Tag Archives: shopping

To Bargain or Not in Mexico?

The on-going discussion endures about whether one bargains in Mexico with vendors for a lower price. Is it a cultural norm or expectation?  Many say, Yes.

Colorful Oaxaca armadillo now tops my bookcase. I paid the ask price.

Others resist for obvious reasons. Why? The exchange rate is in favor of Europeans, Estadounidenses (those from USA) and Canadienses (those from Canada). Mexicans have always been undervalued for their labor.

Chiapas potter/clay sculptor. Small jaguars are 150 pesos.

They say the average daily Mexican wage is 150-200 pesos. I’ve also heard 88 pesos a day and 100 pesos a day. At today’s exchange rate of 18.2 pesos to the USD, 200 pesos is about $11 USD per day. In Chiapas, where I just returned from, skilled women weavers on the back-strap loom, creating garments with intricate supplemental weft, earn about 30 pesos per hour.

Here’s what my friend and colleague Sheri Brautigam, in her book Textile Fiestas of Mexico, says about shopping and bargaining:

“I know everyone likes to get a deal, but I feel this attitude takes advantage of the position of the artisan who made the item; it’s an exploitation model of the past.

For the most part, artisans are quite humble when they present their work, and they possibly have in mind the price they would like to get for their item. Often, almost immediately, they will bring the price down if they see you hesitate more than a few seconds. They want you to buy it. This is because local Mexicans are ruthless when they bargain, and the artisan — if she really is in need of making a sale for her survival — can be reduced to selling the item for barely the cost of the materials.”

hand-woven huipil takes three months to make.

There is more, of course.  I suggest you get this valuable Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping.

The same applies to all artisan craft throughout Mexico, not just textiles. Pottery. Carved and painted wood figures. Masks. Guitars. Silver jewelry. Handcrafted food.

Organic pumpkin pie with corn meal crust, $3 USD, from Jorge Daniel Bautista, Union Zapata

Think about your position when you ask for a discount. You are the person NOT making 200 pesos per day. If an item costs 500 pesos and you want it for 400, in all likelihood it is priced fairly and the extra 100 pesos represents almost a full day of work to the maker. To you, it is a $5 difference. A cup of coffee at Starbucks.

We have this discussion among expats and visitors in Oaxaca all the time — to bargain or not? There is a private Facebook group, Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Society, where members address the question repeatedly.

Intricately embroidered blouse, San Bartolome Ayautla, 8 months to make

Many who are proponents of bargaining are like Accidental Tourists, armchair travelers who occasionally get out of their seats, embark on a vacation and think that bargaining is part of the entertainment. Anne Tyler’s protagonist in her novel hates traveling, and does so only “with his eyes shut and holding his breath and hanging on for dear life.” Yet, he enjoys “the virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country” while pretending he never left home. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Why do artisans lower their prices?

  • The season is slow and sales haven’t been good
  • They need money for food, to pay rent, to buy gasoline, to buy raw materials, to pay for school books and bus fare — in other words, cash flow
  • There’s a family emergency, and since this is a cash economy, they need cash
  • They may have lower self-esteem because they are the underclass, treated to believe that what they make has little or no value

What do you think?

Why do tourists bargain?

I think about this question in terms of cultural, political and socio-economic disparities. It might include being unconscious about where we are and our relationship to the people around us. We might conjure up the stereotypical image of Mexico thirty or forty years ago and apply it today. Perhaps, we are totally unaware of the daily or artisan wage. We might say, Oh, it’s cheaper to live here, they don’t need as much. We assume that the government takes care of its poor. (There is no social security in Mexico.) We like the power that the exchange rate gives us and the ability to strike a deal.

What is the value of a natural dye wool rug, 8 weeks in the making?

What about the foreign community from the USA and Canada who live in Oaxaca full-time or for many months of the year? We might say:

  • Tourism drives up local prices, from artisanry to rents
  • We learn to identify higher prices and walk away from them
  • We understand that if we buy five or 10 items, we can ask if there is a discount
  • We know that if we use a credit card, the merchant/vendor is paying 16% tax at a minimum
  • We ask if there is a discount for cash
  • We want to buy local and direct from the artisan, so we don’t pay overhead
  • We want the price to be in pesos, not US dollars
  • We are careful because we are retired, on a fixed income, and while we love the art, we can’t usually afford it
  • Art is subjective, and the price is based on what the seller and buyer agree to

What do you think?

I’ve been thinking about bargaining in today’s Mexico consumer environment where class and race drives business and success. Is it institutional racism to bargain and drive a hard bargain with an indigenous person who has few resources, little or no education, and limited health care access?

Juana and her granddaughter, Luz Angelica. Her future?

Only each of us can answer this for ourselves. Are we willing to look at our own buying behavior and make adjustments? What is our personal view of cultural sensitivity?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

A Bunch of Earrings and a Necklace: Jewelry Sale

I’m back in North Carolina for a while and I’m going through my 20+ year treasure collection. The pieces I’m offering for sale today are jewelry from the bygone years, an eclectic mix of “needed for professional life” or an “artistic point-of-view” that no longer fits my lifestyle. I’ll be listing an eclectic mix of pieces over the next weeks. Keep your eyes open! They are one-of-a-kind!

You get first choice before I list these on eBay and in my Etsy shop.

Nine (9) items offered today. Please email me with your interest (norma.schafer@icloud.com), plus address, specify August 13 and item number. I will calculate postage and send you an invoice.

#1.  SOLD. John Hardy Pearl, 18K Gold and 925 Silver Earrings. 14K gold posts. 6mm (approx) pearls set in 1/2″ diameter bezel, 1-1/2″ long, mesh silver ball topped with 18K gold crown. Bought at Saks 5th Avenue, 1990’s. Vintage. $165. plus shipping. No signs of wear.

#2. SOLD. Artisan-designed and hand-made sterling silver leaf and flower necklace 16″ long including clasp. Flowers have 14K gold centers. Bought at Smithsonian Crafts Show, Washington, D.C. $165. plus shipping.

#3. Contemporary Asheville, North Carolina jewelry artist Joanna Gollberg designed and made. I purchased these from her at the North Carolina Designer Crafts Show in 2003. Hand wrought sterling silver Ellipse (3a. left) and Stix (3b. right) earrings. $35. each pair. Plus shipping.

#4. I Don’t Remember Earrings. They are either platinum or white gold. Simple, functional. 5/8″ diameter. $85. plus shipping.

#5. Vintage Thailand Silver Fish Earrings, handmade. Bought in a Hill Tribe Village outside of Chang Mai, 1994. Old then. Fish dangles 1-1/2″ from hook eye. I have not polished these. $125. plus shipping.

#6. Abalone shell and silver triangle tiered earrings made by Chapel Hill, North Carolina, jewelry artist Rebecca Laughlin McNeigher. Shimmering abalone shell difficult to come by now. 2-1/2″ long. $95. plus shipping.

#7. Jade studs, approx. 5 to 6mm, with gold setting and post. $65. plus shipping.

#8. 14K Rose Gold ball earrings bought in Australia, 2002. 1″ long from curve of hook. Approx. 1/4″ dia. ball. $65. plus shipping.

#9. Rare spiny oyster pendant from South America with hand-made sterling silver setting/bale. 1-1/4″ long by 3/4″ wide at bottom. $65. plus shipping.

 

 

Eclectic Jewelry and Folk Art Collection Sale, August 11, 2017

I’m back in North Carolina for a while and it’s time to go through my collection of Mexican folk art, jewelry and contemporary American art pieces. I’m beginning to consider what I no longer use or wear and offer them for sale to you. I’ll be listing an eclectic mix of pieces over the next weeks. Keep your eyes open! They are one-of-a-kind!

  1. Taller Spratling Monkey (Taxco, Mexico) Copper Pendant inlaid with turquoise, with hand-woven copper chain made by a North Carolina artisan. Pendant is 2-1/4″ long by 1-3/4″ wide. Chain is 20″ long. Newer piece. Priced at $145 for both, plus shipping USPS.

William Spratling inspired the Taxco silversmith industry. He researched iconic pre-Hispanic Mexican designs, of which this is one. This is a newer piece with the stamp of the current owners who use the original molds. Shows some wear. Needs polishing.

2. SOLD. Huichol Lime and Turquoise Hand-Woven Cotton Shoulder Bag. This is a double-faced weave, which means you can turn the bag inside out and it becomes reversible. The bag is 9″x 9″ (approx.), with a 1-1/2″ gusset that continues into a 44″ long strap. Bag is woven on back-strap loom by Jalisco Huichol women. $85 plus shipping.

3. A la Frida Kahlo, Handmade Sterling Silver Filigree Earrings with Garnets from Patzcuaro, Michoacan. 2″ long and 7/8″ wide. Length measured from where hook affixes to earring. Add length for hook into earlobe. $95 plus postage.

4. Designer Jay Strongwater freshwater pearl, glass beads, sterling necklace, 16-1/2″ long, and Majorica 10mm black pearl studs, from Saks Fifth Avenue. Sold together. $185.00 plus mailing.

5. Frida Style Handmade Sterling Silver Earrings, hands with drop flowers, rose quartz centers, from top Oaxaca jewelry shop purchased over 10 years ago. They don’t make them like this any more. Size 1-1/2″ long from where hook meets hand and 3/4″ wide.  $158.00 plus mailing.

6. Turquoise and Red Huichol Shoulder Bag, handwoven in Jalisco, Mexico, double-faced on a back strap loom. Bag body measures 8″ x 8″.  Gusset and strap are 1-1/8″ wide. Strap is 42″ long from where it meets the body of the bag. Turn the bag inside out and it becomes reversible. Inside pocket and tassels on this one. $98.00 plus mailing.

Questions? Send me an email. Want to buy, send me an email with the number of the item, date of this blog post, plus your mailing address.  I will send you an invoice that includes mailing costs.

Thank you. Norma

Sunday Tlacolula Market Meander Map For Sale

It’s Sunday in the Oaxaca Valley. Time to spend the day at the amazing Tlacolula Market. Located about 45 minutes from Oaxaca City on the Carretera Nacional–Mexico 190–between Teotitlan del Valle and Mitla, the market is the biggest and IMHO, the best in the region.

Tlacolula market scene with aprons as cultural identity, meat grilling area

I suggest you get there by 11 a.m. and stay until at least 3 p.m. All transportation points you to Tlacolula on a Sunday. You can take a bus from the baseball stadium in the city or a colectivo from the same point. If you wish, hire a private driver and have him wait for you at about 180 pesos per hour.

I created this map because the market is complex and goes deep. You don’t want to miss anything! The map costs $9 USD. Please order at least 24-hours in advance. I send this to you as a jpg or PDF. You print it out and take it with you — for personal use only!

ORDER YOUR TLACOLULA MARKET MAP HERE!

There are some flash points to avoid for personal safety. The narrow arch that spills out from the church courtyard to the street that connects on the opposite side to the permanent market is where the purse-slashers and pick-pockets hang out. Don’t go through there, go around.

Assessing quality, style and price.

The map indicates my favorite place to eat, places to shop and to explore. You don’t want to miss any of it!  Where to taste the best nieves — ice cream — or sample agua miel, the unfermented first juice of the agave cactus filled with digestive health benefits.

With the map, you will know the streets, where to get cash at the ATM, how the town is laid out, where to get the colectivos, where to park, how far to meander without missing anything.

This map offers an option to those who want to know where they are going before they get there!

ORDER YOUR TLACOLULA MAP HERE!

Thank you for supporting Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We invest a lot of time writing the blog and publishing photos. This is one way to help underwrite our efforts.

Also available by advance order, to guide you to weavers who work only in natural dyes in the rug weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle.  $10 USD

SELF-GUIDED TOUR MAP TO TEOTITLAN DEL VALLE WEAVERS!

Colorful plastic woven baskets, Tlacolula Market. Map to buy!

India Journal: New Delhi Textile Shopping Guide

New Delhi is a whirlwind city filled with honking cars, traffic congestion, auto rickshaws that zoom in and out inches from the next vehicle and an efficient, safe metro system. I never saw an accident but thought we would surely collide on multiple occasions. Traffic lanes do not exist although the roads are marked.

Curated textile choices at Kamayani, New Delhi

On a good day the air pollution is passable. On a good day, I could muster the stamina to visit two or three places — a museum or two, a textile boutique or emporium or folk art exposition.

Where To Shop for Textiles in New Delhi

Based on recommendations from my textile expert friends, Nidhi Khurana and Aditi Prakash and what I discovered on my journey, here is my list of where to shop for great cloth in New Delhi, India.

  • Fab India*, retail shops with fine Indian clothing and silver jewelry
  • Crafts Museum* Gift Shop, near Connaught Place
  • Kamayani* (private boutique), 16 Anandlok, Khel Gaon Marg, New Delhi. Tel. 011-262-58680
  • Kamala*, opposite Hanuman Mandir near Connaught Circus
  • Khadi*, A-1, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, Tel: +91 11 2334 3741
  • Anokhi Clothing and Outlet*
  • Nature Bazaar*, Andheria Mor, Kisan Haat, near Chattarpur Metro stop. A curated, rotating artisans exhibition that features vendors from throughout India. Wonderful!
  • Raj Creations, 30 Hauz Khas Village, Tel. 91-11-26963602. Clothing gallery owner Sunaina “Dimple” Suneja curates a stunning textile collection from throughout India. Don’t miss the historic archeological site at the far end of the village.

*Takes international credit cards.

Embroidery on pashmina (cashmere) shawl, Craft Museum, Delhi

Shopping Tips

  1. If you like it, buy it. You will likely never see the same thing again.
  2. Once more, if you like it, buy it. Each textile in India is unique.
  3. Fixed prices in retail shops. Don’t bargain.
  4. You can bargain in big local markets, if you wish. I didn’t. Exchange rate is 70 rupees to the US dollar.
  5. Get rupees at the airport or from your bank before you leave the USA. There’s a big cash crunch. You need cash to pay taxis and vendors. Still no $$ in ATMs throughout India.
  6. Many shops that “take credit cards” are not set up to accept international credit cards, only those issued in India
  7. Sign up for Transferwise, an easy way to wire transfer funds from your bank account to a hotel or textile artisan
  8. Ask your hotel if you can charge the car/driver to your room to save spending rupees

Bhuj bandhani and mirror work embroidery at Kamayani, Delhi

How To Get Around

The best way to get around is to hire a car and driver for the entire day at around 1200-1800 rupees (about $17-25 USD). The downside is you can sit in traffic for an hour (or more) to go a few miles. But the driver takes you door-to-door and waits for you. For intrepid travelers who like an independent approach, I say, try to adapt.

If you use the Metro, you still need to get from the Metro stop to your destination, a challenge in and of itself. Sure, you can save a few dollars but you’ve spent time trying to find a vehicle and then communicating where you want to go. It’s always a choice about how to spend your time.

Walking is impossible.

Indigo block print and shibori fashion, Nature Bazaar, New Delhi

Where To Stay

Saket Bed and Breakfast, extraordinary hospitality and accommodations, walkable to Saket metro stop. French press coffee. Great food. Dinner available. Accepts credit cards. Easy to arrange car/driver services. Clean and comfy. Currency exchange services available. Close to Nature Bazaar, Sanskriti Museum and Hauz Khas Village.

If you have any other recommendations, please add them in the COMMENTS section!

hand-woven, embroidered mirror shawl from Bhuj at Craft Museum, Delhi