A common experience in Mexico is an agreement changed. Take the other day for an example. We hired a crew of hombres to take down a couple of palm trees. One had died and another was encroaching onto our driveway wherein I could no longer get the car in. It was past time to get the obstructions removed.
Our neighbor had a crew harvesting his coconuts – a seasonal occurrence. Anita seized the opportunity to ask if any of them knew people that could take down our palms – they offered up their service- “When?”
“Just as soon as we finish here; and after lunch”. They came to our casa a short while later. We negotiated a price. It was a bit high in our estimation, but we were not in a position to haggle. We did bargain to the extent of being reassured that the palms would be taken clear down; all remnants would be removed and it would be level or below the driveway surface – agreed!
The two palms came down pretty fast; and hard. There always seems to be more rubbish to haul than in their original form. There were three trips made to remove everything; and they still managed to fill our two garbage barrels. After about an hour and a half they announced they were done – obviously ready to be paid.
We inspected the work. There remained large humps (stumps). These were considerably higher than the agreed terms of leveling them. We balked and they balked back with a final volley that they did not have the proper tool to get the stumps down and further that they would soon dry and then shrink – hmmm – that would be a lot of shrinking.
I decided to pull this line from my arsenal of arguments as it has been used by mordida police on several occasions. “Senor you obviously do not respect our agreement. This is not right.” Mid-excuse this seemed to stymie the jefe. We looked each other in the eyes. I explained I would not pay until our agreed upon conditions had been met. I did this politely without raised voice or any sign of anger – however FIRM.
Anita interceded asking what tool they needed – a long pry bar that could…. “Wait! We have one.” I retrieved ours and now their argument was completely quenched. The truck driver that had only watched left. The supervisor that had barely been involved removed his shirt and got to work; and of course the major working drone dove in.
An hour and a half later again it was announced they were finished. We agreed and paid them.
During all the work at a point when the jefe and truck driver were off loading remnants we struck a deal for the worker to come back the following Tuesday to do some general gardening (recall our gardener had taken his life a couple weeks prior).
As promised the hombre arrived on the day agreed upon. He went to work. I supervised and did grunt labor alongside. Work was mostly standard gardener clean up this weed and trimming that plant. We had a LARGE Bougainvillea plant that was a growing invasion actually bending the bars on one of our security window grates. And the thorns on those things are BRUTAL. We decided to remove it.
We worked together. When a lot of machete pounding against our outer wall happened I stopped the action and brought out the battery operated Dewalt reciprocating saw. Down the plant came. The gardener wrapped the bundles of cuttings with wire including a package of potential firewood for any neighbor wanting to haul it away.
Finally rocks were removed and cleared to accommodate the wider driveway – a short job of relocating some rocks.
A half hour or so before ‘quitting time’ we thought we had done enough and ended the day. The gardener decided he had worked especially hard and demanded a 50% increase in pay. We were taken back as it seemed to be an average workday for us and the previous gardener – not for this hombre he demanded more money. It should be noted it turned out that he lives quite a ways away and had to bus in and back – so we voluntarily paid that additional cost both days. But his rudely exclaimed argument was an unreasonable after-the-fact demand. and threatening.
We said no. We would again pay his travel costs and the agreed upon salary. He sat down as if he was a one man strike – refusing to move. We were leaving and demanded he leave. He said he would return tomorrow for the rest of his money. We suggested that would be a waste of time and expense to come back out here as we had no intention of paying this money. It was all a bit ugly. But not untypical.
Of course we did not see him the next day.
The lesson here is make your deal in advance and stick to it., If mid anything there is a change such as “I don’t do windows” then at that point, BEFORE any work, get the situation resolved. Know that you might be aggressively challenged to up the ante.
We have encountered this situation on several occasions – again recommending getting terms of work and compensation well defined. There are more reality checks coming – so Stay Tuned!