Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, February 02, 2018
Better or worse?

No bad questions?
As I’m writing this, we’re just about to do our last shows of the season. Since December, Jill and I have been on the road appearing in our booth at some of the largest fishing/ hunting/ outdoor expositions in the western U.S. We’ve been out promoting our fishing operation in La Paz, but generally just talking it up about visiting Baja in general.

It’s always fun. After more than 30 years of standing in booths fielding questions and chatting with thousands of folks, I’d like to share with you some of questions you should ask a prospective outfitter or guide.

This applies to whether you meet face-to-face or, as happens in most cases these days, you make an inquiry online or over the phone. At least, give it some thought.

Many times, their literature or social media already has it. But… it’s YOUR vacation.

Better to have too much information and be prepared rather than getting surprised later on. This is especially true when you might be coming to Mexico or a location in Mexico or Baja for the first time, and even moreso if you don’t speak the language.

This is no particular order, but these things should come up in the conversation somewhere.

CREDIBILITY — How long have they been in business? What’s their background? I know lots of guys that were truck drivers, then one day just decided they were going to be “guides” or “outfitters” with no real background. Everyone wants to “live the dream,” but it’s an entirely different thing to actually turn a hobby into a paying profession.

It helps if they have a track record of advertisements or are recommended by someone you know or their social media presence. It takes something to stay in business in this field. It’s not everything, but it helps.

What do others say about them? Check places like Trip Advisor and Google, which is very regulatory when it comes to posting comments.

ACCOUNTABILITY — Is the person you’re talking to going to be there when you are there for your vacation? Is the person you’re talking to just an agent that you’ll never see or hear from again once you’re booked? Does the person even live there?

Who will actually be delivering the services?

Who’s going to be the captain, guide, driver, etc.? The person you’re talking to might be totally reputable and we know many fine agents, but posing the question doesn’t hurt. At least you’re expectations will not be misplaced.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING — You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without having things in writing. Most outfitters we know that have had any longevity in the hospitality business know their stuff.

But, over the course of a conversation, things get lost outright or lost in translation. This is especially true at shows, where so much gets said or on social media where a zillion e-mails or texts might shoot back and forth. It’s best to have some record of what you’re getting and not getting.

Nothing like showing up and then finding out there were extra charges for bait, transportation, food, gear, etc. Major buzz kill having to reach into your pocket unexpectedly. Or that the hotel “close to the beach” was really two blocks away with a view only if you’re up on your tippy-toes standing on the roof.

PRICE ISN’T EVERYTHING — Like most things in life, you really DO get what you pay for. If you’re “budget shopping,” chances are you’ll get a budget vacation too.

It surely doesn’t hurt to ask a prospective outfitter if there are any discounts, but honestly, I wouldn’t push it. Maybe if it’s a different time of year. Maybe a savings if you bring more people.

Most outfitters working these days live on a tight budget themselves. If they are at shows, they are probably already offering discounted trips.

But that “discounted trip” might mean you’re now going to be in the room with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling and sharing a bathroom with two other rooms.

I do know some that will get offended if you push too hard.

As one outfitter told me, “I know what my services are worth. I work hard. One guy pushed and pushed for discounts. So, I asked him, ‘You work hard for your paycheck right? If your boss asked you to take a 20-percent paycut, would you work as hard or as diligently for him?’ The guy shut up.”

Point taken.

Another example I have seen numerous times. One charter operation is $100 less than another. The less expensive guy might be a little more hesitant to burn extra gas to go where the fish are biting in order to save money. He has to make a living too.

Think about it. Simple economics. Get the best you can afford. Not the most you can get away with. Vacations are too special to cut corners if you don’t have to.

There are also some questions you can ask that will get a raised eyebrow from some outfitters and guides.

I have heard people ask me or ask other outfitters:

Will you guarantee that I will catch fish? (I’ve never met an outfitter that will!)

If I pay more, will I catch more fish? (You’re always welcome to pay us more!)

If I don’t have a good time, will you refund my money? (I can’t hear you)

How many fish will I catch in a day? (I don’t know. Are you any good?)

Can you promise me the sun will be out when I fish? (Sure… let me wave my magic wand!)

Will it be too hot for me when I come on vacation? (What does “too hot” mean?)

How can I make it so I only catch smaller fish? Big fish are too strong for me. (You will love catching bait!)

How hard are the beds / pillows at the hotel we will stay at? (Compared to what?)

How deep is the ocean? (About that deep!)

What if I stop breathing when I SCUBA dive? (Stay with the snorkel trip!)

I heard Baja is primitive. How much toilet paper should I bring? (So “primitive! You better fill a suitcase with it!)

We hear them all. And just when you think you’ve heard them all, you get another.

“If I have to go ‘number two’ in the middle of the ocean and can’t hold it, what will happen?”

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