Don’t go there, Peru!

14 Oct

There is new snow on the mountains today! We had a cold snap last night and for the first time in a month, it was cloudy all day today. I guess Peru has weird spring weather, too.

One of the challenges of getting around in a new country is learning all the little phrases that you’re likely to hear at the cash register. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • ¿Factura o boleta? This is asking whether you want a business receipt or individual receipt (yes, they’re different). Sounds like complete nonsense until you know the drill.
  • ¿Efectivo o tarjeta? Cash or credit.
  • ¿Para llevar o sirvese acá? Carry out or served here?
  • ¿Sin cuotas? Without payments.

The latter is the most troubling. It is the most frequently asked of all, even at the grocery store. Cuotas are 3 monthly installments. At the cash register, you are offered the opportunity to pay for your purchase in 3 monthly payments. I have been asked whether I wanted to finance as little as $30 this way. I assume it’s a fairly high interest rate, of course. It’s reportedly not at all uncommon for Peruvian families to buy groceries this way.

Furthermore, to get the sale prices at many stores, you must have the store credit card–not just a loyalty card like Kroger, but a credit card. Thankfully, I cannot get one with only a passport, but it really bothers me to see stores promoting credit card debt this way. There is a growing middle class in Peru: new malls within the last 2 years, very nice department stores, and lots of expensive fashion stores (as an aside, Converse shoes are a luxury brand here. Who knew?) It’s very much reminiscent of the US 20 years ago.

But I’m afraid that much of the new “wealth” is reminiscent of the US in more ways than one: namely, it’s borrowed. To which I can only appeal: don’t go there, Peru. Dame Ramsey doesn’t known Spanish.

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