A Gaggle of Waiters Serve Just a Few Customers

Despite our life of luxury and relaxation here in Puerto Morelos, we’re not that far from all of the bad news that keeps piling up in the US. We read the Miami Herald’s Cancun edition and except for the few pages that promote “The Amazing Whale Shark,” or “How Xcaret Park Helps Save Animals,” it’s story after story about contraction, layoffs and sagging indexes.

Last night at dinner we arrived at the normal time to dine here, about 8:35 pm. There were only three other tables occupied, and yet an army of staff awaited us, looking resplendent in their tan uniforms, with very little to do. That’s one of the things we’ve noticed here in Mexico. There are usually far, far too many staff for the amount of work to be done.

In the open air restaurant, we saw a woman sitting at a computer, she was there to ring up the handful of tickets produced for the night. A gaggle of waiters stood around outside smoking and joking, waiting for the slightest wave of the hand to come running. We visited a sunglasses store, a tiny kiosk about 15 feet wide in the La Isla shopping mall. Inside there were six staff, and one customer, all piled into this small space. In boutiques like Colombian Emeralds there were a total of six well-dressed salesman, leaning on the counters serving a total of…two customers.

Is it the unions, a powerful force that demand outsize staffing, in spite of a clear paucity of customers? It made me pause because at our cafe we try to work lean, and I know that the biggest outlay is paying these people leaning on the counters.

We thought about nightmare scenarios, last night on the eve of our departure from this absolute paradise. What do we do if banks call in our loans, if the cafe business dries up to the levels we’ve seen here, or if our advertising schemes wither on the web? It gives me a chill, and I shrug, hoping that it will go away. I’ll fight like hell to keep that from happening, next week when I’m back in my own little salt mine.