Sunday, March 9, 2008

Costly Lessons

While I think I have traveled sufficiently to know better, it seems that one mistake I always repeat is to get deceived by locals. I’m not sure if I scream “Please take my money”, but it seems to always happen to me. It’s sometimes just a few dollars, but it’s very frustrating nonetheless. Unfortunately, two instances occurred recently.

My seemingly nice, 70 year old landlady offered to buy us bottled water because she says we would be charged more as foreigners. So she charged us 72,000 dong for a case of 24-500 mL bottles. I figured out that this was 3000 dong per bottle, which is the same as they charge tourists on the street! I further found out at a store that a case of 24 bottles cost 60,000 dong. Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll have to keep an eye on that landlady! (She’s also the one who wants to charge 50 USD for laundry a month, which sounds quite excessive.)

The second instance took place when The Boyfriend wanted to buy maps for his students. We found a street vendor (first mistake), in a touristy area (second mistake) who was selling a map for 20,000 dong, about $1.25 which didn’t sound too bad. He wanted 8 and the vendor first said she couldn’t give us a deal unless we bought 10 (third…) and that she was selling at a fair price unlike big stores. The Boyfriend said 140,000 and I translated; she rebutted 150,000. Finally, she agreed on 140,000, a bit too easily (fourth). A bit later, I realized that he paid nearly $10 and that sounded too much. We found maps at a bookstore later in the day (isn’t that always the case?) and they were selling for… 3500 dong?!!!!!!!!! That’s right about a sixth of her price.

I can hear some of my friends remind me that I have taken a negotiations course. Well, actually, sort of two. So in class, we would analyze the situation… I think the first case was simply trusting my landlady; I really didn’t expect her to go out of her way and lie about helping us when she’s actually trying to deceive us. The second case was really not thinking, not considering the conversion and multiplying a mistake by 8; it was that lady’s lucky day. Rehashing this is painful, but hopefully I’ve learnt my lessons. I hate having to think that everyone’s out to get my money, but it seems that’s the case.

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