Mexican Good Luck Ritual- Money in Water

The informant is a 47-year old civil engineer working in California, originally from Michoacán, Mexico. He lived a modest life as a young adult, studying to be an engineer. He then moved to the United States with his wife to raise their family and make his career. He primarily speaks Spanish with English as a second language.  He shall be referred to as JB.

JB’s father owned a small convenience store for a time. He explains that with both his father and other business owners, it was good luck for the business to not spend the money made on the first sale of the day. Instead, that money is placed in a small glass of water left somewhere behind the counter. In addition to this, it was very important that the first person to walk into the business in the morning did not leave without making an actual purchase. JB explained this could simply mean being as friendly a salesperson as possible or even offering a deep discount to the customer. If the first person to walk in did not make a purchase, it was bad luck for the rest of the workday and vice versa.

JB believes that this is a matter of reflecting yourself as a good businessperson. If you let the first potential customer go without making a purchase, this could easily mean that the same could happen with the next. He said there’s a strong importance in making every possible sale count, and by successfully making the first, you are setting yourself up for a successful workday as a whole.

I agree with JB’s high value in displaying your ability as a salesman with each customer, especially with wanting to guarantee a sale on the first person to walk in. As JB was witness to this in a father-son context, it also demonstrated a desire to instill strong business values in a small child, as well as instilling a value in thorough work throughout life. However, he wasn’t able to provide too much reasoning for the money in the glass of water.

My first interpretation is that it serves as a public display of the salesman’s competence for those that are keen-eyed enough to notice. If another salesman were to walk in and not see money in the glass, they would immediately suspect that the business owner had not made his or her first sale of the day yet and thus think less of his or her ability. Thus, the money in the glass of water becomes a sort of quality assurance mark. At the same time, water has a very protective nature to it. JB grew up in a Catholic community where everyone was baptized around the time of their birth. In that ceremony, water cleanses the person of sin and gives them God’s grace for the remainder of life. In a much less formal manner, putting the money from the first sale in water grants it a level of protection, hopefully for the remainder of the workday.