Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Argentina Desperately Needs Change!

  • The first day I arrived in Salta, Argentina, I caught a taxi to the hostel. When we arrived, I gave the driver a 10-peso bill to cover the 6-peso charge. That's about three bucks to cover a two-dollar ride. The driver couldn't make change. He ended up taking about 5 minutes to run around the block asking other people for change.
  • Just a couple days ago, I took another taxi. The fare was 3 pesos and I gave the driver two 2-peso bills. He had no coins. Specifically, lack of coins is the biggest issue, not so much lack of bills—although lack of the right bills isn't uncommon. I ended up just saying to hell with it and letting him keep the extra money. I wasn't bothered because I gave up 33¢. It's the principal of the matter that really bugs me. [In reality the fare was about 2.60 and I was going to give him 3, to include a tip. I ended up giving him 4.]
  • I am embarrassed to tell this story, but I will, for posterity. The first time I was in Buenos Aires, I stopped at a street vendor who was preparing and selling sandwiches made from barbequed meats. I ordered a couple and he sliced up some beef and some sausage and threw it onto the grill. I pulled out a 100-peso bill—or about $33. He said he didn't have change. He took out his wallet and showed me that it was empty. At this point, I felt bad for the kid—he was probably 16 years old—and so I gave him the 100-peso bill, had him write me up a receipt, and told him I'd come back another day for change. I didn't have the heart to walk away and leave him with wasted meat on the BBQ. Unfortunately, his stand wasn't close to where I was staying. I made it back another day, but a different cook was there. Apparently, several cooks share the stand. I never did make it back when the kid was there, and so I lost about $25.
  • A few days ago, at a kiosk, I wanted to buy a bottle of Coke. It cost something like $1.75 (pesos) and so I stuck my hand out with a 2-peso bill. He didn't have change, so I walked away, despite the fact that I could've just given him the extra 8¢ (U.S.).
  • Conclusion: People who run a tight ship have change. If they really try, they can have change on hand, although it takes a concerted effort. People who don't have change may just be trying to rip you off, or they may just be bad at business. From here on out, if someone doesn't have change, I will just stand there and wait for them to run themselves ragged getting proper change for me. If someone doesn't have change, I will not buy something from them. If they want extra money from a tourist, they can get it from someone else—and they will.

5 comments:

Abhijeeet Thacker said...

Jay,

My solution to this problem, Just keep all the change you got on you :D it will save you couple of pesos every time someone doesn't have a change :D HTH

Andreas L said...

My solution in Argentina was to pay the puny road tolls with really large bills, they always have change and you usually get your change in 2 peso bills... This will obviously not work with your way of travelling... but it might help someone else.

/Andreas

Cheryl Mingo said...

So...how long are you staying in Salta? Seems like you've been there an awful long time...I mean for it being Salta. Where's your next stop on the trip? Can't believe you've already been gone 7 mo. Guess a lot longer than you had planned huh? Take care...oh, Adrian says to bring him an Argentine jersey from the Bolivians...they sell them cheap.

Jay said...

Cheryl,

Women have a way of making you do things that you might not normally do—or that might not make sense!

I found some good dance classes here, too.

I'm planning on leaving Monday. Within two days of that (or so), I'll plan on heading into Paraguay from the south.

By the way, it's about time you posted something in your blog! :)

Cheryl Mingo said...

What do women have to do with it??
Yeah, I know about my blog. I have been so busy with missions teams since July that I didn't have time but now that I'm back at home with a little more time I will be writing more often. I didn't know anyone had missed it :)