Monday, August 3, 2009

Haggling in Peru

One of the sad things about Peru is just how easy it is to haggle if you don´t care about people´s feelings. I try here to get the essence of two conversations (conveniently glossing over the fact that I speak Spanish worse than horribly, and the other people involved speak very little English).


Story 1: Yesterday, while getting a shoeshine in Cuzco´s Plaza de Armas. Boy who appears to be about 14 approaches and since my shoes are being cleaned, I am sort of a captive audience:

Boy: Do you want to see my art?

Me: Sorry... I don´t want to buy any art.

Boy: Please, look. I painted these myself. My name is Mario. [Shows me his name in the corner of the paintings.]

Me: I´m not really interested in buying any art.

[Boy puts artwork in my hands... these are basically postcard-sized, but each one is handpainted. Eventually I find one that I kind of like.]

Me: How much does this one cost?

Boy: It is 20 soles for 1, or 2 for 35, or 3 for 45.

Me: I was thinking I would be paying closer to 3 soles.

Boy (stunned... insulted I think): 12 soles.

Me: I´ll pay 8. This is the most I will pay... [Eventually he agrees, and the 8 soles change hands]


Story 2: Today, on a guided tour through Chincheros (a very high mountain town). The tour guide has us pass through a market on our way to look at a church.

Girl: You want to buy a hat.

Me: I don´t need a hat.

Girl (whining): You want a hat... 15 soles! [note: a dollar is worth about 3 soles. So... she is offering me a hat that I would probably buy in the states for 15 dollars for 5 dollars]

Me: Maybe later.*

[About half an hour later I return to the bus... the girl spots me.]

Girl: You want to buy a hat.

Me: I don´t need a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 10 soles.

Me: I really don´t need a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 5 soles.

Me (trying to walk away, fruitlessly): No, I really don´t need a hat... I already have a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 2 soles! [Yes, she is trying to sell me a hat that I would get in the states for $15 for about 60 cents]

Me: I´m sorry! I don´t need a hat.

[I walk into the bus and sit by a window. The girl continues to knock on my window for awhile, until the tour guide shooes her away...]


In my own defense, I would like to say that I was only able to get these poor kids to commit to these insulting prices because I really didn´t particularly want what they were selling... so they were basically agreeing that getting something was better than getting nothing. When I have been interested in the goods, I have usually paid fairly close to their initial asking price. But yes... you could easily take advantage of the extreme poverty out here. The Footprint guide that I´ve been walking around with suggests that you pay ¨fair prices¨ noting that people are so poor here and there are sooooo many people trying to sell things to tourists that you can often get people to agree to almost any price, however insulting. I've certainly seen this to be true, and it makes me sad...

* I don´t actually remember saying ¨maybe later¨... however, given the end result I would generally just advise against using these particular words)

1 comment:

ccb said...

This story is much different than the one you previously described about doing the old 1-2 haggling trick with your mom!