10 Years of Blog Archive

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

We Have Never "Shopped" at Feria Libre Outdoor Mercado

 “Only Americans move abroad to live on less and pay more than in Europe or their own country. Quote from one of our YouTube video commenters.
Sweet potatoes - USA 2015

                             OUTDOOR MERCADO

Actual conversation with Feria Libre Mercado Vendor (took place in Spanish):

ME:  how much are the sweet potatoes?  (I already know he’s going to quote me the gringo price.)

VENDOR: fifty cents a pound.  .50cents a lb.

ME: can’t you sell them to me for three pounds for a dollar?
(notice I’m asking, not telling)

VENDOR:  I can sell for that price out of this other sack (a little bit older but good sweet potatoes)

ME:  ( I start looking through them thinking all the while that I’ve never actually paid .33cents a pound for them anywhere in Ecuador)

To tell you the truth sir, I pay .25cents a pound on the other side of the market.  Your price is a gringo price.  I don’t pay that.

VENDOR:  Ok, I’ll sell to you for that. (.25cents lb.)

VENDOR:  as I’m putting 4 pounds in a bag, he looks me over real good with a tilted head and says:  “aren’t you a gringo? Maybe you’re not a gringo” (notice he’s not sure, thanks to my Spanish and my demeanor.

ME: “No, I’m a Grin-Cano”

ME AND VENDOR:  Cracking up laughing

ME:  I pay the vendor and tell him, I’ll see you again, he smiles and agrees and bids me a nice day.

NOTE: this time the vendor was male, and he went along with my reasoning.  However most of the ladies don’t go for that, I have to walk away when dealing with them, and only then do they start negotiating, if at all.

As you can hopefully see, it takes a different kind of person to act this way. And you know, if he would not have come down to my price I would have walked away.  He could tell I was sincere and I meant it.  I was also respectful.

Now for an explanation of the title.  Most non frugal North Americans “shop”.  

This is a typical north American shopper:  you run out of something or decide you want something.  (notice the presupposition is that you have already decided you will buy).  Then, you go out and just BUY that item.  You pay the price asked, and you go home.  Typical north American or international - in store - way of buying.

Instead, notice that above I said I would have walked away.  That means I potentially and more than likely would have went home without sweet potatoes that day.  See the difference?  We don’t “shop”.  What do we do?  We bargain hunt.

How would you know what a “bargain” is, if you don’t already know the SEASONAL PRICES around town and a variety of different stores?

There’s something else going on here.  I won’t pay same or higher than store prices at an outdoor Mercado for two reasons:

1.    Locals don’t do that
2.    Quality is not assured so why would I?

Remember I’m at an outdoor Mercado because I’m living local, and don’t want to pay store prices.  So then based on that it is imperative that I already know what the SEASONAL PRICES are at a variety of stores around town.

As the song goes:  If you weren’t already frugal and diligent BEFORE coming to Ecuador, moving to Ecuador (or any other developing country) and “shopping” at outdoor Mercados won’t necessarily make you so.

And with the help of these articles and our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide we feel it will make it easier for you to understand what it really takes to “go local” and decide if it’s really for you.


If you liked this article, we think you'll like this article and the You Tube Video below it.
Nitty-gritty Mercado Shopping in Latin America (video below)
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Frank is also very nice but reading between the lines you may understand why some gringos living in the third world are uneasy with the new gringos moving in. When the new people come they do not know or understand these things/facts and by paying the asking price of the locals, they make the cost of living there high for all. Frank is trying to wise you up and teaching you how to get along with the locals AND the gringos.

    Look when you meet some locals and talk about getting ripped off, they are going to tell you that everyone treats gringos that way and not just you... AND that makes it OK? I think NOT! Friend,when arriving in the third world, FIRST thing, if you don't know someone like Frank and Angie, FIND someone like them before the gringos start giving you a hard time along with the locals. Just wising you up in a friendly way....


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