Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guanajuato, Mexico: Two Price System

"Many Mexican shopkeepers and others along the border treat Americans like suckers who deserve to be taken. They try to get as much out of them as possible because they presume they will never come back." (There's a Word for It in Mexico The Complete Guide to Mexican Thought and Culture; NTC Publishing Group, Lincolnwood, Illinois; Boyé Lafayette De Mente; 1996; Page 298)

I haven't visited this subject in a while and thought I would again. I recently had lunch with a gringo visiting from the States and this was one of his question: "Is there really a two-price system in Mexico in general and in Guanajuato specifically."

My answer to him was, of course, yes.

There is a two-price system that affects everything. We discovered this long ago in our personal experience and from stories from other gringos as well as Mexicans in town.

Where we live, the Mexicans pay about 100 dollars less for their apartment rent than we do. Our landlady was upfront about this citing that Americans use more water and electricity than Mexicans.

When our Spanish began improving, this was one of the hot topics I wanted to ask Mexicans in the city about for various articles I've written.

Our retired friend, Roberto, born and bred in Guanajuato, was particularly enlightening about this subject. I asked him, "Why does the price for anything in this town automatically increase when a Guanajuantense sees the gringo face coming?"

Roberto didn't hesitate a bit: "Dollars. They see American dollars and they want to charge as much as they can get out of the Rich Americans."

It is a cultural expectation (false stereotype) that all Americans are rich and can afford to pay more for whatever it is the Mexican is selling.

I might add that never once have I gotten any other response from the Mexicans I've asked this question. Roberto's reply is the universal answer.

Some Mexicans take offense at this notion that Americans are targeted. In fact a friend of ours said this regarding a forum post about this very subject:

I find that first statement really insulting to Mexicans. I have lots of "gringo" friends who live here in Mexico City and I don't think a single one of them has ever expressed this thought to me, or had this experience..........

This person is from Mexico City and perhaps the two-price system has faded into some kind of cultural obscurity. Who can say?

All one has to do, that is if you have Spanish fluency, is walk through a festival's food kiosks and listen to the vendors. My wife recently overheard a taco-selling woman talking with a lady friend sitting with her, telling her friend that she charged "that gabacho" three times more for the tacos than she did the Mexicans before him.

Mexicans here in Guanajuato, just like in the quote at the beginning of this blog, will assume you are a tourist, too stupid to know the difference, can't understand Spanish, and will never return. The same goes for just about any open market in this town. This makes it so hard for Spanish-speaking expats who live here and want to be treated on an equal playing field.

I have this taxi driver pal who told us that he charges English speaking gabachos twice the normal fare if they won't speak Spanish to him.

My poor wife would have to be on her toes constantly in the local markets to listen to what the vendor would charge the person ahead of her. When it came her turn, she would end up having to haggle with the vendor pointing out that he charged two to three times less to the Mexicans. He would, of course, deny this.

For this very reason we no longer shop at the Mercado Hidalgo. We go to the local markets in our barrio who know us and who do not rip us off. And, what we can't find in the barrio's markets, we go to the Super. It is sad, in my view.

I do not see this abating in the near future. What will happen is the more gringos who come for visiting or living, the higher and higher the prices will go. This is why you spend twice to four times more in San Miguel de Allende for a lunch than you would elsewhere. The Mexicans charge whatever the market will bear and the rich folks in San Miguel will gladly be taken for a ride, apparently, and pay more.

That's what's coming to Guanajuato.



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