Panama’s Price Discrimination (and 10 ways to fight it)
Price discrimination is an economic concept with everyday consequences in Panama. Unless you are a local, you have undoubtedly been the victim of price discrimination. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the developing world, mostly in Latin America. A voiding price discrimination has become an essential part of my daily life.
For our purposes, price discrimination can be defined as being charged more for something just because you are not a local. The existence of price discrimination is easy to understand. Everyone wants to make as much money as they can. Local Latinos universally believe that Gringos have “mucha plata” (a lot of money). Thus, it’s easy for a local to justify their thought process: “I need money. The Gringos have lots of money. The Gringos are easy to trick. Hmmm… Lets make the Gringo pay more!”
Every local knows that I am a Gringo. I embody the ultimate Gringo stereotype: I am a Caucasian. I have a stocky build, dirty blonde hair, and green eyes. I speak Spanish with a bad accent. I also have a tendency to get rambunctious when I party. The only component missing to round out the stereotype is the Hawaiian shirt, a pair of cargo shorts and cheap sandals. Basically, I pay more for every good or service solely because I am a Gringo. You will too.
To illustrate my point, here are a few recent examples:
- The Juice Lady – Three days a week, I buy a fresh juice smoothie from the same lady outside the fish market. It’s $1.50. One day a new lady happened to be working. She charged me $2.00 for the exact same drink. It could have been an accident because she was new. But, that wouldn’t explain why the local Panamanian guy directly in front of me paid $1.50 for the exact same banana fruit smoothie.
- Rana Dorada – A trendy new bar on Via Argentina that I frequent. One night, I clearly ordered 4 shots of Tequila “DE LA CASA!” (house Tequila). I was given a bill for $54 for 4 shots of top shelf Tequila. I can assure you it sure didn’t taste like top shelf Tequila. Pissed off, I leaned over the bar and sternly told the bartender “You’re an idiot. Here is $40. Make it work.”.
- Taxi. Ubiquitous cheap taxis are a major draw to life in PTY. On the other hand, they’re the WORST price discrimination abusers.
The Gringo Tax rule of thumb on a standard $3 cab ride:
- Group: All foreigners and English (or any language other than Spanish) is spoken in the cab – $7 plus
- Group: One foreigner the rest Latinos. English spoken – $6
- Group: One foreigner the rest Latinos. Spanish spoken – $5
- Group: One foreigner the rest Latinos. Complete silence – $4
Before getting into a cab, my Panamanian friends will say to me “Evans, callate la boca!”. (Evan, shut up).
***** My real name is Evan. However many Panamanians call me Evans. Not sure why.