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So Maria goes to one of the biggest flower shops in Quito today, and they have advertised outside on a sign “50 cents off every candle for Mother’s Day”. When she gets to the register, the cashier says you have to buy a flower arrangement to get the discount. Maria says, wait a minute, the sign here says nothing about buying a flower arrangement. Let me talk to your manager. The cashier hems and haws so Maria just goes straight over to the boss lady.

She explains that the sign says 50 cents off every candle for Mother’s Day. The lady says, yes, but you have to buy a flower arrangement and the candles with “the sticker” on them. What sticker, I don’t see any sticker, and I don’t see any wording about a sticker on your sign, says Maria. If you want to provide good customer service, as I am sure your company does, you should honor what your sign says! Ummm, hmmm, hedge, hoping that Maria might back down, she doesn’t have any way out. But she still tries by saying, but I can’t give you the discount without buying an arrangement.

Your sign says nothing about a flower arrangement. And you can’t tell me that you can’t simply add in a discount on the register for the thirteen candles I am buying?

Go ahead, give the lady the discount, the manager says to the cashier. Maria gets her discount.

This kind of arbitrary on-the-spot changing of the rules is part of daily life in Ecuador. With both the public and the private sector. In this case as in so many, it’s probably because they didn’t give their sign much forethought, and they didn’t figure someone would even question it. They didn’t even figure that if someone wants to come along and split hairs over it (which most people won’t do, and I wouldn’t call this a case of even splitting hairs), and when Maria expected just what the sign was offering, they weren’t prepared to deliver. So they arbitrarily invent an interpretation on the spot that serves their interests.

  • Required Name


    I’m occasionally reading your blog with much interest. This sounds very much like Indonesia. Try this for arbitrary pricing – classified ads here for homes, land, cars etc. for sale almost never include any price – other than ‘good price’ or ‘cheap price’. Instead, the person selling is just waiting for you to call, perhaps so that he can size you up as to your financial ability according to your tone of voice or what you look like when you show up to check out whatever is for sale.
    News, I did just last month answer a classified ad that did include the price, and I’ve now bought a house (not a spectacular house mind you) , on 204 square meters of land, for about $16,000 US. Its been valued by the bank (against which the owner had borrowed money he could not pay back) at about $22,000, so I think I got a pretty good deal.
    How’s verything going with the business and family? Hope to hear from you –

  • inthetropics

    Sounds exactly like here…almost all classified of things for sale carry no prices. Your price may be based on your accent on the phone, your appearance, or some other whimsical factor the seller might decide upon. So it’s often difficult to really know if you are paying the right price for something, though not impossible. Transparency is not a term you will hear here.

Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>


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