Shopping in paradise


Bargaining over prices is not especially common in Mexico

  • By law, prices for goods must be posted (in pesos)

    • Nothing forbids a merchant from discounting

  • Mexicans almost always pay the posted price anyplace with a cash register

    • Department stores

    • Supermarkets

    • Restaurants

    • Car dealers (Mexicans usually pay "full sticker price" for new cars!)

Places you can (and possibly should) haggle

  • Flea markets

  • Private sales

  • Street vendors

  • Stores where someone calls you in off the street

  • Stores in the Plaza del Sol (the large "flea market" building at the back of the zócalo)

  • Stores in the pedestrian part of 5a Avenida

Be cautious when bargaining in currencies other than pesos

  • Know the exchange rate

  • Find out the price in pesos right away

    • If the vendor has to compute the price in pesos, be especially wary

      • They're used to dealing with tourists paying in dollars

      • They're not following Mexico's consumer law if prices aren't in pesos

Know what things are worth

Not everything is a bargain

  • Mexico does not make Swiss watches or Persian rugs nor have diamond or tanzanite mines

  • Some things are sold in tourist areas simply because there are tourists with money there

  • Check what something would cost you at home

"Duty-free" is essentially a sham

  • The entire state of Quintana Roo is a duty-free zone

  • "Duty-free" shops often sell the same product at higher prices than other local shops

  • You must still pay import duty on anything above your personal allowance when you return home

Be careful about high-ticket items

  • Mexico has very strong consumer protection laws and takes fraud seriously

    • However, you probably can't deal with a problem from 2,000 miles away

  • Returns on retail purchases are not typical

    • Most sales, even at department stores, are final

    • Inspect purchases carefully before completing a purchase

There ARE some great bargains

  • Amber

  • Artwork and handicrafts

  • Handblown glass

  • Leather goods

  • Opals

  • Silver

  • Stone (onyx, for example)

  • Textiles

  • Turquoise

  • Pottery and ceramics of many types and styles

  • Punched tin mirrors, frames, and other items

There are some great merchants

Deja Vu Leather and Silver for shoes and jewelry

    • He has some unique and wonderful items

    • We trust him and think his prices are great

    • I get all of my shoes made there

    • We get silver jewelry custom-made there

    • Yes, it's both handcrafted leather and handcrafted silver. Also excellent hammocks.

    • His English is completely fluent

Los Cinco Soles for jewelry, handicrafts, housewares, and clothing

    • They have high-quality jewelry, including well-known Mexican designers

    • They have high-quality handicrafts from all over Mexico

    • They have good clothing

    • They have nice souvenirs of good quality and low kitschiness

    • Their prices are fair, though some of their products are inherently costly

    • Most employees have good English and there will be someone working who's completely fluent

    • They've earned a great reputation for quality

    • Taxco is the "silver city" in central Mexico famed for their products for centuries, but Sergio's makes some items locally

    • The silversmiths speak very good English

Zapateria Elsy at the Mercado Municipal for Yucatecan linen clothing

    • Her shop is on 25 Av. about halfway along the building, under an awning

    • I get all my linen guayaberas there

    • She has nice embroidered huipils, ladies' tops, and dresses

    • She's a nice woman who will treat you well and smile when she sees you

    • Her English is no worse than my Spanish

      • Unfortunately, that's not saying much...

      • Communication can take some time

      • Any minor struggles with communication are well worth it, and usually involve a lot of laughing