I recently visited Mexico City as part of my job as a grocery company Sales Director operating in the Southwest United States. The goal of the trip was to study Mexican supermarket merchandising so we could apply it to Spanish speaking customers at our stores. Our trip was well directed by a bevy of Mexican representatives of companies who supplied products for our stores here in the states. We stayed at a nice hotel in the very center of the city which in addition to making it convenient for our daily tours also gave us an insider’s view of life in Mexico City.
My first surprise was when the sales reps told us they would arrive at the hotel to take us to breakfast at 10 a.m. Of course, I woke up and was showered, shaved and dressed by 7 a.m. I walked downstairs for coffee and saw most of my co-workers gathered around a large table in the center of the dining room. Our cell phones were pretty much inoperative.
We had previously decided that our boss would call the office several times a day and then notify us Directors if we needed to make any calls to solve problems in our departments. Since we couldn’t use the phone we decided to take a stroll on the blocks about the hotel. At 8:30 in the morning, we found the streets and sidewalks to be very lightly traveled and many closed signs on the doors of street-front businesses. At first, we assumed that the perception we had of Mexico as the “land of manana” was right on the money!
It was only when we began to discuss our stroll around the area that our guides explained that Mexico City was much like European cities. Business began later in the morning and extended into the evening. Meals were eaten in mid-morning, late afternoon and late evening. As we started our tour I began to look at the city through the prism of European cities. Sure enough, the clothing of people on the streets—now that the workday had begun—was stylish, attractive and the people appeared sophisticated and professional.
As we toured the supermarkets, we found them to be clean and heavily stocked with well merchandised products. I was amazed at the amount of fresh produce purchased by what appeared to be almost every customer. We arrived back at the hotel about 7 p.m. and were told we would meet in the lobby to go to dinner at 8 p.m.
By the time we arrived at the restaurant, ordered and received our food it was almost 9 p.m. We finished a leisurely dinner at 10:30 p.m. and then went to several reputable nightclubs afterward. Once again, we were surprised that the night was just getting started and would go as long as we wanted; the European analogy seemed to still apply.
We, however, were beat and went to bed early, at least the Mexican guides thought so.