Colombian Shopportunities

Saturday night in the old city  has a million vendors set up, mostly with the same stuff, so is ripe for shopportunities and bargaining. Of course, I bargain about as well as a toddler. It’s just not in my Canadian psyche. There’s a price tag, we don’t argue, we  just pay what’s on the tag (except in real estate, where we have the safety of someone else who will suffer the indignities of “bargaining”, but that’s a different story). So anyway, I go with a mission, ’cause you gotta have a mission…

1. I want one of those white fedoras everyone else is wearing, regardless of the fact I generally look stupid in a hat. Made in Colombia.

2. I want a mochilla — a hand woven bag, often brightly coloured and/or with a brightly colored strap.

I want to avoid paying the Gringo price if at all possible. So like a punk, I start asking people what they’ve paid for things. Okay. 20,000COP for the hat (about $10) and 75,000 COP or more for the bag (about $35). Armed with information, I bravely  set out, determined NOT to over pay.

Get to the square. Ask the first guy the price of the bag…70,000 COP. Score, cheaper than I thought. But wait, like a savvy shopper, I’m going to check out other bag sellers to compare. I also try on a hat because I figure if I get the hat AND the bag at the same place, I can work a deal.

Sadly, I have a child sized head and his smallest hat falls down over my eyes. I am a size 4, apparently. Toddler head.

I move on… and almost immediately get distracted by woven bracelets. The guy selling them claims to have made them himself, I haven’t seen anything else like this in Cartagena. He has his kid and spouse with him. I don’t bargain. I pay15,000 COP, ’cause I like it and the kid is cute. $7.50 if you’re keeping track. Plus later I get a compliment on it from the corner store lady, so it must be nice. Or at least I think I do…

On to the next hat guy. I find a 4. It’s slightly too small… apparently I have the head of a pre-schooler, not a toddler. 4.5 would be ideal, but it doesn’t exist and I figure I can always stretch it out by wearing it. He says 25,000 COP. AH HA! I know it should be 20,000, which is what I offer and he takes it. I am proud. I have a  slightly too small for my head hat.

Several bag guys later, I realize the first guy had the best price on the bags, so I go back, prepared to pay his 70,000 COP price. I choose my bag. He thanks me for coming back, and compliments me on my too small hat. Bag in had, I THINK I say 70,000…but my  terrible Spanish has me offer him 60,000 COP by mistake… and he takes it! (which likely means I could have gotten it for even less, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?)

Total spent: $47.50 I am a haggler! 🙂


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