Monday, March 23, 2015

Went to Santa Fe in West Mexico City yesterday. Some observations.

I spent the entire day yesterday in Mexico City.  I went with my landlord(s) to renew a rental agreement on an apartment they manage in the south part of the city.  Because it was Mexico City, and apartments seem to rent withing seconds, the renewal took about 15 minutes to  complete, and then we were off to the San Jeronimo and Santa Fe area to have lunch at the Olive Garden.  The restaurant was located on the rooftop of and exclusive mall in this very rich area.

We had a fantastic lunch, and the prices were relatively inexpensive.  During lunch, my friend Raul told me that at the other side of the mall were the cheap restaurants like McDonalds, etc.  Anyway, after lunch, we wandered throughout the 4 story mall, and our first stop was the indoor skating rink.  It brought back memories of Canada.

As we walked through the various floors of the mall, Raul stopped at a small real estate booth and grabbed some information on apartments in the area.  Most start at about 2,000,000 (that's US dollars, not pesos), and all I could do was laugh.  We also saw a very sporty BMW on display, and the sales girls zeroed in on me, thinking I was rich or something, and we got one of their cards.

Continuing on, I noticed a lady walk by escorting three noisy children.  At the time, I didn't notice the man following them dressed in a nice black suit.  Raul pointed out that the lady was obviously an extremely wealth Jewish lady, and the man following was their bodyguard.  And here I thought I was an observant guy.  Raul also explained that her marriage was undoubtedly arranged for her at an early age, and they probably had their limosine and driver waiting for them down in the valet parking lot.

These super rich people really impressed Raul, but I didn't seem to find them anything special at all.  So what if they have million dollar houses filled with gold, money can't buy everything.  But I guess it can help in many ways.  Oh, almost forgot, on the way to the mall we witnessed a car make a retorno (cars make u-turns instead of having left turn lanes), and the turn around was so steep that the car's right front tire literally came off the pavement about 3 feet.  I laughed as we drove by, thinking that the poor city workers got even with these rich, but leaving holes in their streets so their BMW's and Mercedes fell apart sooner.

I must say, it was strange to see multimillion dollar structures on one side of the street, and poverty and little shacks on the other.  Only in Mexico.  As we drove back to Cuernavaca in our 2006 compact Chevy, I felt almost normal again.  The rich Jewish people in Mexico can keep their high prices.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What kind of writer are you? The Essayist

The Essayist - I looked up the dictionary definition of this today, and it was very informative.  An essayist is 'a person that writes essays'.  Now I understand.  Clear as mud.

Actually what I later discovered was, an essayist is someone who writes, in their opinion, about a multitude of topics.  They can concentrate on the more profound and intellectual topics we humans experience, or just provide their opinions on the less extraordinary things found in our daily lives.  They can write in prose or verse, but prose is the normal.

Because these essays are the writers own opinions or reflections, they are open to discussion or criticism by those with different outlooks on the subject.  I think most modern day essayists can be found writing articles for magazines and periodicals.  I generally don't read these types of prose, however, there are some that I believe I read everyday without actually realizing it.

For instance, bloggers commenting on current new articles, that write numerous paragraphs explaining their opinion on subjects can be considered essayists - although many of their essays are quite short in length.  One useful essayist I find in my work as a novel writer, is the critic or reviewer.  These kind folks analyse a writers work, and write an essay outlining their opinions of it's value.  Other essayists write reviews of products we use in our normal daily lives.

When I first started investigating the essayist, I had assumed that they were simply opinionated writers trying to prove their arrogance by writing intellectual pieces on a variety of intellectual topics.  How wrong I was.  They are actually quite useful in today's society.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Transfer of car ownership in Mexico.

Well I renewed my Mexican Driver Licence for another year recently; then proceeded to buy a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire from my Landlord in Cuernavaca.  I think I got a good deal, and paid approximately 2,500 Cdn for the car.  It needed a few repairs, but is in perfect working condition now.  Remember if you are buying a car in Mexico, stick with the older models of Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler and of course Volkswagen.  Also remember if you happen to buy a new vehicle, the Dealership repair shops are rip-offs.  Find a good cheap mechanic instead.

So, I finished paying off the car a few days ago, and it was time to do the transfer of ownership.  Instead of going to the main office up north, we decided to go to the central, and much smaller, office downtown.  I'm not sure if it was a mistake or not because it was quite busy too.  Also, let me mention, that one of my fellow tenants last year was an employee responsible for installing the new, improved computer system for these types of transactions.  I heard the company sold the system to the Government for 50,000,000 pesos (about 4 million dollars Cdn), and I must say, it sucks.

Outside the office was a photocopy business, and they are making a fortune.  Any vehicle transfer involves at least 5-10 photocopies, and we were not excluded.  We needed a copy of the registration, a copy of my Temporary Resident card, a copy of the original vehicle registration from the dealer, and copies of the past 5 years of tax receipts.  Taxes must be paid annually on all vehicles, but used vehicles are much less.  Mine was 250 pesos per year, and this amount decreases as the vehicle gets older.

We first joined the long information line with all of our original forms and copies.  After about a half hour, we reached the first clerk, and she handed us a new form to enter the ownership transfer information.  The bill of sale was not sufficient.

We then had to join the second lineup to get these forms processed.  Because my Resident photocopy was not adequate, I had to run next door to the photocopy store and get an enlargement of it.  This took some time, and meanwhile, Raul waited with this second clerk to ensure they continued with the processing.  The clerks had trouble with the new system, and then after about an hour of waiting, instructed us to go to the photocopy store and use their internet to obtain a Mexican form stating I was a Mexican citizen - which I'm not.  Raul told them this, but they insisted.

We both went next door and obtained a printout stating that I wasn't Mexican, but I was assigned a temporary tax number anyway.  After about another hour of the clerk entering and re-entering this data, we finally got the transfer document and the estimate of cost of the transfer.  It included a 350 pesos amount for the transfer tax, a 250 peso amount for the 2015 taxes and a 147 amount for the transfer itself.

Then we proceeded to lineup number 3.  This was a much shorter line, fortunately, and I was able to use Visa to make the payment.  I was then given two more forms showing the payment and then we went to line number 4.  The last one, but much longer than all of the preceding lines.  I stood in this line and inched forward for just over an hour, and we finally reached the clerks.  Fortunately a clerk from lineup #2 moved over to this lineup to give the clerks a hand.  This seemed to move the line ahead a little faster thank goodness.

After re-entering all the information one last time, I was given a form to sign and enter my cell number; and was then given my registration form and 2015 tax decal (which had to later be applied to my back window of the car.  Total time for this transaction was about 5 hours.  I must say that I wasn't impressed with this new computer system.  But I must also say - it was an experience.  Hopefully paying the 2016 taxes will go a little faster next year.

Oh, one last thing, one of the problems they had at lineup #2 was that I only have one last name.  The computer system was designed for Mexicans, who have two last names (father and mother).  So my last name on the registration now ends with XXX.  Too funny, but at least now, I finally own the car.  Now to file all the original forms in a safe place at home so no one steals them.  If they have the original registration from the dealer, they own my car.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club

A few years ago, my sister visited Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic and fell in love with not only it, but one of it's residents.  She visited the relatively new Lifestyles Resort and she and her girlfriend attended one of the sales meetings.  That is if you can call a Time Slime pressure sales tactics a meeting.  My sister told me about this fantastic investment and I told her it sounded like a glorified Time Share.  She disagreed.

Now my sister and her friend are not stupid people by any means, but finding oneself on a beautiful island, enjoying a fantastic well-deserved holiday with music and drinks, tends to clouds one's judgement a little.  Needless to say, they both ended up buying memberships to the club for 50 years.  My sister bought the gold membership (I believe) for approximately $35,000, paying 1/2 down and committing to payments for the balance.  Her friend paid a little more for the platinum membership.

It wasn't long after that the 'Club' enticed them into buying one of and exclusive 50 shares in the resort; with promises of far greater benefits while vacationing, and not only that, the opportunity to put their shares to work for them in the form of a rental business.  The cost was only a minimal $85,000, and after a discussion back in Canada, the girls decided to buy in and form a business to recover their investment.

The promises made were:
1. Only 50 shareholders in the club
2. Dividends paid annually at $5,000 per share
3. Unlimited access to certain VIP beaches and restaurants only for shareholders
4. Availability of Villas and Cart Transportation on all of their vacations.

5 Years Later, what they got:
1. Almost 1,000 shareholders in the club
2. Dividends given in benefits at the resort, not cash
3. Now there are 1,000 shareholders using the VIP beaches and restaurants, not 50
4. Villas and Carts have to be fought for, and reservations not honored.

The girls have now discovered that they were given a false set of goods, and that their investment will not pay off in the way they had hoped.  The only way they can recover any of their money is to plan vacations at the resort (during non-peak periods to take advantage of their benefits), and use their dividends to pay their villa fees and all-inclusive fees.  At least in this way they can recover at least some of their investment.  They could still send guests using their share, but with services declining because of  increased numbers of shareholders, they would be embarrassed to send anyone.

I understand the owner, who lives on the resort some of the time, now has bodyguards on a 24 hour basis.  I think he needs them.

The moral of the story - don't be pressured into buying into these schemes.  Take a break from the salesmen and give it some serious thought.  Some people do like this form of vacation.  Finally, get everything in writing, and don't let them distract you when reading the contract.  I think I prefer living in Mexico for 7 months a year on just under $5,000.