Saturday, 22 December 2007

Can you spare some change?


There is an unusual custom here of paying bills in cash. e.g. You get a telephone, electricity or gas bill and you can go to a pharmacy to pay the bill in cash. You do have an option to call and pay by credit card or direct debit but there seems to be a big reluctance to do so.

Certain pharmacies and stores have a special section known as Pago Facil (Easy Pay) where you can go to the counter and pay your bill in cash. The strange thing is you often have to queue for considerable time to do this. It's as if the impatient porteno's distrust of financial establishments supercedes their reluctance to 'wait' and they just get on the long line and tolerate the wait. More bizarre is the fact that the Pago Facil is often short on change so unless you have close to exact change, you may have to go searching nearby shops willing to break a 100 peso bill.

The change problem is more widespread and has been around for a while (see BBC News link attached from 1 year ago - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6163238.stm). It's obvious there is a huge shortage of coins to go around so why not mint more? Generally the first thing you're asked when paying in a shop, supermarket etc is, do you have a smaller bill or more importantly do you have close to the exact small change. I was refused point blank at a shop recently for trying to buy a 50 cent item with a 5 pesos note.

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