Friday, November 10, 2006

Condo Stories: Playa del Carmen Adventures

And the Adventure Begins

A Buyers Perspective

by Dave Trahan

For about the last six or seven years, my wife and I had been dreaming of owning a condominium or villa in or around Playa del Carmen. Finally, last August, the stars were aligned and our dream became a reality. We were able to buy a brand new, unfinished condominium in Playacar. My wife who is quite a talented decorator, would be able to furnish the condo to her liking and before we knew it, we would be all settled in. We live in Troy, Michigan and figured furniture shopping would be much the same in Playa del Carmen as it was at home. If not, we certainly could order over the phone from the likes of Pottery Barn and have the furniture delivered to Mexico. Boy, were we in for a surprise!

I volunteered to start checking with folks on the various Playa forums to see where we should go to outfit our new home. I figured that at the very worst, one or two store stops would be all that would be required and we would be done. No wasting valuable vacation time running around from store to store for these smart shoppers!

While I was able to glean some useful information from the forums, the information I was getting was that outfitting a condo was no easy or quick matter. One store stocks sofas, another chairs and so on. Delivery dependability depended on the store and the quality of the furniture also varied greatly. Finally, Susan of One Stop Realty in Playa del Carmen sent me a note and said she had just heard of a new company called Gringo Furniture that offered online shopping for furniture in Mexico. Susan didn't know much about the company but I decided to give it a try since I did not want to spend the next four of five vacation weeks running around Playa furniture shopping.

I believe that my wife and I were one of Gringo's first customers. I went to the website and was amazed at the wide selection of furniture that was available to view online. Color pictures, measurements, options and price were right there on my computer screen. The prices seemed reasonable - much more reasonable than many of the prices I had seen in Playa or Cancun. We had our choice of four color finishes and also had the option of having the furniture varnished. The furniture was solid wood meaning no veneers to warp in the humidity. There were many different designs and some were more rustic than others. Delivery was promised in four to six weeks. This all seemed too good to be true.

Gringo Furniture was a total unknown to us. We went through the catalog and picked out furniture for our three bedrooms, our patio and our living room. We then decided on color tones and then added up the prices. Much to my delight, the total sum was well within our budget so the only problem left was did we want to deal with (and pay) a totally unknown entity. I corresponded with the owner Karen a couple of times and found her most helpful and responsive. I am a bit more of a gambler than my wife and finally persuaded her to let me go forward with our furniture nest egg.

We placed our order and paid for the furniture in advance. If the furniture was delivered as promised, it would arrive one week before our next planned week in Playa. Karen called a couple of time with questions and provided status reports a couple of times too.

We arrived in Playa as scheduled. Our furniture had been delivered as scheduled. All of the furniture was extensively wrapped in protective paper to prevent any nicks or other damage. The furniture was EXACTLY as represented. We were very pleased with the quality and the finishes. As an example, our patio furniture was very similar (but better quality) to a set we saw in Playa and was about one-half the cost. The mattresses were in protective plastic enclosures and were very comfortable - unlike many mattresses in Mexico. It is obvious that the furniture maker ( unknown to me) takes great pride in his products and workmanship. We were very pleased. Friends who stopped by commented on what nice furniture we had obtained. All in all, it was a very pleasant experience. It was also very affordable!

If there was a downside - and there always is- it was that we could not purchase all of our furniture from Gringo. We needed sleeper sofa's and the few Gringo had did not appeal to either my wife or I. Some of the furniture was a bit more rustic than we were looking for so again certain pieces were purchased elsewhere. I did not ask for the furniture to be unwrapped and set-up and Karen admitted it never occurred to her to ask if we wanted that service. I am told by Karen that a wider selection of furniture styles will be offered and that set-up services will be offered. Honestly, those are my only "complaints" and let's face it, they are not really complaints. Would I do business with Gringo again? Yes I would and have in fact recommended Gringo to many similarly situated friends. My wife even said she wanted to buy a patio set for our house in Michigan until I explained some of the import/export issues.

Go to the website and look around. Ask questions and feel safe making payments. An online furniture store is a service that was needed in Mexico and Gringo is making it happen.

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