I was at Sam's Club the other day purchasing TVs for a client. Since the bill was going to be over $2,000 pesos (roughly $180 USD) and I wanted it to be tax deductible (i.e. I needed a factura [Mexican business tax receipt]), I had to pay with a check or business credit card. We don't have business credit cards yet, so a check it was.
The total came to something like eighteen thousand pesos (about $1,500 USD). However, the cashier wouldn't accept the check since eighteen was spelled incorrectly. Remember I am writing in Spanish. The word for eighteen is dieciocho. I accidentally put a "z" instead of a "c". When I asked for the correct spelling the cashier and his supervisor did not know. If I'm a rather well-educated American who speaks and writes Spanish, and I can't write eighteen correctly, and both these guys are Mexican and can't write it either, who do they expect can?
I was quite frustrated, but I did not get angry with the clerks. I merely asked why they would not accept the check if they could not even spell it correctly. The answer was that the bank would refuse the check. After pulling out my iPhone with Spanish/English translation I was finally able to get the correct spelling. They made me write a new check, because even with one letter spelled incorrectly it would be refused. I'm sure even in English, in a rush I might spell a word incorrectly. I don't recall any of my checks in the US being refused, except perhaps for lack of funds.
I think this has something to do with the Mexican culture, and people not wanting to make mistakes. Workers are given so little flexibility and responsibility. Everything is by the book (except when its not). There always seem to be 100 steps for a simple task. Sometimes you are required to follow every step - at other times none are required. You just have to be prepared and flexible, and ready to laugh at it all.