Sure, anyone can go to a fruit stand or a Mercado and bargain up a storm, and you should because it is very much expected to do so. But lately we’ve been noticing that more shops, stores and services are unwilling to bargain, even though they do not have any set prices on anything.
In 2011 everyone bargained and loved to haggle with you, and for good reason; you’re in a country where it is expected to bargain. However, we’re seeing a change happening with some of the shop-keepers and even at the Mercado where the ladies seem really set in their pricing.
Set prices would be fine with us if they would post the prices! Post their prices? But we don’t see any posted prices and so you know what that means, right? Ah yes, two different prices for two different people. Did anyone say price gouging? Heaven forbid anyone might call it “discrimination”. What if I don’t want to be different? What if I want to pay what they pay? Have they thought about that?
Negotiating a rental is different too. Some home rentals say negotiable in the ad but not nearly as many as when we first got here, and unfortunately, when they do say negotiable in the ad, many times they don’t really want to lower the price, especially when they see a gringo, or they add something more into the rental package like an aliquot, which if it was not advertised then it makes it a bait and switch advertisement. They have figured out they can just wait it out until the next gringo comes along that 'doesn't negotiate'.
What’s happening to the Cuenca where haggling and bargaining is the norm? The haggling aspect of South America is what gave Cuenca part of its charm and enjoyment. Haggling with the locals can bring an interaction that says, “Hey I want to pay what you pay” which shows respect and humbleness from the foreigner…and they like that. We hope that charm does not disappear.
And why just lately, last year or two are we seeing more local people less likely to haggle with you even though you’re in a country where it is very much culturally acceptable to do so? Is this “no haggling’ just with the foreigners or the locals too?
Is it our fault? Have we gringos bombarded their little Cuenca with the prices we are willing to pay? Have we set certain precedents, showing them that we are capable and willing to pay much more than the local? Do we walk around behaving better than the local people by flaunting our clothing, accessories, and attitude and money? Isn’t that where price gouging begins, from the behavior of others?
We’re committed professional frugalists, and as such, we don’t quit bargaining, in spite of our fellow compatriot’s behavior. If someone won’t negotiate, we go elsewhere. That sets the tone from then on for the next person, or even ourselves, in the long run. Consider it a public service.
Hopefully the "we go elsewhere" part, won't leads us straight on a one way ticket out of Cuenca. Ouch! Displacement anyone? There's more to say about that at another time.
We’re not sure about anywhere else in Ecuador but Cuenca over the course of the last five years has changed and that change has meant the loss of some of its charms out in the market place, especially in the tourist areas and that’s sad, it’s sad indeed.
until we write again...
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