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Higher pricing for foreigners

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I hear a lot of people on various blogs, including this one, complaining about being “over charged”.  They go on and on because they get charged higher prices than the local people pay.  It comes up all of the time.  In fact,  I have heard dozens of times from people that Filipinos are “racists” because they charge higher prices for foreigners than they do for locals.

It is true that at times, I see foreigners getting charged higher prices.  I will say, though, that the higher prices are most often charged to those foreigners who are more naive and generally less well informed.  There are ways to combat being charged higher prices.

What is a 13A Visa

These higher prices generally don’t come into play if you go to established stores.  Places like malls, businesses that use cash registers and such.  If you go to a modern store where they use a scanner to read the bar code on a product and the cash register automatically charges the price based on the bar code, getting overcharged based on who you are or what color your skin is basically does not happen.

Have you been overcharged at the Public Market

Have you been overcharged at the Public Market

It has always bothered me, though, that people say that higher pricing for foreigners is based on Filipino racism.  I have come across some Filipinos that I have thought to be racist, but not too many.  I have also come across racist Americans, British, Aussies and any other nationality.  There are racists everywhere in the world.  Racism is something that I abhor, it bothers me a lot.  I personally do not believe that the practice of charging a higher price for foreigners is based on racism.  I mean, for one thing, the practice happens for people of all races.  Feyma, my Filipina wife used to get charged “premium” prices from time to time when we first moved here because the people here could tell from her actions and the way that the talked that she was “from the States”. She is the same race as the other Filipinos, so it could not have been racism.  Whites, Blacks, other Asians and so on experience this kind of pricing.  Because of this, I see no way that it can be a racist thing.

Instead of being based on race, I think that it is based on means.  If a person has the means to pay a bit more, they are charged a bit more.  Is that right?  No, I don’t think it is.  I personally think that all people should be charged the same price.  However, that belief on my part is based on my upbringing and the culture that I come from.  The culture here is different, and under this culture you pay based on your means.  If you are very poor you don’t pay quite as much as the rich guy.  You and I might not like that, but I don’t feel it is something to stress over.

In the vast majority of instances the difference in price is only a few pesos.  If you are talking about huge price differences that is not a cultural difference, that is a rip off, and that is wrong in any culture.

Pricing differences you don’t know about

Evernote

Evernote

This past week, I came across something that brought this topic to my mind.  I have so many things going on in my life that it has lead to serious information overload.  It is hard for me to keep track of everything going on in my life.  I need to organize better in order to smooth out my life.  Because of that, I am thinking of starting to use Evernote.  Evernote is a note taking software, and a real organizational tool that is very powerful.  I used it for a short time a couple of years ago, but did not follow through.  I am about to change that, though, and get serious about getting more organized.  As part of my research into this Evernote software, I was looking at their pricing.  They have 3 different plans.  A free plan with somewhat limited features.  A “Plus” plan that gives you more features.  Or you get the whole enchilada when you go for the “Premium” plan.

As I looked into these plans, it came to my attention that the pricing varies based on what country you are in.  Have a look at this:

Evernote Pricing Plans

Evernote Plans Philippine Price USA Price
Evernote Basic Free Free
Plus Plan P550/year
($11.83/year)
$24.99
per year
Premium Plan P1,100/year
($23.65/year)
$69.99
per year

You get all the same features no matter which country you are in.  Of course, every country has its own pricing, but I am only comparing the USA and the Philippines, just to make a point.

Are the people at Evernote racist?  If you think that Filipinos are racist due to their pricing policies then you should also think that Evernote is racist, because they are doing the exact same thing, but even with a larger difference in pricing!  I mean for premium you pay $69.99 per year in the USA compared to $23.65 per year in the Philippines.  That is almost triple the price!

It is not only Evernote.  I subscribe to Spotify so I can listen to music while I am out walking.  I like their service. In the USA, from what I can find on the Internet, it seems that the price is about $10 per month for Spotify service.  If you are in the Philippines it is P139/month, which is $2.99 per month.  That again is about three times more for US customers.

So, this variable pricing is not just something that happens in the Philippines.  It is happening to you in your home country, you just don’t realize it.

How to avoid being overcharged in the Philippines

I have lived in the Philippines for nearly 17 years now.  I have been around the block a time or two over those years.  I know that in my early years of living here, I was overcharged.  I am sure I knew it at the time, although I don’t ever remember getting worked up about it.  I mean, the price difference is usually very minimal, so it is not something to get too stressed about.

These days, though, I don’t get overcharged.  I don’t think I ever get overcharged.  If I it does happen to me, it is very rare. in almost every case I can think of, I pay the same price that my wife would pay, or any other Filipino would pay.

Don’t shop in the public markets

Public Market

Public Market

If you are worried about being overcharged, don’t shop at the Public Markets or from Street Vendors. Those are the places you could possibly get overcharged.  Like I said earlier in this article, if you go to the real department stores or grocery stores where they use real cash register systems with bar code scanners, you will not be charged a price any different from what other people pay.  Now, generally, goods are a bit cheaper at the public market compared to the department store, but at least you will pay the same price as everybody else if you go to SM, Robinsons or any other mall.

Personally, I enjoy shopping at the public markets, so I learned how to not be overcharged there.  You can learn how as well, it is up to you.  But, if you prefer not to make the effort, just don’t shop at the public markets and you will probably not have to worry about being overcharged.

Learn how to negotiate

Negotiating

Negotiating

Negotiating on price is a time honored tradition in the Philippines.  It is part of the culture.  If you do not try to negotiate when you are at the public market, you will not be respected. If you do negotiate they will know that you are a serious buyer and you will gain some level of respect from the vendor.  For many of us from western cultures we are embarrassed to negotiate.  Don’t be embarrassed.  It is a sign here that you know what you are doing, and will not stand for being taken advantage of.  Also, if you negotiate don’t give up too easily.  Don’t accept the first lower price that is offered to you, keep negotiating.  Go back and forth 3 or 4 times to keep bringing the price lower.

In many cases, you should start off by offering much less than is being asked.  If they are asking for P300 for an item, make your first offer P150 or so.  See what the reaction is.  If they are shocked by the offer or if they laugh, it is probably a good sign that you are offering way to little.  Use their reaction as a barometer for what you should do next.  If you can take 1/3 or so off of the price that is usually a pretty good deal.  Of course that depends on how much they were trying to overcharge you in the first place.

Another strategy to use is that at public markets there are always lots of vendors selling the same stuff.  Use them against each other.  Learn what the price really is by watching other people buy the items.  Go from one vendor to another until you get the price that you should get.  If you go to vendor A and the price is too much, go to vendor B to try again.  It is important that you let vendor A see that you just went to vendor B.. he will often make a quick adjustment to his price when he sees that.

Learn the language

I spent 4 years learning how to speak Bisaya.  I became fluent in the language.  These days, I am a bit rusty, but I can still speak it well enough that I can have a good negotiation.  When I speak Bisaya the vendor knows that I am not a tourist.  I become a local in their eyes. They know that I live here, and have likely lived here for a long time.  People who have been here a few months can’t speak the language, in fact few foreigners (even those who have been here for years) can speak the language at all.

When I became comfortable enough to use the language out in public, the “paying more” problem came to a quick end.  Take the time to learn the language in your new home.  If you are here just for a vacation, learn at least a few words.  Even that gets respect from the vendors, and will pay off for you.

Go to the market often

If you become a daily or even weekly visitor to the market you will start to develop friends there.  You will have Sukis.  When this happens you will no longer be overcharged, and in fact you might even get charged less than shoppers who have not developed a relationship with the seller.  Even if you are charged the same price, you can bet that you will get the best quality products that are available.  So, go to the market often.  Be friendly. Speak at least some of the local language.  It will pay off for you, I promise!

Get over the negativity!  Get over the idea that Filipinos are racist.  Have a more positive attitude.  When you do that it will pay off for you, and you will enjoy your life in the Philippines a lot more too.

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Rease Wold
5 years ago

Well said Bob 🙂 Once you’re a regular and have your sukis, palengke becomes enjoyable.

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Rease Wold

Thanks, Rease. It is all pretty easy to solve for those who wish to make the effort!

Robert Blankenship
Robert Blankenship
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

Hey Bob I think you touched exactly on The problem we have In this country With the price of pharmaceuticals.

MindanaoBob
5 years ago

Check Generics Pharmacy. Their prices are very good.

Tommy Davis
Tommy Davis
5 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

True, use them all the time. Let them get to know you. I give them a nose bleed with my Alabama southern slang. ?

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Davis

Ha ha.. you should learn to speak their language! You’ll have the nosebleed then!

James
James
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

Hi Bob well I go to the same venders all of the time and I get a discount for our food shopping the next to the this stall there is the coconut stall I have being getting the water out of the coconuts and had my price reduced twice now, I have even ask the stall that sells food if I could pay her next week and she has agreed, this is mainly since the uk left the eu as the exchange rates have plummeted! The part that you said about that software and Spotify well it’s what the economy… Read more »

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  James

Hi James – Those relationships you describe with the vendors are Suk8i relationships! Congratulations, it is great to develop those type of relationships.

When you talk about the software companies and that it is not racism.. that is exactly my point that I said in the article! 🙂 Seems we are thinking alike.

Daniel B.
Daniel B.
4 years ago
Reply to  Rease Wold

Hey Bob, I love reading your blog, makes me homesick for Mindanao. We’ve been going back and forth for about 20 years now. I’ve been around the Philippines long enough that I know what the locals pay. If anyone, the vendor – taxi driver – tricycle – etc tries to overcharge me I simply let them know that I’m not a novice and know what I should be charged. That usually settles it, if not, I tell them I’ll go somewhere else. That normally works, plus I gain a bit of respect from the seller. If my wife and I… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Daniel B.

hI dANIEL – nICE TO HEAR FROM YOU, AS ALWAYS.

Like you, I know what the prices should be. Also, being able to speak Bisaya usually earns me a nice discount. If my wie is around, sure, she can do the negotiating, but I am able to get a price as good as she can get.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Malcolm Mac
5 years ago

Hi Bob…what are your thoughts on what happened at the midnight market ?

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

I think that it is highly likely a hit done be the drug lords in retaliation.. hitting Duterte in a place that is dear to him. There will be repercussions.

John Ep
5 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Asg took credit as paid to by outside forces. Bigger issue than drug war. Du30 blasting un n usa agents lately that attacked him…stand strong and push thru. We must take the corruption out. Pres will win.

Malcolm Mac
5 years ago

You and yours all safe ?

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Thanks, Malcolm, we are all safe.

Will N Em
5 years ago

Hope you guys are safe.

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Will N Em

We are all fine here, thanks for your concern.

Beanahole Gardner
5 years ago

Bob when you have real news on the market explosion let us know….

Bob Martin
5 years ago

There is all kinds of news floating around, much of it contradictory to the other news floating around. I am sure that President Duterte will put his foot down!

Gerry Gambone
Gerry Gambone
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

Hi Bob I shall be in Davao on Tuesday ( Sept 5 ), so sad about the casualties of the bombing. Security and vigilance will be much higher now. Back to the subject…if you want to talk about being ripped off or overcharged, go to any tourist hotspot in Europe, like London or Rome, the overcharging is not a few Peso’s its double or triple the price, example in Rome by the Colosseum there are stalls selling small bottled water or Coke (2006 prices) for 3 Euro, if you walk only a few hundred yards away from the Colosseum, my… Read more »

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Gambone

Hi Gerry – Yeah, sad about the bombing. Enjoy your trip to Davao, be careful and keep an eye on your safety. I feel it is still relatively safe, but you can never be too careful.

Hope you have a great time.

AJ UK
AJ UK
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Gambone

erm Gerry, Tuesday is the 6th!

Gary Dadds
Gary Dadds
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Gambone

Gerry I think you are talking apples and oranges here, yes the prices are much higher in the tourist spots but you are only charged the advertised price. I a local standing beside you is only chaged the local price then it is wrong.

Jerome Gilbert
5 years ago

While serving in the Navy I’ve visited many, many countries and the one thing they ALL have is common (that the USA does not) “price haggling.” It is simply an accepted custom almost everywhere to haggle over the price of an item (except, as you said, in malls or other locations that use bar codes/scanners, etc.) Haggling over price will gain you respect and you will not be viewed as a “rich” tourist, but a savvy shopper in addition to someone who knows and appreciates the local customs.

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Jerome Gilbert

Yep, exactly. Negotiating is a very important skill the world over!

Maynard Handy
5 years ago

Thats why my wife alway left me by the wayside so she could do the buying,shes good at haggling lol.

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Maynard Handy

I like doing things on my own too, I guess I have an independent streak. I feel it is important to learn how to deal properly here, and I get as good of deals as my wife does.

Paul Thompson
5 years ago

Bob; People with limited travel experience would be subject to being over charged at a public market. I was at a Flea Market in San Diego and saw that the prices varied as to the amount of English the buyer spoke or how well they dressed. Racism (A way too much overused word) I think not, trying to hustle a buck was properly what was happening. My wife was raised here and understands the public market, whereas after 20 years I still am not as sharp as some with bartering. But around the world hundreds of port visits both as… Read more »

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Yep, exactly! Those with little travel experience will always be taken advantage of, no matter where they are. That includes in the USA.

Good thoughts, Paul.

Denzil Browne
5 years ago

I’m usually fine as I look Filipino until I open my mouth – then I get the different price rates.. 😀

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

Easy solution… learn to speak the language! Even if you don’t look Filipino that is effective, I can attest to that!

Gerardo Reynaldo
5 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

You speak the dialect now, Bob? Let me dub you ‘Bisaya Bob.’

Bob Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

I have been fluent in Bisaya for more than 5 years now. I write often about it. 🙂

Denzil Browne
5 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

I am not fluent and get caught out when the conversation becomes complicated!

Robert Elliott
5 years ago

Hi Bob, thanks for this article. I met a friend that was visiting from the States this week and this very topic came up. During our conversation, I told him that I do not experience this very often and that I partially attribute this to not having the expectation of being treated differently. Sure there is times when it has happened, when it does I simply ask if that’s the best price. If they say yes it is and it is more than I want to pay I say no and walk away. Sometimes saying no is the best way… Read more »

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