How To Deal with Pushy Vendors in Mexico

Beach vendor on Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) / Playa de la Sol (Beach of the Sun).
••• Anthony Plummer / Getty Images

Many visitors to Mexico are annoyed by pushy salespeople who try to sell them things they don't want - and sometimes they are put off even when they would like to buy what's offered. Whether sitting on the beach or at an outside cafe, or just walking down the street, vendors will approach you, speak to you and offer you items or services. 

When I first traveled by myself in Mexico, I felt harassed by people constantly trying to sell me things, asking for money, and speaking to me on the street.

After living in Mexico for a few months I returned to Canada for a visit. Walking down the street, I realized that it felt very unfriendly and cold (and I'm not talking about the temperature). In Canada I could walk around all day without a single stranger speaking to me. I had become used to the constant offers from people on the street, and I actually missed it.  

Vendors are a fact of life in Mexico. There are a few different reasons for this. Poverty is part of the equation: many people really have to hustle to make a living, and standing out from the crowd by making your offerings readily available is one way to do that. It's also part of the culture: it's completely normal for people to approach one another on the street and speak to them. 

Strategies for Dealing with Vendors

There are times when vendors are annoying, no matter how you look at it. Here are a few strategies to help you deal with the annoyance of people constantly trying to sell you things.

Ignore them: There are times when you should just ignore them as far as possible, such as when you arrive at a new destination, you feel in any sort of danger, or suspect a scam. In those cases you should just focus on what you're doing and where you need to go. Don't worry about being rude, just block them out as best you can.

 

Have a plan for when you arrive at a new destination: When you arrive at the airport or bus station and you've got a lot of people vying for your attention, it can be disarming and you are in a vulnerable position. Arrange for transportation in advance, or look for the authorized taxi stand to purchase your taxi ticket.

Avoid eye contact: If you're not interested, avoid eye contact. Say "no gracias" without looking at the person, and they will soon get the message and leave. Any further interaction may be taken as a sign of interest, and should be avoided if you would like to be left alone.

Select your spot: Choose spots where there are fewer vendors. Outdoor restaurants and cafes are prime targets for vendors. If you would like to eat or drink without interruption, choose a second-floor restaurant with a balcony or rooftop terrace where you're less likely to be approached by vendors.

Strike up a conversation: Sometimes by starting a conversation with a vendor you can learn about them and their life, and it can be an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding, even if you don't buy anything. Many of them spend their entire day walking around offering their goods to people and are happy for an opportunity to chat.

Appreciate the advantages: Changing your way of looking at vendors, you can appreciate that you don't have to go looking for everything that you want to buy: in some cases, you can sit at an outdoor cafe and the vendors will come to you - it's actually a rather convenient way to shop!