Ripped Off While Abroad? Here's Why That's Not A Bad Thing
“You ripped me off!” I would say to the seller that charged one cent more than what was written on the label.
I used to get so offended when anyone would charge me more because of my nationality. Whether I could afford it or not, I never ever wanted to pay more for things that locals would pay a fair price for.
To me, it was a matter of principle. I would always think,"how dare someone else pay less than me for the same good, service, or product?" But, after traveling the world a bit more, living in communities, and talking to quite a few street sellers, tourist companies, and business owners, I realized: getting ripped off is a gift, not a curse. And here’s why.
If you have it, give it
The truth is, most Americans, Europeans, and well-off folks around that world can afford an extra .10 cents added to their bill. If you’re in a financial position to travel comfortably, enjoy tourist attractions, and get home safe and sound with a treasure trove of memories and trinkets, you can probably afford the small fee of being a tourist.
I believed for a long time that no matter if you were a tourist or a local, you should be charged the same rate as anyone else. But the truth is, the cost of living and surviving isn’t the same for everyone. A nice loaf of bread from a local bakery is affordable at a certain rate for those who live in the area, but tourists, who come in with what appears to be tons of money compared to the locals, a slightly higher price for that same loaf of bread can go so much further for that baker.
But, keep in mind, not every business is trying to rip you off. Rather, they’re hoping to get a raise, a little wiggle room for their family and personal finances. Perhaps, they have an upcoming trip to see a loved one who lives far away, or something recently broke in their house and they’re struggling to pay for it.
Many businesses abroad pray for tourists to come, so they can charge just 10 percent more, and feel a little more liberated with their finances.
Isn’t that what we all want? When you go to work, don’t you secretly hope for a raise? Don’t you wish your boss or whoever is in charge of finances would give you a little bump in your salary? Well, lots of folks abroad don’t work in industries or jobs that offer a holiday bonus or any supplemental income.
Tourists offer an opportunity for a local to ask for a little more. To be brave enough to ask for what they need. To not be shy to hold their work in high regard and finally charge for what it’s worth. And hopefully, receive it.
Stimulate someone else’s economy
Even paying $1 (or a euro, pound, or franc) more for a good, product or service, can have a huge impact on the economies of some of your favorite countries. Did you know that $1 USD = 19 Mexican Pesos? When the average salary per month in Mexico being 33,200 pesos (or $1,700), an extra dollar from every tourist that comes can actually make a difference in someone’s bottom line (1).
Or Brazil, you’re planning that trip to Sao Paulo this year, right? Well, consider that the average cost of living in Brazil is $409 a month. That’s 56% lower than the US (2). Imagine what 1 extra dollar for every tourist transaction would mean. I can tell you, it’s a big difference. Perhaps the family you bought from wants to remodel their home but $409 a month is a tight budget for them. If they earned two times their average monthly salary because you and your crew decided to pay a little more, would they be able to afford that much-needed upgrade to their home? Would they be able to travel to the other side of Brazil to see their families more often? Or even have a little more food on the table? The answer is probably yes.
The US dollar in Morocco goes even further. With the average yearly salary of a Moroccan being $7,000 USD. Imagine what $1 extra from every American tourist would mean to their economy (3). Maybe the average Moroccan could double their yearly earnings to $14,000 per year. It may seem small to you, but to someone living in a rural, less touristy area of Morocco, that’s a lot. It makes a difference. Charging a little bit more to someone who won’t feel the sting of it, actually helps economies, and families thrive.
By getting “ripped off”, you’re allowing local businesses and individuals to get a leg up. Most of these countries depend on tourist dollars. Without you, and the rest of your crew paying a little bit more, many of the economies of these societies would suffer. Paying more so you can enjoy a luxury villa which is out of the ordinary and expensive for the locals, is a PRIVILEGE. One in which, you can repay and show appreciation for by putting a little bit extra money down when a local could use the support.
The only thing hurting is your ego, not your wallet
Like I shared at the beginning, my ego was huge. Getting ripped off meant, I got played, someone got the upper hand, and, basically, I got screwed. More than the pain of dollars falling out of my pocket was the pain from my ego. It was like I wasn't smart enough to see that I was getting “ripped off”.
Well, ego is the thing that has to get out of your way if you want to explore the world and truly enjoy it. Ego is the idea that you deserve more or better because you’re an American, European, Australian, or other privileged nationality. Ego is what makes you walk into a business that struggles without tourist dollars and demand them to bend over backward, speak your native tongue, give you the local’s price, and still expect them to be cool and happy about it.
That’s another thing, there’s a surcharge for someone speaking perfect American English to you. If you aren’t willing to learn the local language, sorry, you gotta pay extra for a helpful, fluent-speaking staff member that can accommodate your needs with a smile. Learning your language to accommodate you is a privilege that many communities have to cough up the money to afford. If they spent all that money to learn French, English, German, or Chinese to accommodate you, the least you can do is pay them more.
If we want to explore the world, have amazing experiences, and still have our specialty goods that we love from back home, that costs more. And that may require you to get “ripped off” or pay more for things you otherwise wouldn’t want to.
Bringing your ego into places and thinking, “I deserve to pay what the locals pay” and not wanting to be treated differently or seen as an opportunity for someone to advance themselves and their families, is B.S. It’s your ego speaking, and it’s holding you back. Let it go. Let. It. Go.
As we navigate the beautiful world we’re living in, visiting nations that we can hardly pronounce, with beaches that we can’t believe are real, and sipping on coffee in the most breathtaking cafes, we have to remember to walk into these places mindfully. We should understand how far our USD, euro, pound, and yen can go. And learn how to give what not only feels fair but also contributes positively to others.
We should practice compassion, empathy, and understanding that paying a little bit more for our favorite, over-the-top amenities, with staff that bend over backward without complaining, is a gift, not a curse.
It’s something that if you can afford it, shouldn’t be a problem. Giving more a.k.a getting "ripped off" is an honor and privilege. And in order to sustain the places, you love so much, get your luxury items, and show someone you appreciate the work they put into making, cooking, or organizing something for you, paying a little more and being nice about it, is a small but powerful ask.