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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have been here nearly 5 years now - yet we keep having problems when it comes to paying people for their services.

We have a great herrero. He and his group have maybe handled 8-10 projects for us (new ladder to the roof, new screen for the fireplace, diverters for electrical box outside ...) we discuss what needs to be done, he describes what he thinks we should do, we agree on a price, he gets the job done. His wife also comes by to feed the cats when we travel. We pay her about 150 pesos per day for her half hour daily visit. Nice people, honest, no surprises.

We have an albanil. Well actually he may be an apprentice. He works fulltime for someone else. He comes by perhaps every 3 weeks or so for various projects. He also cleans out our cistern and tinaco every year. He keeps inching up his pay. He comes about 9AM on a Saturday. Leaves about 1PM. We are up to 400 pesos/visit.

The garden is our biggest problem area. We inherited a gardener from the previous owner. We were paying him 2500 pesos / month for a weekly visit (up front). Ok - I am a perfectionist - and he did not like that we actually lived here (rather than travelling all the time like the previous owners). We made comments. He said he no longer liked the work. Since then we have tried one guy - recommended by the herrero - 500 pesos / day - but he started showing up at 10:30 AM and couldn't understand why that bothered us. Now we have a crew of 3 that come by every other week for 3 hours. So - 3 people X 3 hours = 700 pesos. They do do a lot of things I can not do myself - although I do mow the lawn.

Today - we tried a new experiment - recommended by a Mexican friend of my wife with a crew of two people to handle the garden. They did show up at 9AM - but they had no equipment of their own. They took a half hour or so off for lunch around 1PM. Came back - it started to rain around 2PM. They stood around for another half hour or so and watched the rain (undercover). I went outside and handed each of them a paintbrush and a can of paint and had them paint the pool bath - while the rain continued. At 4PM they were ready to head out. They had simply thrown the brushes onto some cardboard without cleaning them. I asked them to properly clean the brushes. When it came time to settle up - my wife handed them the 400 pesos she understood was due. No, they said, it is 400 X 2 = 800 pesos. I coughed up another 200 pesos (600 total) and wished them a good life. I should say that one of the guys was probably in his 70s and the other perhaps 30s (1 guy did a lot more work than the other).

We ALWAYS have people sign for any money we give them - even the people who come buy with the truck and fill up our gas tank. BUT - I think we will now start asking people to sign something up front (like a contract) as to what we are getting into.

Sorry for rambling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
400 pesos is the pay in Jalisco for a day for an albañil here in chiapas I pay 200 pesos for the day and 100 peso for a helper..Always discuss the type of work and the pay before anyone starts.
We always do - in the case yesterday I think it was in the wording. "ok so we will pay you 400 pesos for two people for the day" (in Spanish). The sad thing is these guys were recommended by one of my wife's 'best' Mexican girlfriends - and a similar phrase was used when that recommendation was made. Now the woman (who I find a little weird) is upset with my wife.

We are going to put 200 pesos in an envelope and leave it at the front gate for the gardeners to pick up.

Our herrero - who at one point was an albanil - stopped by yesterday. We were hoping he would lay a new plastic electrical tube for our subterranean Telmex line. He saw what we needed done but said he has too much work at the moment. BUT - he has a brother who is an albanil. My wife asked - how much do you think this project will cost ? And the herrerol said - the going rate for an albanil for a day's work is 400 pesos. So there are a couple small projects which should keep him busy for a day...
 

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I think part of the issue is differing expectations of what a "day" means. You seem to mean they show up early and work steadily until ?? I think they see it differently. I know this bothers a lot of expats.
 

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I think part of the issue is differing expectations of what a "day" means. You seem to mean they show up early and work steadily until ?? I think they see it differently. I know this bothers a lot of expats.
At this time I have 16 full time employees, albañiles, chalanes, carpinteros, and there are times when I have a few more. I also hire painters, electricians and plumbers on a contractual basis. A workday for the full time workers here is 8 hours. They show up punctually or they don't work that day. They start at 8 and work until 6 with an hour for breakfast and an hour for comida.

Saturday they work from 8 til 1. Get paid for a full day only if they haven't missed time Monday through Thursday. This can sometimes be an issue with the worker who feels Sat. is double regardless but I have been before the labor board (Conciliación y Arbitraje) and won the case.

IMO, for jobs around the house, for most people like the OP, it is best to negotiate a set price for the work and not a daily wage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
At this time I have 16 full time employees, albañiles, chalanes, carpinteros, and there are times when I have a few more. I also hire painters, electricians and plumbers on a contractual basis. A workday for the full time workers here is 8 hours. They show up punctually or they don't work that day. They start at 8 and work until 6 with an hour for breakfast and an hour for comida.

Saturday they work from 8 til 1. Get paid for a full day only if they haven't missed time Monday through Thursday. This can sometimes be an issue with the worker who feels Sat. is double regardless but I have been before the labor board (Conciliación y Arbitraje) and won the case.

IMO, for jobs around the house, for most people like the OP, it is best to negotiate a set price for the work and not a daily wage.
We have zero full-time employees. I hear you about paying by the job rather than daily - but for things such as the garden - that simply is not possible. I am in decent shape, have a decent work ethic and am a perfectionist. I, myself, could easily put in 4 hours a day X 5 days a week and there would still need to be work done. When someone comes to work in the garden we have a written list of tasks and that list is never completed. So - I mow the lawn (perhaps 1.5-2 hours depending) and edge all the beds etc with the mosquito (perhaps another hour+). I let them trim the tall walls, trim the tall trees, apply the chemicals etc.

When we had our solar panels installed - the guy we purchased the panels from hired his own crew. That worked out well except that his people became a little too comfortable in our back yard - sitting under the palapa by the pool like they were at a resort. I had to remind them that it was our back yard...

We have a 1.5 story house with hundreds of vigas. Last year after the rains stopped we serviced the vigas. A good acquaintance (our mechanic) recommended a guy who had just completed working on his vigas. In the end that job (sanding off the old varnish, filling cracks, applying insecticide, then two coats of varnish) took about 2 months (lets say 4 X 8 hours per week). The boss was about my age and he was a really hard worker. He brought along a relative (500 / day / person). At the end of the first day I told the relative - thanks but no thanks - he was terrible. The boss and I did the work together.

Carpenters here are by far the most expensive people to hire. We always have them quote by the job - but I always feel robbed when the job is done.

We had the septic system serviced earlier this year. We had no idea where all the pipes were laid and had to dig up a good part of the yard (moving fruit trees as required). We went with our regular plumber. That was a 3 person job which lasted 2 weeks (2/3 people 7 hours/day). He under-quoted for a day's labor - and in the end he left most of the pipe laid but open - and my wife and I ended closing up the trenches ourselves. That is an excellent case where we should have agreed upfront on a price for the job - but there was really no telling what was going to be involved.
 

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We had the septic system serviced earlier this year. We had no idea where all the pipes were laid and had to dig up a good part of the yard (moving fruit trees as required). We went with our regular plumber. That was a 3 person job which lasted 2 weeks (2/3 people 7 hours/day). He under-quoted for a day's labor - and in the end he left most of the pipe laid but open - and my wife and I ended closing up the trenches ourselves. That is an excellent case where we should have agreed upfront on a price for the job - but there was really no telling what was going to be involved.
I can understand under-quoting on a contract price, but how can someone under-quote on a day's labor? Labor cost per day is labor cost per day- number of guys times how much they are paid per day.

I disagree about it being better to get a contract price. Unless the contractor or crew is REALLY good at estimating the time a project will take (and I've never run across anyone here who is, in 15 years) what ends up happening is that they start cheaping out, either in quality or materials, or simply disappear, near the end when they realize that they have under-bid the job.

Everything I have undertaken re building has been labor and materials (the materials I pay for myself so they can't pad the price). Including my house construction. This works well if you are willing to be on-site and pay attention to whether the guys are working steadily or slacking off so the job will take longer hence more days of pay.

Labor and materials means if you aren't pleased with the work, crew, or notice that one guy is a slacker, you can terminate and look for someone else. A contract price means you can get stuck with a less than satisfactory situation, since you have usually paid a lot of $ up front rather than paying daily or weekly and buying materials as they are needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I can understand under-quoting on a contract price, but how can someone under-quote on a day's labor? Labor cost per day is labor cost per day- number of guys times how much they are paid per day.
From memory - I think this plumber quoted us 300 pesos/day/worker - we purchased all materials. At times he had one or two relatives and himself. It was TOUGH work. We dug up plumbing which had been laid nearly 20 years earlier. Most of the work involved breaking up large rocks with large heavy metal rods (empalers ?) for hours. It was like being on a chain gang. His best (largest) worker showed up in the morning and spent the first half hour in the bathroom getting changed. I would have to call out to him and tell him to get to work. Another guy simply decided that the work required more than 300/day and stopped showing up. Then the plumber started taking on other work (because it paid him 300 pesos for a few hours work) and at times left only one worker at our house. At one point the plumber drove a worker to our house and after himself working an hour or so declared he had another appointment and would see us the next day - yet he expected to receive a day's pay. I let him leave - but told him we were not paying for a day's work.

That is how you under-quote on a day's labor.
 

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Wouldn't paying by the hour solve some of the most frustrating issues? Or would that be too anti-cultural? (Anti-cultural isn't quite the right word. How about, "goes against the cultural norm?") I've stayed in several houses where housekeepers, maids, cooks and gardeners were paid by the hour. Or paid "xxxx for 3 hours." Seems like you could extend the concept to laborers and construction workers--perhaps under penalty of being considered "that crazy ******." But maybe that's a battle you don't want to fight. Contractors and tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians do like to be in charge of their kingdoms.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wouldn't paying by the hour solve some of the most frustrating issues? Or would that be too anti-cultural? (Anti-cultural isn't quite the right word. How about, "goes against the cultural norm?") I've stayed in several houses where housekeepers, maids, cooks and gardeners were paid by the hour. Or paid "xxxx for 3 hours." Seems like you could extend the concept to laborers and construction workers--perhaps under penalty of being considered "that crazy ******." But maybe that's a battle you don't want to fight. Contractors and tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians do like to be in charge of their kingdoms.

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Not likely to happen - at least in our case. If a worker were to have a number of 'clients' in the same area that might work. We live far enough out of the way that many people - if they come by bus -need to catch at least 2 buses. You have to include that (somewhat) in the compensation.

We try to make an effort to meet the bus (or close) when we know people are coming on foot. It could easily add an hour to a person's day to get to us. And - as someone who once commuted close to 2 hours - to work 8 hours - only to commute 2 hours back - I can appreciate the commute.
 

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yes isla verde they are 8 hour days, in chiapas they start at 7 o6 in the morning, get breakfast, (eggs beans tortlilas and chili at 9, a bowl of pozol at 11 and go home at 2 or 3 depending when they started. They work extremely well and hard.
I am involved in a kil project and kilns have been built in Jalisco, Guanajuato. Mexico state and Chiapas, the team from Chiapas is the lowest paid and , it is the best team and the fastest. They finished 2 days ahead of the other teams.
 

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for small one time jobs, I see it like Don Corleone kind of thing. You find a "godfather" type somebody the locals respect, someone you trust as a friend. When he recommends someone you can tell him in a polite way that the guy was no good. It's an art, but there are social distinctions. It all works like a mafia with people brokering in favors.
Don Corleone will say to the worker "y no me vayas a hacer quedar mal" when the guy screw up it's "que paso? me hiciste quedar mal con mi amigo el ******"

mexican culture is based on caciquismo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacique
 

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for small one time jobs, I see it like Don Corleone kind of thing. You find a "godfather" type somebody the locals respect, someone you trust as a friend. When he recommends someone you can tell him in a polite way that the guy was no good. It's an art, but there are social distinctions. It all works like a mafia with people brokering in favors.
Don Corleone will say to the worker "y no me vayas a hacer quedar mal" when the guy screw up it's "que paso? me hiciste quedar mal con mi amigo el ******"

mexican culture is based on caciquismo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacique
Interesting idea, Pocho. In my case, I don't have access to that kind of connection, so I rely on the recommendations of a good friend who has lived in Mexico for many years. It's worked out fine for the last ten years.
 

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Interesting idea, Pocho. In my case, I don't have access to that kind of connection, so I rely on the recommendations of a good friend who has lived in Mexico for many years. It's worked out fine for the last ten years.
Your friend must have some respect, but may not know how to play the game to it's max.
It's all about who you know in Mexico, that and social status.

If you are catholic and go to church, the priest is a good connection.
Mexican society has all these complexities, which vary from area to area.
 

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I feel your pain, we went through over a year of dealing with a lot of different people. We had our home built and it was interesting to say the least. In America, a contractor handles everything with one bid of $ per square foot.

Here, you deal with a lot of individuals, the roof is aluminum but it looks nice like red tile, that was one group. Then the Aluminum windows and door and all of the glass, that was another. Then the carpenter for the closets and the cabinets. The brick masons who actually built the house, the electrician who was the most reasonable and professional. I have a full breaker box not three breakers. We also had to buy our own transformer for over $3,000.00 U.S.


Then there was the septic system, another group, the wall, so on and so on. But now the house is built and it is solid. We only pay around $43.00 per month for insurance. That leaves us in good shape without rent.

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the work and the price. Labor went on and on but the cost per day of the workers was extremely low, I certainly wouldn't have worked all day for what they asked.
 

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Your friend must have some respect, but may not know how to play the game to it's max.
It's all about who you know in Mexico, that and social status.

If you are catholic and go to church, the priest is a good connection.
Mexican society has all these complexities, which vary from area to area.
My friend has lived here for many, many years and has gotten to know the people in his neighborhood and they know him. If it's a game, it's the universal one of the value of human connections. We shouldn't take theories like "caciquismo" too seriously, I think!
 
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