Price discrimination against foreigners is annoying and financially burdensome. Out of budgetary necessity, I’ve have developed a tried and true system to avoid the expensive effects of price discrimination. However, incorporate these practices into your daily life in Panama and miraculously your quality of life will improve. First, because the Isthmus will become instantaneously more affordable. Secondly, because of the mini euphoria you’ll experience when out smarting the discriminators.
10 ways to fight Panama’s Price Discrimination.
1. Triangle information. Ask 3 different people the price of a product or service. For example, when waiting for a cab, ask 3 different locals (who do not have interest in the transactions) the price. This is helpful because: A) locals do not know the inflated price because they don’t pay it. B) if the 3 answers you receive are $2.25, $3.75, and $2.75, when the cabbie says $3, you know you have a good deal. Ideal for taxis.
2. Automatically knock 50% off the top. When the price is not stated, automatically knock 50% off the top. A) This is typically the most you can start the price negotiations at without being blown off for a cheap ass. B) This establishes that you are not a fool. Ideal for craft stands and household repairs.
3. Ask for the price first. See the aforementioned Rana Dorada example for importance. Ideal for bars and beauty salons.
4. Tell them the price. Preemptively tell people the price you are going to pay if the price is not clearly state. This works best if you already triangulated information (#1).
5. Demonstrate Panamanian cultural nuances. Liberally use tips from previous articles; No Words Spanish, Phrases to Pretend like you speak Spanish, and Spanish Sweet Nothings. Ideal (and just plain fun) everywhere.
6. Send a local. Have a local call or figure out the price ahead of time. Ideal for doctor visits or buying land.
7. Overstate your time in Panama. If you have been here a two weeks, say 6 months. Never say it is your first time in Panama! Ideal for when cab drivers ask you “Primera vez que estas en Panama?” (First time here in Panama?)
8. Carry small bills. Go to a local Chino and buy a $0.35 pack of gum in order to break your $20 bill. Chinos stores always have change. Carry small bills at all times or else be prepared for people to CONVENIENTLY not to have change. Ideal for the interior of Panama.
9. Wait them out. Many times locals will wait for you to forget about your change. Wait patiently and persistently ask them “El Cambio?” (Where is my change?).
10. Never open tabs. Mysteriously items will appear that you never knew you ordered. Be sure to pay for items as you go. Never accumulate a tab. Ideal for bars and clubs on Calle Uruguay.
Panama is trying to promote itself as a cheaper alternative for business and retirement. It’s a farce! If you are Panamanian, or even Latino, living in Panama will be a cheaper alternative than living in North America or Europe. On the other hand, if you’re North American or European, Panama’s unchecked price discrimination will impoverish you rapidido (quickly).
If you master these tips, you’ll love Panama (or any other developing world country) because you will have learned how to effectively operate. If you don’t, you’ll leave the Isthmus with empty pockets and a sour attitude. Worse yet, you’ll stay in Panama and be slowly transform into that bitching Grumpy Gringo that rarely gets invited to social gatherings.
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