I had a plumbing problem a while back. After about a week it was fixed. Below is an image of the crew on the patio in the midst of a critical phase of the project.
You might say, "It took a week? No wonder, it looks like those guys just sat on their backsides drinking Coke and eating chips!"
Actually, the photo was made in the afternoon, normal time for a break, and the adhesive on the newly-installed PVC fittings needed to set before we could crank up the pump and check for leaks under pressure. So actually the guys timed their rest break to coincide with this halt in the work. This scene was all in a day's work, and fine by me.
While waiting for this crew to show up one day, I started thinking about the issue of efficiency and getting things done in Mexico, and a few thoughts came to mind.
The issue of time is a frustration that most expatriates here experience. To be quite frank, sometimes you arrange for a service and the people come hours late or simply don't show up. You sit around the house watching the day slip away, and the guy who you are waiting for to fix the fridge or paint your cabinets probably doesn't think it's a big deal.
Many foreigners move here because the way of life is less stressful, more casual, and "laid back." Americans I know here especially like the "laid back" part -- for themselves -- but some of these same people then want everybody else to stick to a schedule and for things to to happen on time. To those I would paraphrase an old saying in English, "you can't have your flan and eat it, too."
It is possible to find conscientious, punctual workers, but people don't operate in a vacuum. Sometimes there is a domino effect and people will be late, no matter what their intentions, because others on whom they depend hold them up.
Another thing that foreigners who've moved to Mexico may not take into consideration is that culturally we're the oddballs here, living as many of us do as singles or couples without a lot of extended family around. In most Mexican households there are mothers with children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, so someone is usually around. In addition, even middle-class families may have a household employee around during the day. For most Mexican families, a worker being late for a service call or repair job is not the big inconvenience it is for someone who lives alone and has to wait around "wasting time" when a worker doesn't keep an appointment.
The best strategy is to expect a wait, and then plan to do something useful or fun with that time. Prepare to work on projects or hobbies around the house that day so that staying home won't be a big inconvenience. And, if the washing machine repair guy says he will come at 10:00AM, don't commit to a lunch out with friends at noon. Invite your friends over and be ready for interruptions, or reschedule something for another day. And by all means, get the cell phone number of service people so you can check in with them if necessary.
Another way to deal with waiting is if you have a trusted house cleaning person, try when possible to schedule repairs or other services when that person is working. That way you can go about your business while someone else is home waiting for service personnel to show up.
I find that generally although services here are not always as timely as is expected in the U.S., they usually are effective, especially considering that the cost of getting things done is often much more economical. I think it's important to examine your expectations. Define what result is needed. If you want everything to be the same as north of the border you will be unendingly frustrated. If you put the lower costs and more personalized service into perspective, you'll likely find that usually you are getting a pretty good deal. Get recommendations, and once you find good crafts, repair and technical people, stick with them. If you communicate effectively with those working for you and develop a relationship, you'll find that you generally get what you need and that the time factor is manageable.
In the case of this plumbing job, I waited for the crew to get around to me because they have worked for me for years, know the house well, and are trustworthy. I paid 400 pesos or about 33 U.S. dollars to have a check valve at the bottom of my well (which entailed disconnecting and raising a long section of pipe), a damaged valve and a cracked fitting replaced. It took a few days to get it done (they are busy), but the quality of the work is good, and I suspect I would have paid at least several hundred dollars in labor to have the same work done in the states.
Did I wait around some? Yes.
Was it inconvenient? That depends upon your point of view. I've adjusted my expectations a bit. Overall it worked out fine, as far as I'm concerned.