The city of Lima: plenty of cabs, plenty of chances to haggle.
Haggling is an art form, and my mother is Picasso. Analyze her technique too closely, and it will fall apart, but stand back far enough, and a masterpiece emerges. I’ve seen her haggle in retail stores. RETAIL STORES. With success. She will take an item up to the cashier and note that a thread is coming loose – would they mind giving her a discount? Or she’ll point out a popped button, a fraying hem (all things which she can fix in a matter of moments) and ask for a ludicrous percentage off.
AND SHE WILL GET IT.
I thought about her a lot when I was in Peru. Not only is haggling a way of life down there, it’s institutionalized – nothing seems to have a fixed price. Not even the cabs. That’s right: you haggle for cab fares in Peru. None of the vehicles have meters. You simply talk to a driver and negotiate the price before getting in.
For me, this was incredibly nerve-wracking. I didn’t inherit my mother’s knack for seeking out a bargain. I tried once to get a deal on a sweater that was – I kid you not – coming apart at the seams. The cashier offered me 10% off. I stared at her blankly before putting it back on the rack. My mother would have been paid to take it off the store’s hands.