Back when I was living in a Guatemalan city called Xela, I remember meeting up with a Spanish teacher that I had,
You can see the school that I went to in this photo here.
It was some school where basically I had a new Spanish teacher to practice with every few weeks.
They would be rotated around.
Some were good (like her) while others were dogshit.
Anyhow, I remember meeting up with her and her husband for drinks in the center of the city.
While we met up, there was some soccer match going on.
If I remember right, I think it was Copa America as you can see here.
Still, before we got to the bar, she asked if we could stop real quick at some clothing place.
She wanted to buy a coat because, in her words, she felt Guatemala was getting cold and she wanted some extra clothing.
Which, as I wrote in other articles, is a side thing you find ironic with most Latinos in Latin America.
Where their perception of what is cold is very different from ours.
In which you might find some local wearing a coat on a day that you are wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.
Regardless, she wanted a coat.
So as we walk quickly into some store, she asks for something decent.
And did the seller try to “gringo price” her?
Of course not! She was Guatemalan.
A relatively darker skin one at that.
Instead, he gave her what appeared to be the opposite of gringo pricing.
In which he was initially trying to offer her some of the cheaper coats he had laying around.
But, looking at the first few offers, she didn’t like any of them for whatever reason.
And ended up asking for something “a little more expensive.”
In the moment, it seemed like she was pulling teeth almost because the guy was insistent on selling her something cheap it seemed.
Until, finally, he offered something of quality that she liked and of which was a little more expensive.
In the moment, I didn’t think anything of it.
Maybe the guy was simply being thoughtful in wanting to offer her something economical so she doesn’t have to spend too much money.
On the other hand, it is arguable that it was perhaps an example of what some might consider “the opposite” of gringo pricing.
In which, if you are “too white” or seemingly a foreigner in general, then you are at risk of the vendor trying to charge you more than what he would charge a local for the same product.
However, I guess it’s a question that few seem to ask online – does the reverse happen?
Meaning if you are “too brown” or “too dark,” then do you get offered the cheaper and arguably lower quality products first?
In which, quite possibly, the vendor, after seeing your relatively darker skin, thinks that you don’t have much money to spend and reaches for the lower value items to offer?
That’s the opinion of one local I know that, after a brief conversation, made me consider a possibility that I would never have thought about given that I’m not a darker skinned local.
A Conversation with Vicente
As we know, sometimes a local in Latin America can act a bit insecure or defensive when a foreigner critiques their country.
Sometimes the insecurity is normal.
Other times, it devolves into a racist and/or xenophobic “GETTA OUT MY COUNTRY!!!” attitude even when the critique was fair in its take.
Still, you also have, to be fair, locals who are completely open minded to the criticisms and some even offer perspectives that you wouldn’t consider necessarily.
For example, as I wrote here, there was a Mexican guy I knew for a brief period named Vicente when I lived in Roma Norte for a second time not too long ago.
In our brief conversation in that article cited, we were talking about how I like Mexico and I gave him my honest opinion in the most respectful way I could.
While still being honest in delivering some of my own critiques of the country as a foreigner living here.
Now, as I said, he was fair in his response and agreed with a bit of what I said.
But also offered his own perspective on things.
One of them being, as the article above cited goes on about, how some of the complaints we foreigners have are also complaints that the locals have.
That it’s not just foreigners who deal with stupid shit down here.
And, on top of that, he did mention briefly a point relevant to the topic of gringo pricing.
In which he mentioned to me the opposite side of the coin.
Then you get gringo priced and the local might even vomit broken ass English onto you.
Then, especially if you look indigenous, you might get denied service!
Or, if you do get offered service, it could be with the assumption that you don’t have any money and so you are offered the cheapest and lower quality product or service.
Among other negatives in treatment when at a store (like being followed around more, checked if you are stealing something, etc).
Now, when it comes to all of that, I have seen that personally.
Be it the indigenous person turned away at a café by the security guard on the assumption that she is going to beg for money.
To, when I lived by Cuatro Caminos, seeing some random person throwing a complaint about being checked without reason while being told by the security guard that I am free to walk away with a smile and a laugh.
A laugh with the sentiment of “oh, of course we’re not going to check you. Go along.”
But the same darker skinned person getting offered lower quality products based on the assumption of not having money?
Well, as I explained before, the story in Guatemala could’ve been one of such cases.
Though I have no idea what the vendor was actually thinking to be fair.
The teacher, in hindsight, did seem a little bit persistent in having to ask for “something nicer or more expensive.”
So it might’ve been the case.
And Vicente had his own example anyhow being a Mexican and giving me this “opposite side” of the gringo pricing.
A Poor Laptop in Monterrey
In our discussion, he brought up an example of being in the Mexican city of Monterrey.
Which, though I haven’t been there ever, I’ve heard that the people there tend to be whiter on average compared to other Mexican cities.
Still, I can’t say that from experience.
And how Vicente, who is relatively lighter skinned compared to most Mexicans, was welcoming a friend to the city.
Some high school buddy that was from some other part of Mexico.
I don’t remember right but I think Nayarit?
Anyhow, the friend showed up for a visit and it came about that his friend wanted to check out laptops in the area.
Not necessarily buy one because, according to Vicente, he did have a friend in the US who travels back and forth between Mexico and the US.
And, for those who don’t know, sometimes folks do prefer buying laptops, phones and other technological goods in the US because of how much cheaper they can be up north.
So Vicente did tell him that he could maybe have a friend bring a laptop down to Mexico when he comes back for a visit.
But his friend still wanted to check out laptop prices “just to look around.”
So they did.
And stopped by some plaza area.
And the rest is predictable.
They checked out the laptop prices.
One of the vendors was insistent on offering him cheaper and lower quality options.
And even, according to Vicente, told the guy that “this might be out of your budget” when his friend was persistent on seeing something “with a little more value.”
Subsequently, they didn’t buy anything and decided to see if Vicente’s other friend could bring a laptop down to Mexico.
Check with him to see when he is coming down and if it would be soon.
It’s something to consider, huh?
I definitely see how it could happen – a darker skinned person getting offered the worse quality and cheaper product.
In the same way that I’ve seen some straight up denied entry into cafes before.
And it’s definitely worth discussing as most of the discussion surrounding “gringo pricing” only focuses on our experiences as foreigners getting charged more than the locals.
Which, to be fair, is definitely worth complaining about as that is our lived experience.
I definitely do my fair share of griping about it, let me tell you!
Still, what do you think about the “opposite side of the coin?”
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