I ducked inside the first place I found that had a bag of potato chips when I arrived into town. Potato chips in Peru are made from Peruvian potatoes, and even though they are made by Frito-Lay, they taste sooo much better than their American counterparts. I knew better than to get an entire bag because I’d be tempted to eat them all.

I grabbed the .50 centamos bag. I knew it was .50 centamos because that was the price printed on the bag. This is a rarity as nothing in Peru is ever marked with a suggested retail price because the local economy is run by way of bargaining.

I handed a one-sole coin for my chips to the traditional Qechua lady behind the counter. She handed me back .30 centamos.

I held up the potato chip bag with the printed price of .50 centamos and pointed to it. She gave me the correct change.

“Olvido,” the lady behind the counter said dryly. “I forgot.”

I don’t think she meant any malice, but I also don’t think she forgot. It’s just the way of the typical Peruvian vendor. They try to make a little more here and there where and when they can from the hordes of gringos who come tromping all up and down and through their homeland. I don’t mind if sometimes I get charged “gringo prices,” but I do try to be aware of scams and price gouging, however small it may be. It’s always my goal to pay the normal, local price for things, or as close to it as a gringo possibly can.

It’s up to the individual to cultivate the ability to bargain effectively, gringo or not, and when in this area you have to be alert. It’s not unusual in Peru for receipts to have addition errors, so it’s a good idea to double check the addition on hand written receipts. Every time I’ve found one, the error has always been in favor of the vendor. If you find an error on your bill, be nice and point out the error. It very well could have been an honest mistake.

Or not.