10 Years of Blog Archive

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Grocery Shopping in Cuenca Ecuador, Um, I Mean Little North America

All I want to do is pay the listed price for the peppers.  Bag ‘em, tag’em, and pay for ‘em.  Is that too much to ask?  I’m in a big box grocery store, well, um, for Ecuador.  I won’t say which one because our intent is to share our experience, not to offend anyone. But I’ll tell you it’s not the one in Gringolandia, although all of Cuenca is now Gringolandia according to some locals.

Well, see what you think.  I’m in the produce department, they now have three different bins for peppers.  It wasn’t always that way.  When we first arrived three short years ago all the peppers were considered the same.  Same peppers, same price, right?  

OK, so now, there’s a bin for the RED PEPPERS, a bin for the YELLOW PEPPERS , and a bin for the GREEN PEPPERS.
The green peppers have the lowest price. The red and yellow peppers are priced twice as high.  Sounds ok so far? Well I’m sure it does if you’re still in the States.  And that’s part of the problem, but we’ll save that for another day.

I used to shop at the largest outdoor Mercado in the area, Feria Libre where there’s no price on anything and it’s the best example of a chaotic situation I’ve ever seen. And as a seasoned bargain hunter, I actually thrive in that environment; unless, a big hoard of gringos descends on the city and changes the environment.  Huh?  See below.

I used to walk around Feria just looking for bargains.  When I saw a very large bag, let’s say 2 or 3 kilos, of RED PEPPERS, priced the same as all the other peppers, $1.50-$2.00, I just bought it.  I had learned from the Crates fiasco (see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide for that story) what happens when I go around asking for anything in this kind of environment.  So I don’t go asking.  I just look, see, and buy/bargain.  Period.  But now, even at Feria Libre they’re pricing red peppers higher.  Still wondering how that happened?

Ok, so back to the grocery store. I’m in the GREEN PEPPERS bin, and I’m being a smart shopper. (ahem) I’m picking out the GREEN PEPPERS that have a slither of orange on them, some have a slither of yellow on them, but they’re definitely not RED PEPPERS, nor are they YELLOW PEPPERS.  They’re just GREEN PEPPERS with little slivers of orange and some yellow.

And you know, these peppers have been sitting in this green pepper bin for quite some time because when I pick them up they’re not tight like the other GREEN PEPPERS, now they’re getting soft and old, and they need to be sold, and they have slivers of orange and yellow and some with slivers of red. See the photo below that we took of the GREEN PEPPERS, some with tinges of red in them.

So I bag, them, and go get them weighed where they put the price tag on them. Surprise!  She does a double take on the bag of peppers.  Say what?  She does a double take and proceeds to charge me the higher price, the price on the RED PEPPER BIN and the YELLOW PEPPER bin.  Twice as much!  But these peppers are from the GREEN PEPPER BIN.  Am I too smart a shopper here? 

I tell her these are from the GREEN PEPPER bin.  “Yes but they’re not green” she says, “they’re red and yellow”.

You gotta be kidding.  Another Ecuadorian lady approaches as we’re having this discussion about the peppers.  As far as the clerk girl is concerned they’re not green therefore they cost more.  We’re talking twice as much.

“But they’re in the GREEN PEPPER bin” I protest.  And the other Ecuadorian lady agrees with me.  But then, the girl argues with the Ecuadorian lady in Spanish, and the Ecuadorian lady does a 180 and agrees with the girl.  “Yes these are RED and YELLOW peppers” she says.

Ok, let’s get back to earth here, I’m thinking, with my frustration getting me to the point where I can’t think in Spanish any more.  I start motioning with my hands, and explaining, “If you want to charge more for these peppers, they need to be in a different bin.  A bin SEPARATE from the GREEN PEPPERS bin, with their own price on them. See?

“Ooh, separate”, she says. “right".

Like that’s gonna happen.  It’s 1:00 pm and half the fruit doesn’t even have a price tag on it yet.  And you think they’re gonna find time to pick out these green peppers with little orange slivers and yellow slivers, out of the bin and separate them into a different bin and put a separate price on them?  I’ll let you know when that happens but I won’t hold my breath.

So I pick up the already bagged peppers, she had separated the ones with yellow slivers, in a separate bag, and the ones with orange slivers in another bag.  So I pick them up and put them back in the GREEN PEPPER bin, where they came from.  “No, I'm not buying these”, I say nicely and I bid her good day with a smile.

I like the way things used to be.  I don’t like being in little North America.  I like the previous version of Ecuador.   Well it’s the same thing with rentals, real estate, honey, prices -- on just about everything.  We’ve lived here going on four years so we actually seeeeee the changes and have something to compare to.  But hey, gas is still cheap and the bus is still .25 cents, for now, and I still rent for $250 a month, this year...


  1. Great story. We enjoy your commentary and videos, have learned a lot from you and your family over the last year (plus). I think we've decided on a small, laid back, coastal village as a suitable place for us to settle. Hopefully the North American infiltration will be a little slower. We look forward to your next post here in cold, snowy, windy Nova Scotia. Oh--we'll be buying a copy of your Coastal Travel Guide...

  2. Thank you very much! Thanks for your support and kind words.

  3. So sorry this is happening, someone is telling them what to do and sometimes it's the people that are now living there telling them how it is here in the US.

    I know exactly what your talking about but here in Ca. I was going to buy a cabbage and it was 3 dollars, yes 3 BUCKS there is no way I"m going to buy it no way. So we rarely get to have veggies and fruit thanks to the outrageous prices. :( Hope this never happens there.

  4. Thank you for all posts and videos, we following them closely. We hope, it will be possible to contact you. This year, we're planning to visit Ecuador.


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.