International Journal of Consumer Studies
By IJCS — 9/1/2014

Excerpts from article first published online - March 21, 2012

Cross-border shopping: Mexican shoppers in the US and American shoppers in Mexico

Mexican shoppers are well acculturated with the American consumerist culture and know when and how to shop. They are well aware of specific promotional days such as the Black Friday and post-Christmas sale. At first glance, one is tempted to assume that both American and Mexican nationals in the region engage in cross-border-shopping mainly due to utilitarian purposes. However, our results show that border-crossing shoppers, especially older generations, seek non-utilitarian ends such as connection to one's roots, reliving childhood memories, and visiting relatives and friends. Despite the current danger present on the Mexican side due to drug wars, many Americans and Mexicans continue to travel back and forth. The results of the analysis of Mexican consumers coming into the US are in line with the findings in previous cross-border studies. The main motives of most cross-border shoppers are indeed economical. The emerging themes corroborating previous findings include quality, price and variety.

“We used to go very frequently, at least once a month or every two weeks. So, I remember the day before trips my dad [would] say ‘You know what, tomorrow we're gonna go to McAllen (Anywhere USA) shopping.’ So that day and the following night were very exciting and I [would] just try to behave, you know, to ask my dad to buy me whatever I want. . .It didn't bother me, but if I had to wake up [to] go to school, I would feel terrible. So, I was very excited to go. . .because everything looks beautiful, the stores, the restaurants. It was like a dream come true: Oh, I want to go to McAllen (Anywhere USA). So, I was very fond of going to McAllen” (Anywhere USA)

(Male, 34).

Crossing the border means experiencing the better environment, a different ‘reality’, and enjoying the blur between fantasy and truth. For our respondents, McAllen (Anywhere USA) comprises a much cleaner locale where products and services are abundant and ‘everything looks nicer’. They regard trips to McAllen (Anywhere USA) as a bonus, an award that contains much excitement, an escape ‘from the ordinary life to a dreamy space of existence.

“I think that all of us Mexicans who go to US feel that we are doing smart shopping. We know the same product that you buy in US, you can find it here [in Mexico] at the Palacio de Hierro at higher prices. When you hear American, you imagine the best quality, better taste, more trendy, newer, and when you hear Mexican, you usually think about the most expensive, not made correctly, not so trendy, and not fashionable”

(Female, 45).

Trust and order are chief among recurring themes that are not explicitly noted in shopping literature. A majority of the Mexican participants seem to love their country, but prefer to shop elsewhere because they feel they are not treated fairly at home, and because they have bought into the idea that ‘American brands are superior’. Although border-crossing Mexicans also gave short stories about mistreatments in the US, they were often quick in pointing out that such poor memories were overcompensated by the superiority of overall customer service in the US relative to Mexico. They do not trust the stores and vendors in Mexico and thus prefer to do at least parts of their consumption and shopping activities in the US. In addition, they carry a constant fear of mistreatment and deception when shopping in Mexico.

“I feel more confident . . .then when I buy pants, blue jeans at a Wal-Mart in Mexico, I don't feel as confident as when I buy them in Guess in US. I suppose I'd feel better buying them at a Wal-Mart in US rather than Mexico, and [this] is due to marketing and TV and news and media. They have [been] doing well, their job.”

(Male, 34).

“I don't know why; I actually don't know why; probably because we have those ideas about Mexican products or Chinese products [versus] American products. For some strange reason we view American products and brands as the best ones. Maybe because you can see them on magazines and TV, you can see them in movies, you can see them everywhere. That's probably why you desire them. You don't really see a Chinese brand in a movie. . .So you keep receiving all that information through movies, songs, videos, YouTube, in everywhere, MySpace. I guess it's fixed in your mind at some point; if you want to look anywhere at anything, [you] see American brands.”

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