Bartering in Otavalo

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South America » Ecuador » North » Otavalo
January 19th 2020
Published: January 22nd 2020
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Because we spent so much time in Otavalo, I decided that I had more things to talk about. Aside from their absolutely fantastic peanut ice cream and empanadas (both of which cost a dollar), there were some fantastic deals to be had in the market in Otavalo. One thing that's very different than I'm used to, though, was the way that they expected you to barter with them. In the U.S, one of the most aggravating things for me as a consumer is when prices aren't listed, since I like to take a little time to think about the cost without the seller being involved. As you might expect, the fact that no one in Otavalo listed prices, combined with the fact that they wanted you to make decisions on the spot was a little worrying for me, especially when I had to interact in Spanish.

My worry and expectations ended up being somewhat accurate, but I found that I was more than capable of being a consumer in Otavalo. As I mentioned in my last post, one thing that was helpful to this was that the vendors could fairly easily tell that I was not Ecuadorian and probably had some money to spend since I had traveled there, which meant that they spoke more slowly and made life a bit easier for me. Another thing that was counter to my expectations was that the prices were significantly lower than I expected to find. For a lot of smaller items, the starting price was around a dollar or maybe two, and so even without bartering, buying a cheap coin purse or bracelet ended up still being a terrific deal. Finally, the biggest thing that countered my expectations was that my ability to barter in Spanish was not as lacking as I expected it to be. I definitely underestimated my own abilities when it came to making conversation and being able to talk prices with the shop owners. The only real problem I had was that I probably didn't shop around enough. There were items I could have bought at two different stands, but didn't take the time to actually ask about prices before I just made a purchase. I've been very glad that I am able to communicate and it's been very fun to be living more of my days in Spanish than in English.

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