Published on October 1st, 2014


Avoiding the Gringo Trap – Whew!

O.k. so here’s my story. I happen to have 3 fabulous handmade bags/purses that I got in Laos and Mongolia – simple cloth bags with long cloth straps, but each intricately hand-stitched in traditional folk/hilltribe designs. Luscious treasures, and among the few souvenirs I allow myself to tuck in my backpack as I skip about the globe.  But they needed to be lined so…

Just a few doors down from my place here in El Centro is this tiny hole-in-the-wall tailor. A dear old gentleman and his aging wife – both of whom can be seen most any day of the week, diligently stitching away in the dim light of the interior of their curbside shop. Such a charming scene – much akin to an Ecuadorian Norman Rockwell. All together now:  awww….

So… naturally, I take my 3 bags there and ask if this kindly old couple can line them with thin black cotton or some such.  Yes, yes, says the old gentleman, while his wife nods agreement.  How much? says I.  The reply: ten dollars.  Ten dollars for all 3 says I?  Nope.  $10 EACH says the old gentleman.

Hmmm… I’d have tried to barter a bit, but at 10 bucks each to start – what’s the point?  Clearly I was being gringoed.  In Vietnam, such would cost a couple bucks each at most. So instead, I smile politely and mumble gracias, tal vez luego.

Meanwhile, I ask my Ecuadorian chum Jonathon that owns the bitty “Soup’s On” cafe beneath my apartment (and who is a fabulous cook, almuerzos incl. yummers dessert just $2.50, highly recommended), ANYWAY…


An amazing zippered pocket stitched into each bag’s lining!

So I ask Jonathon if $10 to line each bag is a good price or expensive.  MUY CARO! says he.  He knows another tailor who is much cheaper.  He will ask there how much for such.  The answer?  $8 for ALL THREE.

Long story short?  Jonathon kindly took my 3 bags to his tailor and I just got them back. Not only is each one lined beautifully, but they all have a sturdy zippered POCKET sewn into the lining!

The moral to this little fable? Question when you’re being gringoed; it pays to shop around.

How ’bout you? Ever narrowly missed being gringoed in your travels?

About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

10 Responses to Avoiding the Gringo Trap – Whew!

  1. We’ve been gringoed so many times and in many cases it’s been openly blatant. One of the cases that made me see (a little) red was a taxi driver quoting us the going usual fare for a return trip to where we were living in Antigua, Guatemala and, at the end of the ride saying it was per person, effectively doubling the cost! Most times the cost isn’t much and we either proceed to someone else or pay up…
    Anita@No Particular Place To Go kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Back in the U-S-S-AMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Ah yes Anita – taxi drivers seem to be the worst (or alternately, the very BEST) at duping we gringos. Though I too have been duped by many a taxi magician, I’ve found that negotiating the fare before I get in and (most importantly) WRITING.IT.DOWN on my hand/wrist or a slip of paper, pretty much solves the “bait and switch” problem nicely.

  2. James says:


    If you like those bags, you should check these out:

    Love my bags from there!


    • Dyanne says:

      Yes indeed, beautiful bags, James – and great that the company sources the textile panels direct from the local artisan villages. Looks like the company is growing by leaps and bounds (thanks in part to your fine review/article in Oi). An excellent resource for those that can’t trek to the remote corners of the earth like you and I, to barter in person. But as you said James – it’s not the trinkets/souvenirs themselves, so much as the memories attached to the treasures we gather in our travels that are “priceless”.

      My Mongolia bag (partially pictured with its spiffy new zippered pocket in the photos above) is old and tattered with several shredded holes in that glorious stitchery. It was hanging dustily from a rusty nail in the ger where I spent the night amid the Altai mountains in western Mongolia. When I remarked on the beauty of it to the mother of the family, she insisted that I take it as a gift. Stunned, I flummoxed for something I could offer in return, and the only thing I had to give (save the wool socks on my frigid feet!) was my beloved leather string bracelet.

      In short, each of my cherished bags tell a story – each holds a precious memory of a special moment in my travels.

  3. gg says:

    GYE: At the airport, we asked a policeman how much for a taxi to the bus station: $3. We went to the taxi stand and it was $8. Next taxi $7. The lowest we got was $5. We went back to the terminal and saw a young man who looked like a college student and asked him to get us a cab. He asked how much ($3), opened the car door for us, we hopped in and the driver looked at us then him, shook his head, we smiled and he drove us to the Bus station.

    • Dyanne says:

      Excellent example gg! It’s just a matter of doing a little on-site research and/or walking away and negotiating a bit, rather than…

      Blindly/foolishly handing over the first price offered. Or worse, hopping in a taxi without first asking/agreeing on the rate (and btw, better still – before you even get in. Oh! And most certainly before you let them lock your bags in the trunk (to be later used as ransom) 😉

      The only thing I might add is that… I don’t always expect to get the “local” price (i.e. in your case, $3), but by shopping around/haggling a bit (as you did), I’m happy to get a smidge above the local rate (i.e. your lowest, $5 rate).

  4. We were regularly “gringoed” in the US of A. We lived in a fairly affluent neighborhood outside Philadelphia. We were always quoted prices with what we called the “Main Line discount” . I.e. You live here. Let’s jack up the price.
    Suzanne Fluhr kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Ode to a Brigantine, New Jersey SummerMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Really, Suzanne? So the LOCALS were charged more than those just passing through? Seems like that wouldn’t last long – those that live there would swiftly catch on and shop elsewhere, no?

  5. Inflated prices and haggling are part and parcel of the travel game but it’s my pet peeve when someone more than doubles or trebles the start price just because you’re a foreigner. Like you, I don’t see the point of trying to bargain in that situation and just head elsewhere. There’s always someone else who will be reasonable!
    Ruth Elisabeth kindly contributed to world literature by posting…How to beat Anki backlogMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yep, Ruth – ’tis the name of the game in most every developing country. And most vendors are reasonable in their markup – haggling is expected and can actually be fun for both vendor and customer. (I actually offer tips for bartering in my “30 Best Travel Tips”)

      But sadly, (especially in highly touristy locales) some vendors will take advantage and deliberately gouge a naive foreigner who will blindly pay the first price offered. In a way, you can’t blame them – after all, to them it’s simply business, and why not get the highest price, especially from those who arguably are genuinely “rich” comparatively? But of course a wise traveler will bargain in good faith, else simply walk away if the vendor is gouging/won’t budge.

      Of course, the opposite is likewise sadly true: some travelers will haggle unmercifully, quibbling over what amounts to a dime. Or worse – haggling the vendor down, down – with no regard/respect for the hours and hours (often weeks!) the seller spent painstakingly weaving/carving/painting that lovely souvenir the traveler is too tight to pay more than $2.50 for.

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