February 2009 Issue: Haggle Free

In this largely informal cash economy, prices are often negotiable. Iffeb09 vendors notice that you are of a fair skin tone, they might start the bidding a bit high. Granted, nobody likes paying more than the next guy. But lately, before employing my aggressive haggling tactics in broken Spanish, I’ve stepped back to put things in perspective. Consider the following:

I have, on many occasions, spent around $30 on a tank of gas. So, Q30 is not too much to pay for a chicken bus ride from here to the lake. Instead of grilling the ayudante, I just go with it.

My outdoor performance backpack cost more than $200. So I figure Q200 is not too much to pay for a guided trek where I can put it to use.

My higher education cost around $350 per credit unit, so Q350 is not too much to pay for an educational tour of a fair trade coffee farm for a whole weekend. In fact, it might not be enough.

A few times, I have spent more than $15 on a DVD. Therefore, Q15 is a fair price for a high-quality pirated DVD, especially if it’s the kind with two or three movies on one disc.

Outside of Guatemala, I’ve stayed in hotel rooms priced at $70 or more. So, Q70 is not too much to pay for a room here, especially if it has a private bath. I’d only ask for a discount if there were pubic hair on the sheets.

In the past I have paid more than $50 for jeans. Consequently, Q50 for some like-new name-brand jeans at the pacas is practically a steal, especially if they came off a mannequin. I just wish they fit me like they fit her.

Back home, I have spent more than $5 on tropical produce. So, Q5 is not too much to spend on a unit or pound of anything fresh from the market here. I go with the quoted price.

Unless I really need to haggle, I don’t. What amounts to pocket change in USD may be important income for someone in Quetzales. Prices here are already some of the lowest in the world. Paying the tourist price is still a much better deal than prices back home, plus I figure spending makes a bigger impact here.

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