Friday, August 14, 2009

Bargaining in Oaxaca

There was a man selling durazano (peaches) and cerezas (cherries) on a street corner. They were in perfect condition. I asked how much four peaches would cost.

"Veintiseis," he said. ($2.22 Canadian).

"Veittiseis????" I questioned because I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"Si," he confirmed.

"Muy carro," (very expensive) I replied. I thought it likely he was attempting to rip off the gringa.

As I walked away suddenly the price became ocho ( 68 cents Canadian). I suspect that 8 pesos was the real price of the peaches. But, I would not buy those perfect peaches, nor the cherries either since I resented his attempts to cheat me.

(Note - What I've learned since I originally wrote this. I really don't know the prices of things because it's been many, many years since I've had to count my pennies. The ocho pesos was likely for one peach. His original price was the going rate. Why fruit is that expensive I don't know)

I paid 100 pesos ($8.56 Canadian) for a hand embroidered cotton blouse in the marketplace in central Oaxaca.

"You don't know how to fight for a good price," Heidi said.

"You mean barter," I said. "I do, but I prefer not to. If I think it's a good price I'll buy. If it isn't I'll walk away."

To prove I knew how to barter I tried to bring down the price of a blouse that the vendor was selling for forty pesos. She stood firm on her price. I bought a couple of blouses for my grandchildren anyway.

We were in Mitla. In the marketplace there was row upon row of vendors selling blouses that looked exactly alike. Once I had made my purchase many other vendors offered to sell me a blouse for thirty pesos. I thought about the time and material the women invested in making these blouses. Was there any profit at all?

The people in the villages have produced things like hand woven rugs, black pots, wood carvings, leather sandals and embroidered blouses for hundreds of years. There are too many people making these things, or too few people willing to buy them. It isn't my task, but the people of Oaxaca need to find a way to diversify their economy.

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