Miser in Mexico, Pt. 1


“I want to tell you about Jesus Christ,” says the smiling Mexican giving me a lift to my hotel.

Fuck. I’m almost to the Fiesta Americana Cozumel Dive Resort, a pina colada and a nap. Last thing I need right now is a speech about the Lord.

I smile. “Oh yeah! Jesus! I know all about him.”

“You go to church every Sunday?” Ramon persists.

“Of course,” I replied. “Every Sunday.”

The ride ends. I hop out.

“Jesus loves you!” Ramon calls after me.

“I know!” I yell back, hurrying away from the little red beater that’d saved me a six-dollar cab fare.

Of course Jesus loves me. Jesus would applaud me pissing off the powerful Cozumel taxi-cab union by thumbing, jogging, walking, and panting my way to and from the Fiesta. He’d nod in admiration at how I bitched at Orbitz long enough to get them to throw in an “all-inclusive package” that makes kobi tuna salad, mahi mahi, filet mignon and agua purificada a series of delicacies for which I pay nada. He’d smirk at my rebuff of the street-side vendors calling out “Hey buddy” and hawking fake Cuban cigars as I make a bee-line for Cozumel’s version of Wal-Mart, where 100 percent-agave Mezcal is a paltry $17 a fifth.

Jesus would do Mexico on the cheap, like me. And he’d do it alone, because fuck going with a pal or a woman. They’ll only incite you to drop more coin.

Actually, I would much rather have gone with a pal or a girlfriend, but my friends know better than to spend two weeks with no escape from me, and my last girlfriend dumped me after she’d broken into my e-mail and saw that I’d told the girlfriend before her that I’d save her (the old girlfriend) from a burning building if given the choice between the two.

So I guess I’m kind of an asshole, if you want me to just come right out and say it. But I’m an asshole with a mountain of tips about how to do Mexico, cheap and alone.

By way of background, I’m kind of a low-grade con-artist. Nothing that could get me landed in the joint, mind you. I just like to nickel-and-dime people, especially big companies. Mostly this involves returning stuff I bought years ago at places that have lifetime satisfaction guarantees, because I’m no longer “satisfied” with it. My ex (the e-mail bandit, not the burning building evacuee) and me used to do it together. We called it “white-collar crime.”

It didn’t have to be Mexico, as far as I was concerned. It just had to be warm and cheap. I called travel agents, who told me $800 wouldn’t buy me a 14-night stay in a West Texas trailer park. I scanned web sites for last-minute deals, most of which didn’t offer a two-week package. Then I called the third-world travel agents behind the web sites – you know, the ones to whom good honest rednecks across the country have handed over their jobs in recent years, thanks to globalization.

These people are great. They often speak very little English, so it’s easy to talk fast and trip them up.
I honed in on Cozumel because I’d seen a pretty sweet deal on a stay at the Fiesta Americana, a three-star hotel with a coral reef along its waterfront, instead of a sandy beach. Which means free snorkeling. Beaches are for chumps, anyway.

But instead of clicking “pay now,” I picked up the phone and called. After some “confusion” about the flights and a wait that lasted 30 minutes, I got $150 knocked off the price of the vacation package, because the agent felt bad for keeping me on the phone so long.

Then I googled the hotel, and read in a bunch of reviews that the “all-inclusive” package was worth every penny.

I could have sworn the online travel agent had told me my package was all-inclusive. I’m almost positive.
So I called back, just to make sure everyone was on the same page. To my utter shock and disbelief, my vacation package was not all-inclusive. The $1,310 I’d forked over for a one-stop flight and 14 nights in a reef-front resort only covered the plane ride and the king-sized bed with an ocean view.

I was outraged, as you can imagine. I demanded to speak with a supervisor (who also spoke very little English) and explained carefully that the only reason I’d chosen this particular vacation package is because it was all-inclusive. She said she understood, and that she’d call the hotel to investigate.

Thirty minutes later, the supervisor got back on the phone. She was very sorry for the misunderstanding, she said. If I would simply travel to Mexico and pay $560 for the all-inclusive option myself, then fax her the receipt, she would refund $500 of my package price and send a $70 voucher for my next adventure with Orbitz.

Hmph. Well, I suppose that works.

The all-inclusive gig was worth every penny I didn’t spend on it. Snorkel gear, kayaks, bottled water, Tecate, daquiris, anything off the breakfast, lunch or dinner menus — all gratis, baby. Needless to say, I made my way back to the hotel when it was time to eat.


“My method for saving cash at bars in the states is to refill my shot glasses from the flasks instead of buying new drinks. But that’s a tough scheme to pull off if you’re solo, because the way to “make friends and meet people” is to sit at the bar, where even the busiest of ‘keeps is sure to notice a shot glass that never gets empty.”
-Read Part 2 of “Miser in Mexico”

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