As I was growing up, I can’t tell you how often my Grandparents would tell me about “The good old days”. You could always tell where the conversation was going when they would say “I sure do miss how things used to be”. Grand stories would fill the room about how people actually appreciated your business. Whether you went to the local grocery store, or to the gas station, you would be treated like you were the only customer they had seen all day. My Grandma would tell me about the service attendant at the local gas station. “What a nice young man. He would greet you as you pulled in. He would smile at you like he was so happy to see you, like he had been waiting for you to come there. If you had been there before, he would call you by name.” My Grandpa would repeat to me the attendant’s words with a huge smile on his face “Thanks for comin’ Dan. Say hi to the Mrs. Hope to see you tomorrow.” Grandpa would tell me from as long as I could remember that “people nowadays look forward to seeing your wallet more than your face. It sure wasn’t like that in The Good Old Days!!”
For most of my life, I wondered where the good old days went. Have the business owners and managers forgotten that without consumers there is no business? Whatever happened to that gas station attendant with the big smile that remembered your name? Or, how about the doctor you ran into downtown who asks you if the sore back you saw him about last week was feeling better. What about the deli worker at the local grocery store that remembered that you liked a little extra roast beef on your sandwich with those tasty little olives on the side. Like the dinosaurs from long ago, where they all wiped off the planet? Well, they sure do seem to be extinct in this day & age. Is it possible to get that kind of service in the fast-paced life we all live today? We have had so much experience with poor to horrible customer service that it seems like we are complacent in getting just mediocre service. Why do we no longer look forward to the smile from the cashier at the grocery store? The overall feeling is that, as long as the cashier didn’t get rude or give us an attitude, then we feel like we have had a pretty good shopping experience.
The good old days aren’t gone for good. Those people who used to appreciate our business are not extinct. They just moved to San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.
I have experienced a lot in my life, but nothing like San Felipe. The experience I have had with the town and the locals has far surpassed any I have had with other towns visited. The other resort towns and the popular spots that people talk about where you get the little trinkets to remind you of your stay, pale in comparison.
My wife & I stopped at a gas station on the way to dinner on our first night (a Pemex Station). Before we stepped out of the car, a man came up and greeted us. This attendant had that smile I had heard so much about, the one that says “I’m happy that you picked my gas station”. I noticed that while he was talking to us, there was an attendant filling the tank, and another washing the windows. Keep in mind that this wasn’t just a little compact car, but a Suburban, which has a lot of windows to clean. I heard him whistle a tune as he was meticulously cleaning away. They all seemed so happy just to see us and to be working. Imagine that. My wife and I kind of stared at each other as the attendants finished up, as if to say “Why were they treating us so well?” We were discussing where we should go to eat as we were leaving. Someone pulled up to the pump on the other side of the station. Just a regular hard-working guy, stopping in to get gas. The attendant rushed over to the man saying “Hola Senor Frank.” The attendants were rushing over to him almost before he could get out of his car, as if someone famous had just walked into the gas station. While some of the attendants were washing the windows, and others were checking the tire pressure, another was shaking this customer’s hand and asking him how his wife was doing. The man asks the customer if he had found time to work on his boat. “It’s almost done” he said. “Maybe you could come fishing when it’s finished?” This seemed more like the drinking establishment on the TV show Cheers than a gas station. Sure seems like everyone knows your name here. The service was great here, but it couldn’t be like this all over town. Could it?
On the next day in San Felipe we decided to check out the town. Most of the time was spent at the Malecon (the local shopping area). The town seemed so alive. Little shops and big stores had some of their goods set out on the sidewalk so that you could enjoy the weather and shop at the same time. There were store workers & vendors all about. All of them seemed to be competing for your attention. It seemed like it was more about who could get the most compliments on the hand made things he had been showing than who could sell you more of their trinkets. I’m not great on my Spanish. But, as we walked away I could hear them saying “I told you they would like my wooden statue of an eagle.”
Life in San Felipe was anything but stressful. Shopping up and down the Malecon, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, deciding where to eat. Just as you were thinking it might be but a dream, a gentle breeze would blow across you just light enough to remind you that it was real. We decided to stop at a little restaurant to get sodas for the kids. As we sat down at a little table outside, the waiter brought us some taquitos and chips & salsa. I thought maybe my wife had paid for them. She shrugged her shoulders to say “I didn’t order them.” I tried to let the waiter know that we hadn’t paid for them. He said “For you senor it’s no problema.” I was thinking to myself that this waiter must be related to the attendants at the gas station we were at last night. This is the same kind of service we received throughout our entire stay in San Felipe. They all treated us like we were celebrities coming into their small town, whether it was at a nice restaurant like the Baja Mar or at a little market.
Before we headed to the beach the next day, we had breakfast at a little restaurant. We couldn’t help but notice a man at table near the window. He was a nicely dressed man. His cell phone would ring periodically. He seemed like such a busy man. I heard him say “I have a 2 o’clock, a 3 o’clock, then marketing & sale meetings back to back, but I can fit you in some time in between.” As he was on the phone, a woman pulled up in front of the restaurant with a few kids in the car. There was steam pouring out from under the hood of her car. The man told the person he was on the phone with that he would have to call them back. He went outside, shook her hand, and then I saw him looking under the hood. It didn’t even look like he was worried about getting his nice suit dirty. I had to wonder, was he naturally this helpful, or did the town of San Felipe rub off on everyone like this. It was then that I realized that this was the service and consideration my Grandfather had told me about.
So, to sum it all up, the service we used to expect is a regular occurrence. The good old days are not gone for good. You might just have to travel a bit to find it. It doesn’t matter if you bring the whole family & stay at one of the local resorts, or make the decision to buy that dream home on the Sea of Cortez. You will find the service and way of life you have heard so much about. Come to San Felipe. Relax, enjoy, unwind, and be treated like the VIP of the good old days.
In my opinion, the well-known arches in the town center should have a huge banner for all locals and visitors to see. It would just simply say “Welcome to the Good Old Days. We think you’re going to love it here.”