How to be seen as a walking ATM in the Philippines
I have never felt like a walking ATM machine in the Philippines. I have heard and read about a lot of visitors and expats feel this experience. From what I have heard and read about I think I know how you and I could be seen as “a walking ATM” if we want to. This is of course my opinion based on my limited experience and I could be wrong, but I would like to get a discussion going to learn how to be seen as a walking ATM in the Philippines:
- Carry only large bills in your wallet. If you only have 1,000 and 500 peso notes in your billfold you kind of are like an ATM in the USA they only give out $20’s. Some would argue that a 500 peso note is not a large bill, but for most Filipinos it represents 2 or 3 days of work. Carrying only large bills in your wallet shows that you are too well off to waste space with small change and heaven forbid coins.
- Don’t haggle or wait for change. This is an area where I have the potential to be seen as a walking ATM. I do not like to haggle and I usually leave this up to my wife. I do however always wait for change, but if you do not wait for change you send a clear message that you have more money than time. Filipinos also sometimes desire to be seen as walking ATM’s when they return from living abroad. I recall an incident in a Manila mall on our first trip back to the Philippines after getting married, when my Filipina wife and I were going to purchase shoes for the son of one of my wife’s sisters. When they scanned the shoes the price came to 25 pesos more than what the shoes were marked. My wife got annoyed and did not want to wait. The nice cashier had called her manager to give us the correct price. I could literally see the manager jogging across the store to fix the issue and yet my wife did not want to wait 30 seconds. I was unsure of whether she wanted me to pay the higher price or just leave the shoes, but I choose to wait for the lower price. I blew the chance to look like a walking ATM. I should have just paid the higher price.
Give excessive amounts of pasalubong. I have a Filipino friend here in the USA who went to visit his family in the Philippines with his family. He came back and said he would not be returning anytime soon. I told him, “Yeah, plane fare for 4 is expensive.” He told me the plane fare was no problem for him, but he “had to” give more than $10,000 to his family every time he went home. I tried to argue with him that he did not have to give more than $10,000 to his family, but he refused to be swayed with my just say “No” philosophy. This Filipino knows how to be seen as a walking ATM. I guess if I want to be seen as a walking ATM, I need to give money for pasalubong instead of US soap, US back towels and US Spam. Returning Filipinos are often seen as walking ATM. We can learn a lot from my friend’s excessive generosity.
- Always give the full amount requested. This is an area where my Filipina wife sabotaged my chance of being seen as a walking ATM. I have always been kind of an all or nothing type guy. A short while after we got married, we received a request from our Filipino family for what I felt was a small amount of money for a good reason. We sent the money. Later we received a request for 20,000 pesos for another situation and I felt was a worthy need, but I was reluctant to send so much. My wife suggested we would send 5,000 pesos. They could get the rest from other family members. This has been our pattern ever since. We send what we choose no more for needs we feel are ones we should help with. We also say “No” or ignore request when we feel that the request is not something we should help with. ATM’s give out what you ask for if the money is in the account.
- Let your Filipino family know how much you make while living abroad or from your retirement. Letting your Filipino family know how much you make working in the USA is a big mistake. If you say you make more than 2 million pesos (about $40,000) a year they have no concept that this is not a large amount of money when one is living in the USA. People talk about whether or not $1,500 a month (about 75,000 pesos) pension/social security is enough to live on in the Philippines, but few Filipino’s would think that with this much money they would have trouble making it with lots of money to spare for others. Many Filipino’s feel Americans are just given money without really working for it. It is like they think all of us won the lottery. Many of my wife’s family refuse to believe that I actually work my tail off for what I make here in the USA. If I want to be seen as a walking ATM, I should make sure everyone know how much I make.
Which Pasalubong makes you look like an ATM?
- Agree to give your Filipino fiancé’s or wife’s family some amount of money every month. This article is not about whether or not it is the right thing to give monthly support or the wrong thing to do. Decisions on supporting family or not are personal and depend on individual circumstances. It is not my purpose or my place to tell anyone to give or not. This article is about how the choices we make effect the way we are seen. If I wanted to be seen as a walking ATM, I could have volunteered to help a certain amount a month. I guess I blew my chance. That was a road not taken by me. Had I volunteered maybe I could have been seen as their walking ATM.
- Over tip the waiter/waitress. I have actually been successful at over tipping on at least one occasion. I honestly am not real sure what to tip in the Philippines. In the USA, the standard I hear others give is 15%. To be honest if I give 15% the service must have been out of this world good. Once in the Pizza Hut at the Bohol Quality Mall I left a 100 peso tip on a 1,000 peso meal. The waiter was very good, but in all honesty I had a 20 peso note and 100 peso note in my wallet and I did not feel like getting change. If I had a 50 peso note, then I would have given the young man 50 peso note and he would have been happy. I gave him the 100 peso note and he was overjoyed. In the USA if you give 10% you run the risk of getting your food spit in on the next visit. I finally succeeded in making myself look like a walking ATM.
Conclusion: Some feel like they are seen as a walking ATM in the Philippines others like I do not. I have gotten the impression that most of the ones who feel like they are seen as a walking ATM feel that this feeling is really the way most Filipinos see all foreigners and that they in no way contributed to it. I disagree. I know I could be wrong and I am sure many will disagree with my thoughts, but I thought they would be useful for others to ponder. Please feel free to let me know what you think of my ideas in the comment section. I send my articles in to LiP more to learn than to teach.