Panama’s Price Discrimination (and 10 ways to fight it)

December 2, 2010 by:
Panama’s Price Discrimination (and 10 ways to fight it)

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.

Page 2:  10 ways to fight Panama’s Price Discrimination.

Evan Terry Forbes

Evan Forbes 122 post in this blog.

Evan Terry Forbes is an Author, Entrepreneur and Hall of Fame Traveler. He writes entertaining books about how travel has changed his life. In so many beautiful ways. Currently, Evan is traveling with his retired mother for 1 year through Europe and Asia. This book will be called, Travels With My Mother - How Travel Transformed A Mother-Son Relationship. Read his books here.

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13 Comments on "Panama’s Price Discrimination (and 10 ways to fight it)"

  1. Part 2: Panama’s Price Discrimination (and 10 ways to fight it) on Thu, 2nd Dec 2010 10:50 am 

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  2. Samantha on Thu, 2nd Dec 2010 12:03 pm 

    Gringo Bingo at its best!!!!

  3. Mark Chesnut on Thu, 2nd Dec 2010 12:11 pm 

    I know it sounds dramatic, but for taxis in Panama, if I’m already with at least one Panamanian, I walk away and even hide myself behind a tree or a building while my Panamanian friend (or other Latin American) finds a cab and decides on the price. Otherwise, I’ve found that the taxi driver will jack up the rate just upon seeing me. After they’ve decided on an OK price, I proudly strut out and board the cab with them.

  4. Karla on Thu, 2nd Dec 2010 9:00 pm 

    I hear you dear Evans. lol
    I am an americanizada latina. I get ripped off sometimes. is the way you ask. I whisper to my hubby in the car when i speak english to him so I know what you are talking about.
    Note to you: don’t ask how much to a cab driver…this is basics Rule #1 regla #1 they will know you don’t know how much you are supposed to pay and they will over charge you for asking. we don’t ask, we know how much to pay and carry the chart with us all the time. Yes we tip them, but don’t pay double nor tripe the fare.

  5. Claudia Castillo Correa on Sat, 4th Dec 2010 2:22 pm 

    dear evan… dont generalize, please… not all panamanians call you evans…

  6. Evan Terry Forbes on Sat, 4th Dec 2010 2:33 pm 

    Hola Claudia,

    Sorry for generalizing. I edited the article to say many Panamanians. I feel that is more accurate.

    My name is mis pronounced probably because Evans is a popular Gringo last name. No se.

  7. yanis on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 12:35 am 

    Bueno evan me parece que esto no es algo exclusivo para los “gringos” hasta a mi
    que Soy panameña me ha pasado un par de veces.
    por ejemplo en bocas como no soy local me querian cobrar $10 por un water taxi de isla colon a carenero
    cuando El sentido comun me indicaba que eso no podia ser asi.
    que mas que todo esto algo de el mas vivo Y supervivencia y no solo pasa en panama con los extranjeros pasa en todas partes del mundo
    Me pasa a mi cuando salgo del pais este es un problema de la honestidad y el juegsa vivo que hay en
    Todas partes del mundo.
    Otra cosa mi nombre es Yanis en español pero no se por que
    Todo el que habla ingles insiste en decirme Janice ;p

  8. new member on Wed, 15th Dec 2010 8:46 am 

    Evan,NEVER EVER ASK HOW MUCH TO WHERE..talk to a local around you before you contemplate the where you are going and they will give you an idea(most times),get in the taxi tell the driver where you are going exactly as if you have been there before..even give him directions(even if you’ve no clue where you are going,he knows where it is)upon arrival depending on the distance give $1.25 close distance…accross town $2.to 2.50.just hand it over no questions asked as to how much..what would you? The bartenders are the same world wide,if youaare regular tip the guy well if a first timer,ask how much the drink is and bitch if out of line and comment on the price as if you know..my friend switch drinks..tequiya is over rated.want a nice cheap no hang over buzz..drink locl Abuelo on the rocks litlle ice.I’m a cuban ameroican living here and everyone is as nice as they can be ..for the exception of the women..they have their head up their ass.Go colombian when ever possible!! keep up the good work

  9. Panama In 2 Weeks on Thu, 16th Dec 2010 3:57 pm 

    [...] Planet Panama and Lonely Planet Spanish Phrase book.   Study Panama slang terms. Get wise to price discrimination.  Finally, buy a $10 local cell phone. Share this: AKPC_IDS += [...]

  10. Me Voy Pa'l Chino on Thu, 30th Dec 2010 1:43 pm 

    [...] and low balls me. He offers me 5% off. My many years in the developing world have accustomed me to receiving the Gringo price. Sensing that negotiating any further would be an exercise in futility, I decided to regroup and [...]

  11. Parking Tickets – Culture – Successful Gringo Part 3 on Tue, 3rd May 2011 6:45 pm 

    [...] creative.   Most will send locals to do their dirty work.  They understand that the sight of a Gringo automatically increases the price.  They’ll circumnavigate the head guy by discovering the lower level employee that is [...]

  12. Where To Live? Question from Reader on Fri, 10th Jun 2011 2:18 pm 

    [...] people on the internet prior to arriving is practically useless. First, you’ll be quoted the Gringo price because primarily Gringos use the internet when apartment hunting. Second, landlords or people [...]

  13. You Are A Rich Gringo on Thu, 5th Jan 2012 11:00 pm 

    [...] based on being Gringo becomes frustrating for ex-pats.  My Gringo friends who are savvy share tricks and tips on how best to get the non-inflated price.  It’s like a little [...]

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