Monthly Archives: May 2011

Customer Service – Steren Galerias – Parts I and II

Part I

Yours truly has an older model car which does not feature a ‘line-in’ plug for new-fangled technology such as an iPod or other portable MP3 player. Using a combination charger and FM transmitter, which sends the signal to your FM radio, has so far been the solution to getting the iPod to work in the car. A tip from my local car audio expert, whom I visited out of desperation when I became disgusted with the constant interference from other vehicles and local radio stations and asked to install a plug, led me to the Steren electronics shop in the Galeria Mall. This is the mall with the Liverpool store and an ice-skating rink for those who are only familiar with the ‘real’ Merida.

Steren is kind of like the Mexican version of Radio Shack, with equally oriental-made products of dubious durability at rock bottom prices and locations around the country and the Galeria mall location is their latest incarnation in Merida.

I was blown away when entering the store, the employee actually got up from his seat behind the counter and wished me a pleasant afternoon and asked how he could help me. I explained my predicament and he immediately showed me the product I was looking for (a cassette adapter with a plug for an iPod) and charged me a whopping $58 pesos (about 5 bucks).

Very happy, I returned to my ancient mode of transport and installed the item, which worked like a charm. Music sounded almost CD quality and there was no interference whatsoever. I was one satisfied customer, impressed both by the service at this store, the product and its ridiculous low price.

Part II

After a full day of driving to Cancun and back, my new little gadget balked at such abuse and started ejecting itself from my cars cassette player. No amount of inserting could convince the little Chinese gadget to remain in place and it was back to the FM transmitter option for the rest of the day.

The next morning, I returned to the same Steren location to let them know that the product was not working. Of the four employees seated around the counter, no one was particularly empathetic (I suppose they have low expectations for their product and the news that yet another had failed seemed like no surprise to anyone) and after looking at the item, which has a large STEREN emblazoned on it, the employee who I was dealing with said they could change it but only if I only brought in the receipt and the packaging. I said that I had thrown these valuable materials out (who keeps this stuff for a 5 dollar purchase?) and he sadly shook his head and repeated that this was the only way he could accept it and give me a replacement. It’s because we need to know where you bought it. I replied that I had bought it 48 hours ago in this very store and he went into the back where apparently there was another, 5th employee of the management sort, who invisibly confirmed the sad news. Sad for me, the customer, the four employees out front were not affected in any way.

“OK” says I “let me buy a new one”

Once I had paid the new item, I took it out of its packaging, handed the note and package to the employee and said “I would like to have a replacement, the product is defective”

They all looked at each other with concern, but realizing that their little rule had been followed to the letter, accepted the defective product and gave me a replacement.

This was possible with a 5 dollar product, but what if it had been a larger-ticket item?

As a customer, I could care less about the internal inventory concerns that Steren might or might not have if they replace my product that is defective, especially when there is no doubt whatsoever that it is indeed a Steren product. Having the customer jump through silly rules because it’s comfortable/easier for them is not customer service. Better to say that our products may or may not work, and there are no returns because we are not set up for the hassle.

Caveat Emptor.

Vivero Fun

One activity I enjoy here in the Yucatan is a visit to the local nursery; not the ones with the screaming babies but the ones with the plants, flowers and trees. I have always thought that it would be fantastic to have a nursery on each block (or every two blocks, like an OXXO) to provide a shady, oxygen producing oasis for the surrounding concrete misery that makes up so much of Merida’s new fraccionamientos.

These photos were taken this morning at the Verde Vivo nursery, albeit with a phone camera so they are not that great, but you can still get an idea of all the color and exotic greenery that is available out there.

While we are on the subject of Vegetation…

I have this palm variety in my backyard, a shorter plant, that at this time of the year produces fruit in the form of berries. Each morning I wake up and see them lit up in the morning light just outside my window. I think the photo below (the one that is bright orange) captures the beauty of these little guys quite nicely; if anyone knows what the plant is, let me know!

El Chaka – A Yucatecan Tree with Papery Bark

The Chaka (chah-KAH) tree is found everywhere in the Yucatan and can be identified by its papery, red colored bark which seems to be suffering from some sort of skin disease as it is constantly shedding. Many locals consider it an ‘acceptable’ tree to leave on ones property when clearing in preparation for building a new home. While the other endemic varieties such as chukun, catzin and even the honey-producing dzidilche are considered ‘undesirable’ because they either have thorns (like you are going to be climbing these trees every afternoon) or produce garbage (in the form of leaves, the horror), the chaka is left because it has neither thorns nor a huge amount of leaves and many think it is attractive (which it is). So, when coming upon a cleared lot you will often find that the chakas have been left standing as solitary reminders that some native trees are more desirable than others and testament to the owners – or in many cases the architects – somewhat tepid desire to preserve at least some of the local vegetation.

Unfortunately, the chaka is a soft wood whose root structure seems to be largely superficial and in my time here in the Yucatan, which has included observing the passage of more than one major hurricane, I have noticed that the chakas, when left surrounded by their more hardy, deep-root, neighboring trees, survive strong winds much more handily than when left alone to fend for themselves. Standing alone, they easily succumb to a strong gust of wind which snaps their branches and if the gale strong enough, uproots them entirely.

You can read up on the chaka here (en español) but in a nutshell it says that the tree is indigenous to the area, and its leaves are used for medicinal purposes (curative baths for fevers, according to this site), its wood for carving (although most wood carvers will use other, harder wood varieties) and as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens.

I have several in the backyard and here are some photos of their trunks and bark, which I find quite interesting.

Rafaellos Pizza

One word: Go!

Well, that (above) was the original post. Pizza, the Casual Restaurant Critic has found, is like wine or your favorite sexual position; everyone has an opinion and they are convinced that their choice is the best. If you like your pizzas with an ultra thin crust, baked to perfection in a wood fired oven to the point where they have little pockets of black charring in some places on the crust, covered with ingredients of the finest quality including delicious meats like Italian sausage, salamis and prosciutto and fine cheeses from Gorgonzola to Parmigiano, then Rafaellos Pizzeria will be your pizzeria of choice from now on.

The Critic has often said that Bostons Pizza makes what is probably Meridas best pizza, and theirs is still a very satisfying option; so much better than the drab, flavorless ultra-hyped pizze mass-produced by Dominos and Pizza Hut, but now this Rafaellos is firmly tied for top spot in the Merida’s Best Pizza category.

The restaurant is tiny and open in the evenings only; there is a small air conditioner that struggles to keep the place cool and the tables are wooden and it just feels like an Italian neighborhood pizza joint, complete with the Italian pizza chef in the kitchen.

The photo below is of the 4 cheese pizza with anchovies. Yum!

Calle 60 at 49.


That New Meat Place with Giant Skewers next to Walmart

How’s that for a title?

Either the Critic was too distracted or never did find out the name of this “Brazilian” rodizio-style meat restaurant located in the City Center mall (Merida not Vegas) , just off the periferico and at the entrance to Walmart. UPDATE: Thanks to the Critics good friend, the intrepid Juanita, the name of this restaurant is ASADO BRASIL.

In any case, he accompanied the always better-looking and better-humored Better Half and another couple there for lunch. As usual, the restaurant was packed with hungry and motivated Yucatecan meat lovers, out to get their money’s worth of the all you can eat menu.

The overall impression is that the place is decent enough, although it is extremely noisy due to an excess of hard surfaces and two televisions (one with sappy telenovelas, the other with a raucous futbol game) and is somewhat charm-challenged. This doesn’t seem to be deterring anyone from having a grand old time however.

The salad bar, a term optimistic at best in this case, is a sparse arrangement of very basic items like lettuce, tomatoes and peppers arranged along one wall with a minimum of grace and fanfare. Just a 12 inch protruding shelf with the smallest of home-made glass acting – not very successfully – as a sneeze guard. The Critic stood in front of this rather sad display for some time before deciding that nothing appealed to him at all, except maybe for a few slices of tomato to offset the meat to come.

The meat, brought out on skewers and carved with a sharp knife in front of your face, is excellent. Everything from chicken and arrachera to pork to sirloin to a truly succulent slice of picaña; and you can eat and repeat as much and as many times as you want. Apparently, the price hovers in the $180 per person range, which is not unreasonable given the amount and quality of meat.

The service was a little lackadaisical at first, but the meat carving specialist, from Argentina apparently, was a joker as was his assistant and made the meal quite entertaining.

For desserts, there is ice cream and some bananas on the salad bar display thing with thick, sweetened Nestle milk to pour over them if you need a real sugar fix after your protein overload.

Would the Critic go back? Sure. Just don’t expect fine dining.