It shames me to admit this, since I take so much pride in my ability to travel Latin America more or less like a local, but I’m absolutely terrible at bargaining in Spanish. This is kind of a huge weakness in Peru, because every interaction is up for negotiation and every negotiation is lopsided against white people. So I’m constantly negotiating for cabs, souvenirs, and other items, and not doing it very well.

Here’s how a successful bargaining interaction should go (assuming the final price should be $5):

Me: I’m going to the plaza.

Cab Driver: $10.

Me: $3.

Cab Driver: $6

Me: Let’s call it $5

Cab Driver: OK that sounds perfectly reasonable. Also, I love what you’re doing with your hair.

Me: Thank you for the compliment and for not being a racist.
 

Unfortunately, that’s happened to me zero times. Usually, the interactions are more like this:

Me: I’m going to the plaza.

Cab Driver: $10.

Me: $3.

Cab Driver: (Dismissively) No. $12.

Me: B-b-but that’s higher than what you said before and $7 over market price.

Cab Driver: $27. And your hair looks terrible.

I blame Panama for my inept bargaining. That’s where I did my Peace Corps service, learned Spanish, and learned how to get by in Latin America and people in Panama¬†don’t typically bargain. It was kind of weird actually. Cab drivers, for example, would often name ridiculous prices off the bat, the way they do in Peru, except that was their final offer. Even if you clearly both knew the correct price, rather than bargain, they would just drive away and most likely get a fare from a local for equal or lesser value than what you had offered. But I guess the pride was more important than the payment. So I got used to being selective about which fare I chose, but I never actually bargained.

This inability to bargain probably hasn’t actually cost me much in absolute value, since we’re typically actually negotiating over something like 30 cents, but my pride and confidence have taken many hits and I feel like I’m missing a key part of my Latin America knowledge. I still have a month and a half left of travel in South America, so perhaps I’ll improve my bargaining ability. That, or cab drivers across the continent will go home with 30 extra cents in their pockets, and a big smile on their faces.