Luckily our son knew the real price for such a move and saved this young couple a big chunk of money in a matter of five minutes through negotiation (getting to the normal price) with the driver, that by the way, was recommended by a bilingual the young couple hired to assist them in finding a moving truck.
Why So High? If the driver thinks he can get it then why not get it? Can’t blame him for trying to get the best price possible, however if you are a principled person then maybe the gringo price won’t work for you. After all, at what point does ‘free market’ become – overcharging—price gouging? Remember, all it takes is a few foreign newcomers to oblige themselves to the first (overzealous) price quoted and you’ve got yourself a new price precedent.
Values and Trust Levels in a New Culture
In the states we’re often warned to do a thorough due diligence when hiring a service company. In fact that’s the first thing people do back home BEFORE they hire a service person into their home, whether it is a painter, plumber, carpet cleaner, cleaning lady, electrician, or roofer. But when they move abroad they hire strangers they have never met on a whim.
Who are we? Does moving to a foreign country change our values, ethics and trust levels? We don’t think so. But from all appearances we do think that foreigners who move to an unfamiliar country change their perception about how they should interact and do business with the people in the new land they are in, especially for the first six months or so. They feel that it’s ok to gauge their transactions based on how much lower the price is than where they came from, when in fact they’re actually being taken advantage of on a local level. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed to negotiate; they tip more; and they trust more. This happens because they really do not know and/or understand the culture they are moving to.
It seems readily apparent that the apprehension of not being able to speak the language can make a foreigner do things they normally would not do, such as hire bilinguals that they don’t really know, to assist them in finding a moving van, or simply hiring anyone off the street for convenience sake. We have to be careful however, as our perception may not be appropriate, and especially because we are in a foreign land. Even when someone comes recommended by three or more people doesn’t necessarily mean that we too, will have a good experience working with that person or company.
Doing these things may seem good and right but is it behaving with discernment? The best thing that can happen is we get erroneously overcharged for a service; the worst thing that can happen is what we have already observed happen right here in Cuenca just a few short months ago, the movers come back to your home and rob you blind of all your household possessions.
Need Something? Let the Yellow Pages Do the Walking
Because we’re new in a foreign land and we can’t speak the language we automatically think we can’t get anything done without hiring a bilingual or going on forums looking for assistance, however, they are geared to the tourist, who can’t speak, or will not speak Spanish. That means you will most-likely get taken advantage of by anyone who helps you or any service you use. There are exceptions of course, so please do not hold me on that.
This is why we need to look at all options, even if we do not speak the language, quite yet. When we first moved here, we did not speak the language and there were no recommendations for anything at that time. We needed a moving truck or van to assist some friends of ours. I thought about it for a moment and just did what I would have done if I were still back home; I instinctively went to Google Translate with these keyword phrases: “moving van”, “moving company”, “furniture movers”.
original notes from 4-years ago found in an old phone book
I then looked the translated phrases up in our Cuenca Ecuador phone book. That's how we would do it back home, right?
And for just one of the keyword phrases (Furniture Movers) six furniture moving companies became available to us and one of them even spoke English!
This is what we had to do when we first moved to Cuenca because there were no recommendations. The point is, be careful with who you trust and who you do business with. We think that if a local company takes the time to be listed in the yellow pages of the local phone book, the chances are they are less likely to take the risky behavior of coming back and stealing everything you own, and or even gringo gouging, like what happened to the gringo couple we previously talked about.
Advantages to the DIY Approach
So in five minutes we did it our self! We found a furniture moving company that Speaks English so we didn’t need to hire a bilingual for $10 an hour. We got quoted a fair price (after all, they are a company listed in the phone book), and we were not gringo gouged because of the color of our skin. And remember, if the price seems out of line, which is not a very good barometer for a foreigner, and therefore, even if it doesn’t, you can negotiate! It is part of the culture to do as such. And what is the first rule of negotiation? You must be willing to walk away.
In a nutshell, by doing-it-ourselves, we:
1. Saved money
2. Learned (some) Spanish by interacting 'hands on' with the locals instead of relying on others
3. Got things done quicker
4. Didn’t need to involve a mediator, which also saved us money
5. Gave business to local honest business people, and discouraged dishonest business practices
More Ways to Save Money Moving
Household Goods in Cuenca
1. Ask the store you bought the furniture at: Both times we bought appliances downtown Frank used the transporting of the appliance to our home as part of the negotiation process. They will gladly deliver your appliance or furniture if you buy from them. It has always worked for us with no issues.
2. Coral Centro has furniture movers across the street. In 2011 they were $3 dollars to take your furniture to your home; then in 2013 they had gone up to $15 or $20 dollars a load. Today, they might be about $20 to $25 a load, but always negotiate. For short distances (no further than 10 miles) within the city of Cuenca, transporting a load even a large load of furniture should be no more than $20 to $25 dollars. A very small load should be no more than $7. If they help load and unload, offer them a tip of $5.
3. The trucks you see all over in Cuenca with a green stripe, they will also transport small loads.
4. Use the yellow pages! You'll be surprised at how many Ecuadorians actually speak (some) English.
By the way, ETAPA provides free phone books if you’re a customer.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!