a bunch of customers now wanting to play Necromunda in my store, after buying their copies on the Games Workshop website. 

If it were an allocation of one for a 40K release, fine, I'm going to carry 40K regardless. But for a game that I'm trying to reboot? I would rather it not exist at all. Zero seems like the appropriate number. For Games Workshop, this also means I will not be buying any of the subsequent Necromunda releases. It's not out of a sense of spite, just that it's not a game that has proven any sort of traction that might have occurred with rulebook sales.

If you have a Necromunda community, my advice would be to get your one copy, maybe use it as a store copy, and hope to get more later. Let your community beat the hell out of it as they attempt to upgrade their game. However, if you don't sell Necromunda, I don't see why you would want a game sold elsewhere to be played there. I would skip it.

Monday, July 17, 2023

My Purchasing Process

I made a chart to show how I purchase product, as a buyer. This is using my venerable Open to Buy spreadsheet, which tells me how much money I have available to spend. If you're profitable, you can generally follow such a budget without worrying about the bills. If you're somewhat on the margins, it takes more care. This process has grown dramatically for me over the last three years, especially as I've allowed my role as buyer to expand to most of what I do. When I worked the counter, this would have been a nightmare.

Here's how I do it:

Weekly Orders (Mandatory)

It's inconceivable that I wouldn't have enough funds in a week to make at least one order with my Primary distributor (ACD). Usually it's twice a week, sometimes every day. Pre orders with my primary trigger an order at free freight, so not all the orders from my primary are initiated directly by me. I pre order everything, ignore "dailies" and I have enough sales volume to absorb it.

My Secondary (Alliance) almost always gets one order a week, and usually two. Lately they've been getting more than 50% of my restocks and my improved discount reflects this. I have a small number of items pre ordered from my Secondary, usually things I only get from them or special orders where I'm happy to order from multiple vendors to ensure a timely arrival for the customer.

I have a CCG distributor who I specialize for restocks of collectible card games that almost always has stock of what I need (Magazine Exchange). Magex makes it clear precisely what's in inventory, rather than having to call to find out. This works best for me, working remotely, increasingly abroad. I use them once a week at least, sometimes twice.

Asmodee gets a weekly restock, even if there's not enough for free shipping. About 90% of the time there are enough restocks and new releases to trigger an order, but occasionally it will sit until the next week. If I'm concerned about stock outages, I'll order some safety stock from ACD. I place the Asmodee order before ACD.

Games Workshop always gets a weekly restock, with a poor fill rate of about 33%. I order all the new releases except for a few specialty games that nobody wants. Games Workshop makes me work a schedule, as I add new releases on Monday, photos on Saturday, and have to manage pre orders with customers and street dates. If sales were lower, I would consider dropping them because of the friction. At least Asmodee allows me to pre order in advance, rather than requiring just-in-time labor.

Monthly Orders (Nice to Have)

This is where money can be tight. If I'm swimming in CCG product and I'm over budget, I might hold off on these suppliers for a week or two ... or longer. This is often discretionary spending, although if my purchasing budget is flush, it becomes somewhat obligatory

These "Nice to Have" products are what differentiates my store and I consider them crucial to my operation. However, they take a back seat to the bread and butter products I receive from the more frequent distributors.

Besides direct accounts, I have tertiary distributors that tend to fill in holes that get an order once or twice a month.

The Orbiting Filler Suppliers

There are many orbiting suppliers that provide me baubles and wonders that are not really necessary for my store. If the weekly order suppliers are the cake, and the monthly orders the icing, the orbiting suppliers are the sprinkles that make that cake pop. Orders often get triggered when we notice product is gone. Sometimes we notice product is gone and decide that's good, no more of those.

Orbiting suppliers can be ignored for months at a time without ill effect. We have specialty soaps, plushes, toys, various fire and forget Kickstarter projects, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, and so much more. At times there have been upwards of 100 of these suppliers. 

Growing The Budget

As my budget grows, the ordering increases. Orbiting filler suppliers become monthly orders, monthly orders become weekly orders, and weekly orders get placed multiple times a week. If you are one of my suppliers, I suppose moving up categories should be pretty desirable. How do you do that? 

Watch how Game Workshop and Asmodee create a portfolio of products that practically require weekly orders. Both have programs that reward weekly restocks. My distributors are always using sales tactics to get me to place additional or larger orders. One will entice me with a tiny amount of desirable product, knowing their minimum order for free shipping is $750. Others have exclusive products.

As for how stores grow budget. It's like the Steve Martin bit about how to be a millionaire and never pay taxes. First, get a million dollars. Profits need to be reinvested into purchasing budgets. I've been very stingy in the past, until COVID era profits allowed me to triple my inventory. My eyes were opened to how I was staving my business, so since then I've added a healthy amount to my purchasing budget each year.

Anyway, I hope this helps. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Learning Spanish in Mexico

I've been asked twice in Mexico how it's possible I've gotten this far into the country without being fluent in Spanish. In both cases, I was having some language difficulties and an English speaker stepped in to help. I no doubt would have gotten my tacos or been able to buy my fruit eventually without their help, but they were surprised I got as far as I did. 

I'm learning Spanish. I don't know it. I don't not know it. Estoy aprendiendo espanol.  I know enough Spanish to get things done and armed with a translation app on a phone with a local SIM card (because AT&T sucks), I can get the vocabulary I need. On my own a couple weeks ago I was eating at restaurants, I got gas, I bought two car batteries at an auto parts store and had them installed, I went grocery shopping, and I even got my oil changed at the local mechanic. 

Sometimes interactions are smooth and predictable and other times I have to hand my phone to the person I'm talking to and ask them to type what they're saying. It's much easier if you've got time and you're not rushed. You have to be willing to screw up. Occasionally I'll find someone who knows as much English as I know Spanish and we'll gush over each others abilities. Oh, you're English is very good and my Spanish is bad. Oh no, you're doing very well speaking Spanish! We'll bond over finding a crack in the language barrier.

Our last night in Mexico City we ate pizza at a local restaurant and all three occupied tables were speaking English. In a place like Mexico City, every language is spoken. I followed a group of French tourists through the archeological museum and watched when their French speaking tour guide spent extra time on an artifact. He knew what artifacts were important. When they were gone, I would pull out my translation app and snap a photo so I could translate the Spanish to English. "Ahh, that's why he spent so much time on this." In a language fluid environment like Mexico City, this is pretty common. But showing up language limited in a small town can freak people out a bit.

I was at a small produce store a couple days ago in our local town. I brought my fruit up to the counter and pulled out my wallet. This is the universal sign of I am ready to check out. In a supermercado, a large super market, the bored checkout person would ring you up without a word, but in a small town market, there was conversation. I assume it was something like "Did you need any help finding anything or are you ready to check out? This exceeded my language skills and along with the road noise impairing my ability to hear, I was instantly out of my depth. In retrospect, it's what I might have said in my own store.

In the past I would often just go along with something like this, "Si." Yes, let's move this interaction forward. However, I've learned this isn't always helpful, I don't learn anything, and I occasionally get exactly what I don't want. Instead I said, "No entiendo." I don't understand. This resulted in the nightmare scenario of the clerk saying in Spanish, "Hey everyone, this guy doesn't speak Spanish!?" The customers in the store gathered round, they asked if anyone spoke English, and a slightly inconvenienced customer asked that question in English. "How did you even get here without Speaking Spanish?" Ugh.

I drove south. That's how I got here.

Embarrassing situations like this threaten to erase the ten days of successfully fumbling by myself with Spanish, the shopping, restaurants and oil changes. Maybe next time I'll be better prepared, ready to check out with a phrase of my own, like Estoy listo para pagar. I'm ready to pay. Or just Estoy listo. Or maybe in time I'll become more familiar with the Spanish equivalent of "Did you need any help finding anything or are you ready to check out?"

I've been working through the language program Duolingo for about three years and 60 language units. I don't recommend it, and that's because they have a very tiny selection of speaking options. If you want to learn to speak Spanish, practice speaking Spanish. Duolingo fails here. They have an excellent interactive Spanish section where you travel to Mexico City and talk with some students, but you can blow through that in about a week. I've been working with the program for over three years, in anticipation for this trip (along with two other shorter ones we took). 

My plan is to come back to Mexico, fairly soon, and do a language intensive one on one that includes immersion when I'm not in class. Immersion sounded scary before this trip, but it's what I do every day here. Only with immersion will I understand the grocer, including cutting through all the road noise, the occasional muffled speaker with a mask on, and the fact my hearing isn't getting any better. That's really learning Spanish in Mexico.

En el autobus

Thursday, July 13, 2023

It's Fine

I was on the highway through the town of Pรกtzcuaro, on the way to the laundromat. The parking for the businesses is next to the highway slow lane, where the mini buss drivers, in their Toyota Hi-aces, would come within millimeters of you, if you weren't careful. This is their lane. There's incentive to get off the road and park quickly in the tiny parking spaces, to avoid their wrath. 

In front of my laundromat was a single orange cone blocking the only parking space. I quickly moved the truck in front of the cone, jammed it in reverse, and crushed that poor cone as I took the only available space to avoided the minibus wrath. I grabbed the mangled cone from under the running board, smoothed it out, and put it back where I found it. A little worse for wear.

I hadn't noticed him, but an old man had been shoveling filth from the gutter. It was his cone I mangled. Rather than being angry, he looked at me with a bemused smile on his faith and said with a thick accent, "It's fine."

I smiled back at him in appreciation of his understanding of my predicament and said, "It's fine."

"It's fine." He said again, smiling.

"It's fine." I said, with a smile. And dropped off my laundry and went on my way.

And that's how "It's fine" became another one of our regular sayings in Mexico, along with "It is what is is." 

When I complained that every floor in our hotel was un-level, probably from earthquake damage? It's fine.

Today when I barely got the awning in before the wind could tear it off? It's fine.

It's fine is a less infuriating, more accepting, "it is what it is."

Give it a try.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Retail Anthropology

I'm fascinated by shopping in Mexico. In big cities, there is vibrant mall culture. The malls are full of stores, many of them international. Stores that have died in the US still exist in Mexico and Latin America. Sears? Radio Shack? Thrifty? We've got you covered. Malls are full of young people, doing young people things. Malls are not ironic, malls are where it's at. It reminds me of my youth. Many parts of Mexico remind me of my youth in Pennsylvania, or Southern California, both the landscape and the people.

I'm also fascinated by the corner shop. The lady running my corner shop right now will sell me a single egg, which she'll take from an unrefrigerated carton, and sell to me for two pesos, about twelve cents. You can buy a single stalk of celery, if you wish. That might be amusing, but my distributors are happy to sell me a single bottle of paint. Who am I to argue?

The department store is alive and well too. I can buy some shampoo or a motorcycle. My buddy asked the salesman exactly what they needed to sell him a Chinese motorcycle for several hundred dollars. Just an address of some sort and you're on your way. At that price, it's almost disposable for a tourist. You could drive it around for six months and give it to the lady at the corner store. I love department stores. 

By far my favorite shopping experience in Mexico is the indoor markets that stretch on and on. You might start in the meat section, with various animal parts for sale, graduate to the food counters where you can grab a quick meal, end up in the leather and belt section, move on to clothing and textiles, and it just goes on and on. If you need something a vendor doesn't have, they'll walk you over to someone who does. You can just get lost in these multi level fire traps of commerce and I just love it.

What I really love though is wandering these stores myself. My companions shop with a purpose; rushing me along. I shop to answer questions. I want to wander every aisle and wonder about every product. 

There are no self service laundromats in Mexico, yet there are washing machines for sale, including the old drum style my grandmother used. The aisles are full of laundry soaps, so clearly people do their own laundry. So who goes to all these full service laundromats in small towns? They seem so busy. It probably speaks to huge income stratification. Without good Spanish, I can only imagine without asking questions. That's probably for the best.

Sometimes there are secrets. I wanted to buy corn tortillas in the middle of the day in a small town. I went to the tortilleria of course, because that's where they make them. "Oh no," the lady told me,  "We don't have any, try the corner store." It wasn't that they don't sell them to the public, it's that I came too late in the day. You need to know these things. 

I went to the corner store she pointed to and found a ton of flour tortillas but no corn tortillas. I was about to leave when I noticed an unmarked cooler stacked on a milk carton next to the door. What the heck, I peaked inside. Behold, the corn tortillas, still warm to the touch! I bought my corn tortillas, like I knew what I was doing, and was on my way. 

There are some things I just can't get right, like bringing in my bags when I'm grocery shopping. They often don't have single use bags. I end up buying re-usable ones every time, to the point where they're starting to populate the trailer like rabbits. 

Water was a problem for a while, as I originally planned to buy a super expensive filter system, but then decided on a huge, five-gallon water container. Imagine lugging around a 42 pound container of water with you. I gave it away. Now we've figured out that a five liter water container is the perfect size. They sell them in the stores for $1.50. I use it with a USB rechargeable water pump that fits on top. 

My desire to overanalyze products and purchases is often defeated. I needed two new batteries for my truck this week, after one exploded. I did a bunch of research on Project Farm and realized locally I could choose between Walmart batteries or AutoZone batteries. Walmart was an hour away and AutoZone was in town. When I got to AutoZone, my first and second choices weren't available, but I got my third, old school lead acid batteries, like the ones being replaced. AutoZone also installed them for free, something they don't do back home. I recall replacing a battery in Colorado in the rain in my Jeep in an AutoZone parking lot. They let me borrow a socket extension.

When I finally got to Walmart yesterday, they had one, no name battery, which meant that gamble would have failed. If I were at home, I probably would have ordered a fancy brand off Amazon and paid to have it delivered to my doorstep the next day. You learn to compromise in Mexico. Also, because choices are limited, you can focus on your life, rather than the latest toy.

Anyway, I actually buy very little in Mexico other than groceries. I'm not big on souvenirs. I don't shop for craftwork. I do like to take advantage of cheap labor when I can, like my $15 oil change the other day (with the $100 in fancy synthetic oil I brought from home). I'm hoping our next RV park has an RV repair recommendation. My list is growing.