Rip-Off Defined: A rip-off happens when you, the foreigner, buy something from a vendor at a much higher price than when locals buy it from the same vendor.
Has this even happened to you? If you have not been very careful, it sure did.
There is something in foreigners (especially Westerners) that makes the locals think their wallets are thick with cash ready to be handed down to man in exchange for the stuff he is selling, which is supposedly of interest to the foreigner.
The thing is, rip-off can be hard to detect if you are not aware of the local marketplace. They key word is the marketplace. Foreigners are usually drawn into buying goods they find cheaper here than when the same goods are bought from their mother country. The difficult part is knowing the price differences from one place to the other. It’s time consuming and the knowledge that you gain is not worth the effort. Or so it seems until you discover you are being taken advantage of.
But knowing that you are being taken advantage of in term of price is another story. Luckily, there are ways to avoid being victimized or to at least contain the intellectual insult. Here are some tips:
1. Compare prices
To make sure that you get the best value out of your money, try to look for the best deals you could possibly get. Some shops offer lower prices than the others and vice-versa. Shop around, take time to dig up information from different stores that offer the products or services that you need. Again this is time consuming, but for luxury items, it pays to do it.
2. Turn down a deal, if you must
Don’t hesitate to turn down offers that are suspicious. Inquiring does not give you the obligation to patronize. There are many ways to say “No”, but the best one is done with a smile. Turn down an offer with a smile on your face. Remember: you hail from a country which is supposed to be more civilized than the one you are currently landing on.
3. Ask for discounts
Here is your power of negotiation comes into play. Don’t just use it in peace talks with the rebels — climbing up that mountain is tough, even just that thought of it.
You have every right to negotiate with the local vendors, too. Try to insist on the price you have in mind and see how the deal goes.
There are shops or companies that give discounts to their customers especially when they avail of bulk services or they buy products at wholesale. Don’t hesitate to ask if you could avail of some discount. After all, you would have nothing to loose in asking.
4. Choose Credible Shops or Stores
There would be a lesser chance of being charged higher if you choose shops or companies that already offer fixed prices or packages. At least this gives you the peace of mind. You can go to the malls where the prices are really those shown on the price tag. Choose the stores that issue official receipts or invoice to make sure that you are paying the right price and you can exchange it if you find something wrong with the product. You can also be assured of the quality of the service offered by these shops/companies than those that don’t issue receipts.
5. Don’t Enter Into One-On-One Deals
As much as possible, do not enter into a one-on-one deal with a person especially with people you are not personally acquainted with. Ripping offs usually happen in this situation. Use a Pinoy or Pinay to make the deal. Have a Filipino friend, girlfriend, wife, employee join you in shopping. Just make sure they are the ones you can really trust to the bone. Ask for their advice and suggestions. They most probably are more aware of the way services are being charged around here. They may also have recommendations of where you could get quality services and products in lower prices.
6. Do it yourself
If you feel like you can do the simple fixing, why not do it on your own? Some tasks, like simple fixings in the cabinet, cleaning the keyboard, and other stuff are doable on your part. Don’t waste money for hiring outside help when you can actually do it yourself while at the same time you enjoy doing it.
7. Remember The Godfather
No, this is not about religion or something. It’s the movie the Godfather. At one point, Don Corleone, the main man, said something like, “I’m gonna make him an offer he cannot refuse.”
Do something similar. Make an offer he cannot refuse. A rip-off may not really be an act of exploitation. Behind a rip-off is the motivation to make a bigger profit in an instant, usually a one-time deal. You can appeal to the guy’s self-interest in gaining more profit. The guy could just be experimenting with his own version of Capitalism!
However you want to do it is entirely up to you. Surprise yourself on how creative you can be.
Knowledge Is Power
Above all, it is knowledge that will give you the best aid in transactions within the Philippines. (Or who knows anywhere else on earth.) The Internet or Travel Guides can help you a lot in gathering information from the locals. Take time to learn first hand information on how things are being run in the locality. Ask questions if it needs be and be sure you get good answers. Being friendly brings a lot of advantages, since you will learn more from new acquaintances while enjoying your stay.
Remember, it pays to know.
How To Avoid Being Ripped Off is written by Matt Regis.