Bartering in Otavalo

Because we spent so much time at Otavalo, I decided that I had more to talk about. Apart from the truly fantastic peanut ice cream and empanadas (both worth a dollar), there are some fantastic deals to be had at the market in Otavalo. However, one thing that is very different from me, is the way they expect you to barter with them. In the US, one of the most burdensome things for me as a consumer is when prices are not listed, because I like to spend a little time thinking about costs without the seller involved. As you might guess, the fact that no one at Otavalo listed prices, combined with the fact that they wanted you to make a decision at that time, also worried me a bit, especially when I had to interact in Spanish.

My worries and hopes eventually became somewhat accurate, but I found that I was more than capable of being a consumer at Otavalo. As I mentioned in my last post, one thing that helps for this is that the vendor can easily say that I’m not Ecuadorian and may have money to spend since I traveled there, which means they talk slower and produce a little more life easy for me. Another thing that conflicts with my expectations is that the price is much lower than I expected. For many smaller items, the initial price is around one or two dollars, and even without bartering, buying a cheap coin wallet or bracelet is still a great deal. Finally, the biggest thing that offset my expectations was that my ability to barter in Spanish was not as much as I had hoped. I really underestimated my own abilities when I had to talk and could talk prices with shop owners. The only real problem I have is that I might not shop enough. There are items that I can buy at two different kiosks, but don’t take the time to really ask about prices before I make a purchase. I am very happy that I can communicate and it is very pleasant to live more of my days in Spain than in English.

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