So about a week or two ago, I left my apartment to go check out some phones near El Centro area of Mexico City.
I had bought used phones there before years ago and wanted something cheap that I can use to carry around with me when visiting new parts of this city.
Anyway, once I got there, I showed up to this little mini plaza area very close to Bellas Artes metro.
Once I got inside, I basically started comparing the prices of different phones that various vendors had available with the goal of not spending more than 50 bucks or 1,000 pesos.
After all, I could just use the phone I already have to take pictures of Mexico City but I hate taking it with me anywhere outside due to how common phone theft is in this city.
Phone Theft an Issue?
In fact, cell phone theft is so bad here that, according to this source here, 60 phones are robbed every day in Mexico City.
Then this article here claims that plenty of locals buy fake phones to give to robbers so they don’t lose their real ones.
And here’s an interesting story that you can read here from someone who claimed to have their phone robbed in Mexico City:
“So now some jueputas stole my phone in metro. I was standing in the crowd near the train, and when the door opened, somebody pushed me inside, it was really really crowdy, and some woman on the right side from me kept my arm very tight. After that I immediately noticed that my phone is gone, somebody who was her partner stole it from my pocket. I told her that my phone is gone, but of course she said something like she knows nothing about it.
She went out on the next stop. I tried to follow her but lost her pretty soon. I went to the police, they said that they are going to investigate it for a month. When I came home, I found the phone on the google maps with google's "find your device" app. I called the police guy again and said where it is, but I think he is not going to do anything.”
And where do these thieves sell the phones?
Well, it depends obviously.
But one avenue to sell them through is at these little phone vendor spots you can find in Mexico City.
In fact, the person who lost their phone in the story above claimed that the phone was located in this exact location of Mexico City:
“It was on the Plaza de la Tecnologia Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 38. There are a lot of small puntos de venda, and the place has 4 floors, so it turned out it's impossible to locate the place precisely.
I tried to ask for my phone mark (samsung galaxy s7) around, nobody had it there.
Then I found two cops, promised them money if we will succeed to find the phone, and we went going while I was "playing sound" through my google app. We didn't succeed. I tried to offer them more money, like maybe they can ask somebody there, still they said it's impossible to find the phone.”
Which here is a video of what that exact place looks like.
Funny enough, that place looks almost exactly like the same place I went to when I was looking for a phone.
Anyway, that’s the basics of the idea – thieves rob phones however they can (on the metro, in combis, etc) and then distribute the phones to be sold at various points in the city.
Here’s a video anyway in Spanish that gives a better breakdown of all that happens with this place:
Either way, I went to that exact same place to buy a phone also as I said.
Back to Plaza de la Tecnología
Once I walked in, I immediately started getting folks asking me if I needed anything from all sides.
The first person I talked to was some middle aged lady behind a counter.
After her, there was some 30 something guy behind the counter showing me his phones also.
At each counter, I would just ask for their most “economico” phone.
Whatever is the cheapest.
The first lady only had some really outdated phones that were the cheapest that you couldn’t take good pictures with.
The second guy had some alright phones for as low as 1,000 pesos.
When I began to walk away, he asked me “what price you looking for?”
And I said around 800 or so but I’m just comparing prices is all.
So I kept walking.
The next few spots I stopped at didn’t have too much I cared for.
Then there was a spot in the very end of the building where some young kid started pitching me this phone for 650 pesos.
It looked alright.
And for the price, it seemed reasonable.
But I figured to ask him what other cheap phones he had since he looked like he had so many.
They showed me two more.
One for 900 and another for 850.
They had to charge the 850 one and I ended up standing there for like 10 minutes before it was ready to see how well it took photos.
The 900 peso one was the phone that the young kid was really trying to push on me.
The funny thing was, as I saw later, how blatantly some of these vendors were trying to lie to me.
For example, this young kid was trying to convince me that this 900 peso phone was “completely new!”
And he kept saying over and over again how it is “completamente nuevo.”
Even though it had a small crack on the screen….
And even though it had a shit ton of finger prints all over it…
Plus, the back of the phone that covered the electronics inside it didn’t connect and snap shut completely because it was kinda fucked.
You really have to be amazed at how fucking stupid some of the local vendors in Mexico can be sometimes.
Reminds me of this hotdog guy here or this lady trying to sell me toilet paper here.
Where, in both occasions, the vendors tried lying to me about the price of the product even though it was clearly written down and even though I had bought the same product a dozen times.
Sometimes you feel, like in the case with this kid, that the local vendors think that you being a foreigner must somehow mean you don’t have eyes.
I don’t get it.
Do they try this retarded shit on the locals also?
You’re offering a phone that is partly damaged on both sides and labelling it “completely new!”
If it was completely new, wouldn’t he be selling it for a much higher price than 900 pesos?
Anyway, I didn’t want a damage phone so we kept waiting for the 850 one to charge.
Once it did, I checked out the camera.
He was trying to convince me that the camera on the 900 one was better than the 850 but it didn’t look any better.
In fact, the 650 one looked better.
Before I left anyway, the kid was also reminding me, as he had done about a thousand times now, that “all our phones come with a guarantee!”
I forgot the time amount but something like a 3 month guarantee or something where I could take it back “no problem!”
I always found that weird when he kept saying that.
Or when other vendors were saying that.
Here I am trying to buy a phone that likely could be stolen in a place well known for stolen phones and I’m going to trust your word that the guarantee isn’t bullshit?
He’s already trying to bullshit me on how “completamente nuevo” his damaged phone was!
Not really the type of person who I’m going to trust to respect a guarantee.
So I told him I’ll be back and that was it.
Next, there was some skinny ass dude way in the back that got my attention.
And speaking of lying…
This guy, like other vendors I heard in this area, for some reason, wanted to bitch about Chinese phones to me.
Even though I didn’t ask.
Seems to be part of the marketing pitch.
Bitch about how bad Chinese phones are and how “hard it is to replace the materials.”
Then, DON’T WORRY FRIEND, we have these phones for you as alternatives!
Want to take a guess at what the phone was that he wanted to offer me?
An Huawei phone.
You can’t make this shit up.
He just spent a 5 minute monologue bitching about Chinese phones to which he then turns to trying to sell me a Huawei phone.
Sometimes you really wonder if some of the locals down here have an IQ of 50.
How many are this retarded down here?
I don’t fucking get it.
Anyway, when I saw that the phone was “Huawei,” I asked the guy…
“Y ese cel es chino?” while pointing at the exact phone.
The dude goes “nOoOoOoOoOoOoO!!!” and waves his finger.
Then I looked at the phone again.
Says “Huawei” on it.
Anyway, I didn’t have a problem with Huawei phones at all actually.
Just the fact that, again, a local is blatantly lying to me.
And again – I don’t fucking get it.
It’s the same with landlords in this city as I wrote here.
Sometimes you have landlords in Mexico City that lie about what their apartments have.
“We have a gym!” – only a treadmill.
“We have a kitchen!” – only a hotplate, no dishwasher, a minifridge and a sink that dribbles out water if you are lucky (if you are lucky, might not have a sink).
“We are 5 minutes walking from Condesa!” – 30 minute drive away.
On and on…
And these are things that you can confirm with ease about the apartment.
Just like you can confirm, by looking at the phone, that it is Chinese.
Or that is it, quite clearly, not “completamente nuevo” when it is damaged on both sides.
The funny thing is that sometimes when the locals lie to you so obviously…
You’d think they’d carry confidence with them.
Half the time, they look down at their feet and mumble “completamente nuevo.”
Anyway, I carried on.
Found some lady next who had phones advertised for “999 pesos.”
Which I like!
Not the price necessarily but the listing.
I always prefer buying from someone who has the prices listed ahead of time instead of asking because it reduces the risk of being gringo priced.
Anyway, I looked at her phones and they were the best deal I could find in the place for the price.
The photos though were not the best quality though but workable.
Anyway, I told her I’ll be back because I wanted to see phones in other areas.
Before leaving, I wanted to check the phones of the first guy I talked to again so I could compare in my mind the photo quality of the phones of the “999” peso lady to the phones he had.
However, I only got to compare one of them because the other had just died and took forever to charge and I sat around waiting for 10 minutes with no success.
So I carried on.
Finding the Right Phone
At this point, I almost felt like getting my haircut done already and carrying on the phone search later.
But, as I kept walking down this street, I saw so many other places selling phones.
It really seemed like phone mecca in these parts.
“60 phones a day”
I stopped by another mini-plaza looking area and figured I would check it out.
As I took my first step in, I realized that there was a street vendor for phones standing on the edge outside of the plaza without his own counter to sell behind.
Figuring he probably pays less money per month to sell his phones given that he doesn’t have a more formal space with a counter…
His phones are probably cheaper since he probably has less overhead to run his questionably legal venture.
So I walked over to him first.
And so here was a guy who literally looked like he stole phones for a living.
Tattooed up all over his neck and face.
Decent sized arms and physically fit.
Had a face only a mother could love.
This is the type of dude that looked like he rolls around in a motorcycle looking for victims with a gun in hand.
Something like these lovable characters here.
All around, a good sign!
If you buy a stolen phone, you don’t want to buy it from some panty wearing sissy ass bitch like those in Plaza de Tecnologia!
You want to buy it from the source!
From the motherfucker who actually does the robbing!
Someone who has probably made a 100 abuelitas cry over their dying grandkids who got shot for refusing to give up their belongings on the street.
This is THE MAN to buy from.
Not that skinny ass kid who didn’t have the confidence to look you in the eye when he mumbled “completamente nuevo.”
This is the BIG BOSS you buy from.
So I asked him what phones he had while this fat looking guy was sitting across from him.
Who was probably the guy who drove the motorcycle since he didn’t look as physically intimidating.
Plus, he was wearing a small coat on a windy day.
Coming from Iowa, who the fuck wears a coat when there isn’t any snow and ice?
I remember the days of having to scrape ice off my 97 chevy in pants and a shirt at 6:45 AM in the morning.
So you know this is the driver & not the assassin we’re looking at.
The tattooed guy, wearing a sleeveless shirt with no coat, reaches over and picks out a phone for me.
I look at it.
Check out the photo quality.
And it actually had better photo quality than any of the phones I saw in Plaza de Tecnologia.
Expecting a heavy price here…
He gives me the damage.
Only 35 bucks!
Now, he didn’t have the price listed down, so I don’t know if he is gringo pricing me…
But, you know what, fuck it.
It sounds reasonable.
35 bucks for a phone with better photo quality than anything I have seen so far.
I asked him again – “700 pesos?”
I give El Gordo about 1000 pesos and he gives me back 300 in change.
To my surprise though, the phone didn’t include a charger with it but whatever.
They offered chargers for 50 pesos but I figured that maybe I could find a better charger elsewhere.
And – well, despite my arrogance – I didn’t find a better price elsewhere.
At the haircut place I went to next, they had a little phone shop next to it and sold me one for 50 pesos.
So 750 pesos for this phone.
Was it robbed?
I don’t know.
I’m not encouraging you to buy stolen phones -- after all, it might’ve been his grandma’s phone!
“Abuelita, plomo o plata? Plomo o plata? Dame el cel, te doy 20 pesos o te doy plomo. K dices?!?!”
You know, it's his grandma -- he at least tries to pay for it unlike others.
Here's a photo I took from his phone.
The very first one!
35 bucks worth!
I think it’s alright.
It is better than anything I could take on the other phones I saw.
And I saw at least 10 others!
For prices ranging from 25 bucks to 50.
A Bright Alternative to Crime
Anyway, the barbershop you are seeing here is actually kinda special.
I went there once before.
When I got there for the haircut, it was different though that day.
Before, there was a Mexican gal who worked there that was kinda hot actually.
She had a nice ass.
Looked great in a leather coat with her tattoos....
Someone you wouldn't mind fucking on a bar stool with music like this playing.
But, regardless of that, she did a good haircut also.
Now she doesn’t run the place anymore.
When I got there that day, some young kid in his 20s was inside the building and they were doing work inside it.
Setting stuff up and all.
I asked him if they are open and he said that he’ll get his supplies.
He’s back 10 minutes later with a backpack full of stuff.
The inside of the barbershop was literally chaos as they were still setting things up as I said.
Not even a mirror to see how he is cutting my hair.
Still, he did a good job.
And it was his first day ever running the place!
He told me that he pays about 5000 pesos a month to have this space to do haircuts.
And he bought it from the chick who I mentioned before.
So, in his words, I’m “his very first customer!”
He mentioned that several times – quite excited.
Anyway, his name was Ander.
To give him some good luck, I encourage you to check out his place if you are ever in Mexico City!
Need a haircut? Get it at Ander’s place!
Only 100 pesos a haircut.
Can be found on Aranda Street in El Centro of Mexico City.
He did a good job also.
So help out a young kid pursuing his dream if you can.
He deserves it.
After all, you can maybe argue that what he is doing represents the opposite of what phone thieves do.
He does honest work.
Phone thieves do dishonest work.
Nobody likes a phone thief.
And I hear you already – “But Matt, don’t you support the phone thieves by buying their phones?”
Though I’m different – I don’t know if the phone was stolen or not and I’m a customer.
As this article rightfully points out....
Even though these phone vendors have somewhat properly earned the reputation of being thieves and scammers, not every single one of them is bad. Some are good. Tattoo guy might've been good!
Plus, even if he was a phone thief, I’m supporting poor people by buying his phone.
After all, he wouldn’t be doing this if this wasn’t profitable.
And the poorest of the poorest Mexicans need this guy in business to buy cheap phones from.
Customers go for the lowest price.
Free market and all.
So I’m innocent and arguably helping poor people.
Anyway, Ander represents what all is good so go support his business if you need a haircut in Mexico City.
And no, I’m not getting a commission for every client he gets.
But don’t forget to use the code WTFGRINGO if you show up there.
In all seriousness though, I hope his business does well.
Brightened my day to see someone young pursuing their dream like that.
Here's the phone I bought also.
I don't know -- did I get gringo priced?
I checked the prices for this thing on Mercado Libre and seems to be worth more than 700 pesos used.
Some prices listed at around 2,000 or so.
But Ander looked at it and told me that maybe it's worth 900 or 1,000 pesos more or less.
But he had no idea -- just guessing.
Despite it being a good price to me, there's always that feeling I have of wondering if I could've gotten a better deal.
But that's how I can be sometimes -- wondering if it was the best deal I could've gotten, etc.
It's not even so much about the price but more about not feeling like you got ripped off.
Still, compared to the prices of the other phones I saw, I feel it's solid enough. I thought that way walking away towards the barbershop and then shrugged the concerns off.
Which is another point altogether -- if you feel the price was good enough, don't sweat over it.
Sure, maybe you could've shaved another 5 bucks off it, but honestly, who gives a fuck at the end of the day?
Some gringos never stop thinking about if they got hit by the dreaded "gringo price" but, honestly, you care a little bit less about it over time down here I think.
Except in really dumb situations where someone is outrageously trying to fuck you over.
But that's like when someone lies to you about how the phone is "completamente nuevo" or "not Chinese."
At some point, you need to just laugh it off and go on with your life.
Still a better deal than anything I saw that day anyhow.
Anyway, that's all I got to say.
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