February 27, 2008

La Gringa: 4, La Prensa: 0

La Prensa, HondurasLa Prensa, February 27, 2008

Early on in our life in Honduras, we subscribed to La Prensa newspaper. It was relatively inexpensive and a great way for me to practice reading Spanish as well as learn more about Honduras. If I remember, the first years were somewhere around L.1,200 or L.1,400 (which using the exchange rates at that time was around US $70-80 per year).

The home delivery service is actually very good. There was a deliverer one year who never delivered newspapers on holidays but I think that he was fired. Just like in Dallas, if you call early about a non-delivery day, someone will usually bring the newspaper out to you. When we've called, we usually ask them to just bring it the next day, as gas is so expensive and it will still be news to us tomorrow. ;-)

Shortly after we moved in to our new house, our subscription was about to run out and the nice lady called as she always does to ask when they could send out someone to pick up our payment for the new renewal subscription. Mail service is so undependable that payments are never sent by mail in Honduras.

When the man arrived the next day, however, he handed me a bill for L.2,400 (about US $135). I was shocked that the rate had gone up so much. I asked him to check to see if they had a special renewal rate for long-time customers and told him that I wouldn't be renewing at that rate.

The next day, the lady called to say that L.2,400 was the new annual rate, and nicely told me that if I couldn't afford it, I could renew at L.1,200 for 6 months or L.600 for 3 months. I'm always a little taken aback by comments like this. I tried to explain that it wasn't that we didn't have the money, it was that we just thought it was too large an increase.

About a week later, the La Prensa lady called to say that they were having a Valentine's Day special with annual subscriptions for L. 1,400. Sold! El Jefe decided at that point that I was the person to handle newspaper subscriptions in the future. He was impressed.

The next year, we went through the same dance. Rate too high. No renewal. Surprise Dia de Mujer or some other holiday special a week later. Rate: L.1,100. Sold!

I know that you readers understand. It's not that you don't have the money for something that you may want, it's just that you have your own personal mental value for what you think something is worth. For some things you bite the bullet and pay the price and for others you just do without. Besides, La Prensa is available on the internet although for some reason, I enjoy reading the actual paper copy better.

Around February 10th this year, Katia (I think that is her name − my telephone Spanish comprehension is rough) called to let me know that our subscription was about to run out again. She said, "Doña (gringa), I know you like those specials but unfortunately, this year we won't be having a special offer. The new rate is L.2,700 for a year. I'm sorry and I hope that you'll renew." I said that I was really sorry, too, but I would just have to cancel my subscription.

Today, February 27, I forgot to turn on my cell phone. When I did, I saw that I missed five messages from La Prensa. Ahah! Shortly after that, Katia called again, sounding very excited, and told me that she received authorization to offer us an annual renewal at L.1,700. (That is US $90 compared to the original US $143!) "That's wonderful," said me. "When would you like to come out to pick up the check?" We made arrangements and starting Friday, I will be back to being a regular La Prensa subscriber and reader again.

I suppose that it sounds like I'm a real cheapskate! I'm really not. I rarely bargain or haggle with anyone. I find most prices reasonable or even low. We know how much workers should make and we don't ask them to take less even though many of them probably would, since jobs are hard to find.

I generally just decide if the asking price is worth it to me, and if not, I walk away. Sometimes the seller will come back with a better price. I really don't care if someone is selling potatoes for a few pennies more than the guy across town or if I pay a dollar or two more to have a broom delivered to my door instead of shopping around for a better price.

We aren't stupid. For large dollar purchases, we do shop around and we sometimes ask if the price can be improved. Often it can be if you ask politely. We are also a little less likely to get gringo prices since El Jefe is Honduran and people don't always automatically know that I'm not. (I'm not blond!)

It does feel good to get a bargain, though, doesn't it?
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