A few weeks ago www.paraisoenmagantedr.com was activated and became part of the public domain, announcing that the Playa Paraiso en Magante was open for business. Formerly known as Los Gringos before it was hijacked by the theme park crazed Captain Ahole, the restaurant and cabana rental business is now in the hands of what might be referred to as a small-business triad.
First and foremost is Wendy, who is on the beach and is the public face of the Playa Paraiso en Magante. I represent the online presence of the business; I handle web site design, booking and online communication with potential guests. Ginger and The Earl (I put them together so I could use the word ‘triad’; it sounds stronger than ‘quartet’) are the cornerstone of the business, the investors, they make all final decisions. It is their vision of what the Playa Paraiso en Magante should be like that is giving direction to the business and its image. They loved Los Gringos and they would like it back.
At first I wasn’t sure whether I should include myself as being part of this triad. I felt my role in getting this business up and running was minimal. Until the site went live on the ‘net’, I felt I was doing little more than playing around with a WordPress site design program and trying to be creative. As far as I was concerned Wendy and Ginger were doing all the heavy lifting when it came to getting the Playa Paraiso en Magante up and running, my part was merely a diversion. When the site went active things changed and after receiving my first online booking I feel I am contributing enough to be part of the triad.
That’s right!!! We got a booking online!!! It is only for 2 cabanas for one night but it is the first business that is being generated via the internet and you have to start somewhere. I must admit that when I received the email addressed to email@example.com I got a little excited, the web site had only been active for 10 days and honestly I didn’t expect any action for months, maybe not ever. Please remember that I sell packaged consumer goods to stores, not design web sites. This feeble blog site you’re on now is a simple write and publish site, it doesn’t have a booking system or bill pay system. It doesn’t have links to car rental search engines or hidden sub-pages, it is ‘read more’ simple. I had no way of knowing whether any of the things I’d embedded in the Paraiso en Magante site even worked until I received that first booking.
The request for a reservation also included a message that said the sender had been a friend of Patrick’s. This I noted in my very businesslike confirmation reply, closing with “it will be a pleasure to welcome back a friend of Patrick’s and Los Gringos” (unprofessional or personal touch? You decide). I then dutifully informed Wendy of the booking. I didn’t bother to inform Ginger since she is an ocean away and it would be just one more thing for her to need to acknowledge. Her plate is full enough I figure and Wendy and I can handle the simple arrangements. I’m sure that Wendy will inform Ginger since they have regular communication (if she hasn’t by the time you read this Ginger… SURPRISE!!).
Communication with Wendy is a challenge for a few reasons. First the only sure way I can reach her is through Facebook messenger. She lives on Facebook! I hate Facebook!! The only thing on my Facebook page is the contributions others make to their own pages that for some inexplicable reason show up on mine!!! But using Facebook messenger is the only sure way for me to reach her, so I use it. The second and by far the most difficult challenge we face is all our communication is done in Spanish. I can’t read Spanish!!! Every sentence needs to be translated; it adds a half hour to every conversation! The same is true between Wendy and Ginger but at least Ginger has her SpEnglish to fall back on. I got nada!! Also the way I might say something in English is not always the way they would say it in Spanish, this can cause a lot of confusion.
This became quite evident when the customer contacted me a few days after making his reservation and asked me to inform Wendy that he would like to order “pulpo” and he liked it “ajillo”. He also wanted me to let her know that there would be four persons dining and they would most likely be ordering paella and other meat dishes that they would all share. I have found that this is a normal way to dine in the Dominican Republic, much like eating Chinese food where the meal is served on platters and everyone fills their own plate. I sent the request in translated Spanish on to Wendy via messenger. I tried to construct the message I sent Wendy in simple English, trying my best to stay away from slang phrasing. It’s hard to do because we all use slang in our normal lives without realizing we are doing so, it’s impossible to avoid. The message I sent I felt was clear and concise, I don’t try to be funny with Wendy because I’m afraid I might be misinterpreted and say something offensive.
I did not receive an immediate reply so I sent a quick email to the customer informing him that I had received his request and had forwarded it to Wendy and was still waiting for an acknowledgement. I then added that I could see no problem fulfilling his request but “I wasn’t the one catching the ‘pulpo’” and I would let him know if anything to the contrary arose (unprofessional or personal touch? You decide). I once again thanked him for his business and sent the message off.
Wendy responded the next day with a message that I translated to say, “I got your message. Was busy with work yesterday so could not reply. Guest for cabanas wants ‘pulpo o ajillo’ and 4 paella. Ok no problem.” Okay small problem. Paella is a dish that serves 3-4 people. Four orders of paella is enough seafood to feed the nearby village! Something has definitely been lost in my translation. I look at my message to her and copy the text then paste it in the translator. I read what I have written and I see it. I had written in the original message that there would be a ‘party of four’ having dinner there that evening but the translation had said the food was ‘for a party’. I can understand why she thought there might be a need to cook 4 orders of paella. This misunderstanding could prove to be costly if Wendy purchases the seafood required to fill that order. I sent her a very long detailed explanation of what I meant to say and her reply gives me hope that the customer will get what he wants and the area will not be devoid of lobster, shrimp and ‘pulpo’ for the next month.
Wendy and I have a way to go when it comes to communicating. I have yet to start learning Spanish but messaging with Wendy has helped me learn to recognize a few words and phrases and would expect that this will increase as time goes on. In order to be helpful to the business I will need to know more Spanish than ‘octopus with garlic’.
A final note about my correspondence with the customer in regards to his dinner request. Was it unprofessional to say I was not the one catching the octopus or a personal touch? In his response the customer wrote;
“Thank you for the reply.
I like your humour… it makes me smile.
We’ll keep in touch.”