When I first arrived here, I received a humbling opinion on the topic of market bargaining from a Mexican friend born in Ajijic. On many travel sites, tourists to Mexico are encouraged to haggle when they shop in markets. I quoted to my Mexican friend from one site that gives such ungenerous advice as this: “Haggling is practically national sport for many Mexican merchants, and you should get into the game for the thrill of it.” At first she gazed at me in disbelief, unable to comprehend how tourist fears of being made fun of or getting taken advantage of, could make a game of the vendor’s need to charge fair prices that can feed their family.
Then this quiet woman grew passionate in voice and gesture. She told me that asking for a price to be lowered is something she herself or any Mexican she knows in Ajijic would never do. Ever! That she considered it one of the most discourteous behaviors that tourists and expats demonstrate to their Ajijic hosts. She added more quietly, that though this seems to be a misunderstanding rather than a bad intention, the unintended insult is heightened as the dollar grows and the peso sinks. Respect the price, she cried out, her voice again fervent.
Today I witnessed an expat asking the price of a pillow briliantly hand-embroidered by a true thread artist. First the buyer wanted to know if she could buy the cover (art!) without the pillow, something that would not at all alter the number of hours the embroidery artist had put into the work. Then the prospective buyer offered twenty percent less than the quoted sale price.
I was embarrassed at my compatriot’s rudeness, however unintentional. For her, paying 100 pesos more would be only $5.28 USD, but for the master artist trying to support herself on this original work, that 100 pesos difference was an amount of real value, and worse, was an offensive disparagement of her artistry.
For the sake of my Mexican friend I ask that we think again, pay the asking price in the market and in the stores, and be glad we have the privilege of supporting the local economy of this beautiful village.