How I Lost 5 Thousand Pesos
Here’s the good news – just about 24 hours after saying good-bye to Astrid at home in London, I arrived at my destination (hotel) in Santiago, Chile safely and soundly and even with my checked luggage. This was after a 12-hour flight from London to Sao Paulo, a relatively quick transfer hustling from one terminal to another, and 4 more hours on to Santiago, then a bus and metro trip to the hotel.
The bad news, though, is that I got ripped off for 5 thousand pesos in the process. I had read all about the problems paying with large bills and receiving change in Argentina, but I wasn’t really thinking about it in Chile when I bought bus tickets for my boss and I outside the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago. Savvy worldwide business traveler, or schmuck?
The other good news – while it might sound like a lot, 5000 Chilean pesos is actually only about $10.50 (and the bus + metro + conned money was still way cheaper than a taxi!). You see, the bus tickets were 2800 pesos, and I gave the guy a note for 10 grand. But, he only gave me change as if I’d given him 5k. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I was already well on the bus and speeding away toward central Santiago. I suppose it could have been an innocent error…but what happened later in the day made me pretty sure it wasn’t.
My boss and I decided to pick up some soda and water as we typically do, stopping at a small independent convenience store between the metro station and our hotel. He paid this time, and the total was about 2400 pesos; this time he used a 5000 peso note, but only received about 1600 pesos in change. I was watching the register and the guy and told him, that isn’t right – he asked about it and the guy first pretended like he had given back two 1000 notes, and when that was clearly not hte case he then made a fuss getting some supposed manager to come over and carry out a long process to open the register and give him another 1000 note. So, once bitten twice shy…which made me feel a bit better about earlier.
You can bet that I will be counting change quite precisely for the rest of the trip! Now it is on to get some quick sleep for my 5:30 wakeup call and an 18-hour day ending in Buenos Aires at about midnight tomorrow.