Getting ripped off as a gringo

There are things I hate about being part of the über-rich, white, American ruling class; Part of this dislike stems from the fact that I am not actually part of it. Yes, I am white which bestows me with multiple privileges, many of which I am not even aware of. Yes, I am American. The country, however, has not been coming to me for advice on how to run-if it did, we certainly would have a different view of the world. And, despite all the whiteness and the American-ness, I am not rich. In fact, I am working a job that pays well below the poverty line.

Really, much of this is not the point. Rather, the point is that I find it very frustrating when people a) make these assumptions about me and then b) go out of their way to find ways to swindle me, both overtly and covertly.

Here are some recent examples from my life and from those in my life that have a similar situation:

  • * A friend was recently charge 5 times the regular price for a doctor’s consultation. Five times! If he had just charged her an extra 20 or 30 dollars she might not have noticed, but an additional 160 USD is hard to miss or let slide.
  • A hotel was less than upfront about prices (and admittedly it is confusing that foreigners do not have to pay the 19% tax on accommodations provided they can prove they are tourists and that they pay in US dollars or on a US credit card). Last minute when I went to pay they told me the price did not include the tax whereas I had in writing from before that it did.
  • Collectivos (cars that operate much like buses) drivers try to charge me 50 pesos more than other passengers (430 pesos to a dollar).
  • Last night at a tango club in Argentina the waitress flat out told us that she was going to charge us 20 pesos (3 pesos to a dollar) more per drink because the prices on the menu were Argentine prices. Besides this being blatant discrimination, it was not written anywhere on the menu nor was it explained before drinks were ordered. Not to mention, it made one drink slightly more expensive than the all you can eat restaurant we had just gone to that include an entire bottle of wine per person, dessert, large salad bars, and all the cuts of Argentine meat that you can think of.


  1. that sucks. there is nothing that pisses more off more in this country than getting ripped off because I’m gringa or piropos. I actually can’t decide which one I hate more!

  2. That really sucks. I felt like that when I went to Bolivia and Peru and I’m not even american! And it was so weird because I was talking to them in spanish, which is my native language and they kept answering me in english. I had to send my friends to get tickes and stuff cuz otherwise they’d charged me extra. It’s ridiculous!

  3. I understand. I was in Panama last month & my friend & I got extorted by the police because we were estadounidenses (who’d left our passports around the corner @ our hotel – & I usually Know better!).

    My undergrad major was political science. One of my 1st lessons: power is relative.

    Being hustled always sucks, esp. when, being not powerful (my privilege that comes w/ being an educated American didn’t help there) enough to crush those who inconvenience you, lol.

  4. That would infuriate me. I am a little worried because in January my girlfriend (who is an American) and I will be living in Chile for six months. I’ve lived in the US for a long time, but I am a Chilean. And guess what? They have even ripped me off because they can tell that I don’t live there. In 2007 I experienced a few times. Is there any agency you can appeal to for defence in the event you been ripped off big time?

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