Inku
Japan Society of Fairfield County

Culture Watch, Society Watch (16)
by Dr. Ikuko Anjo Jassey


      A man who was standing and receiving people coming out from customs said, "American Express is right there," pointing at a counter. Before we left Connecticut, our AAA agent in Stamford told us that an American Express van would be waiting at the Cancun Airport to take us to our hotel on the Riviera Maya in Yucatan Peninsula. So we went to the counter, expecting that we would be lead to their van. One of four men wearing a white shirt and a tie started a series of questions with if we had a place where we would like to visit. He sounded like an official person providing information for tourism of that area. However, we were wrong. We were ideal ducks carrying a scallion ready to be cooked in a hot pot! As a result, we learned about an eye-opening resort culture.
      The man at the counter continued throwing questions, including my husband's age and our marital status. (I wondered why he needed such personal information.) Having found out that we were interested in visiting Mayan ruins in Tulum, he even gave us advice, saying, "Since its official rate from the Riviera Maya to Tulum is 70-75 dollars, please be careful not to pay more than that." Doesn't he sound like a public servant working for the city's "turismo" office. Now he asked which was our hotel. Then he said, "You are going to stay at Hotel A. That's a nice one. By the way, Hotel B, which is very close from your hotel, will offer you both a free trip to Tulum and Chitchen-Itza, a free brunch, two tickets for a spa of the hotel, and two t-shirts. Why don't you spend a nice day tomorrow at Hotel B? You will still have enough days spending good time at your hotel, won't you?" "Why do you provide these gifts," my husband inquired. "Well, as you know, that hurricane Katrina caused a tremendous damage on the coast line of this area last year and Hotel B was no exception. The restoration of the hotel was finally completed recently. So this is a special campaign to recapture tourists," said he. We paid fifty dollars which would be returned upon our arrival to the hotel on the following day, according to the man, and we left the airport for our hotel in the dusk.
      On the next day, it was supposed to be a beautiful day in any way. Certainly, it was a gorgeous day from a meteorological point of view. So we never expected to be visited by any sort of hurricane, either physically or metaphysically. Anna, who escorted us to our cottage on the previous night, called in the morning and said that she would like to see us. Anna was waiting for us at a special counter with many beautiful photographs of the area decorated. The section definitely gave anyone an impression that people there were in charge of tour information. Anna introduced a woman, a Canadian, who first asked us whether we were married and then my husband's age. So I asked her why she wanted to know such personal information and if it were Mexican culture. She did not answer to this question and swiftly switched the topic, asking, "What are you planning to do today?" My husband responded with "We are going downtown after breakfast." "What are you going to do?" "Did you meet someone at the airport yesterday?" This was the start of her interrogation--yes, I would call it an "interrogation." The Canadian woman continued, "Did the person give you a special deal?" "What did you receive? You don't have to hide it. We are trying to protect you as our guests. Tell me honestly." I felt as if we were criminals. And yet, my husband looked not to be bothered much. She succeeded to pull out the true intention from us of our going downtown. The woman declared convincingly, "We don't want you to leave our hotel to visit another hotel. It's a trick to sell you a time-share. We will give you back fifty dollars and a free trip to Tulum. We want you to fully enjoy our hotel. Why don't you relax today? James will show you around our hotel--even a special quarter where only privileged guests are allowed to access."
      James, who said at the breakfast table that he originally came from Louisiana, showed us around, trying hard to sell us a membership of the hotel on a white-sand beach. Righto! He certainly did not attempt to sell a time-share. But he did his best to sell a membership. What's the difference between selling a time-share and selling a membership, pretending they are protecting their guests from "bad people"? Moreover, didn't those hotel people violate the right of their guests who had chosen the hotel to be relaxed? Did the hotel pay for our trip to Tulum? Well, they paid partially. What happened to the fifty dollars she promised, are you asking? She ignored it, perhaps because we did not purchase a membership. (We decided not to say anything to her about the fifty dollars.)
      Thus having been baptized with "manipulative" Riviera Mayan water, we came back to Connecticut as a little bit more prudent people. This experience was unpleasant enough for us to lose our interest in going back to a Mexican resort, though the Caribbean Sea was certainly enchanting and the ruins of Mayan civilization were truly worth the visit.

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