An Awkward Shopping Experience

I went back to the market today to pick up four more dresses. That would bring my count to nine – a week’s supply with two to spare and more than enough to go on. The ladies were expecting me and had actually pre-selected four dresses for me (with others available as backups)! Their choices were spot on and I went with them!

Again, click on the pictures to embiggen and see the patterns. First up is this very sweet blue, purple, and yellow exaggerated paisley pattern:

Next is a solid pink number with blue flowers:

The third one made me gasp, it was so unusual and unique. It has at least four distinct patterns, but they’re all from the same bolt of cloth. The bulk of it is a purple pattern on cream, but then there are strips with other patterns. The purple colour appears in all sections, but each section otherwise has different colours:

And finally, a pretty number with a pattern in shades of blue that rather evokes pasta floor tiles:

I went to pay and the lady said, “I think you paid $620 last week?” I was going to acquiesce when a man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and said, “Then, she will pay $660 this week.” So that’s the full price of the dresses this week, plus paying back the $20 discount I got last week.

The ladies were stunned speechless. I hadn’t strong-armed for a deal last week and one this week would have been nice, but I know the dresses are a great deal and I wasn’t going to balk over $40. It was just the man’s tone that completely put me off.

The older lady said to him, sotto voce, “She’s been a very good customer.” “I don’t care,” the man replied. “The dresses are $160 each.”

I pulled out $660 and handed it over, not wanting to get in an argument. But the lady said to me, “$640 this week,” glaring at the man, who let out an angry sigh. “$640,” she said again firmly as I tried, unsuccessfully, to give the the extra $20.

It was incredibly awkward — I didn’t want to cause her issues with this man after the transaction and, again, the amount of money wasn’t worth my getting in the middle of the argument. She continued to ignore the man and said, “Should I bring you more next week?”

I already hadn’t planned to get more so I declined, but did say that perhaps in a few months I might be back. She was clearly disappointed and as I headed out, I heard her and the man get back into it, although I was too far away at that point to know what they were saying.

So that was a rather unfortunate end to my dress shopping experience. I really don’t see how I did anything wrong, but I’d hate to have caused that woman grief over $20.

At any rate, I finally have a closet of pretty and climate-appropriate dresses and now I can go focus on… sandals. 🙂

12 thoughts on “An Awkward Shopping Experience

  1. Lovely dresses but sad to have that little spat happen for 20 pesos. I was going to suggest asking if they had scraps of matching material for scarves but not now I guess.

    • The thing that I found most horrible was the spat was between the vendor and someone I assume was her husband. If it had been both of them against me, it would have been fine. I just hope he doesn’t give her grief when I have spent $1,420 at their stand the last three Sundays combined.

      Fabric is super inexpensive here and I don’t like to look “matchy-matchy.” I’m going to go to Parisina at some point with my bag of dresses and look for some solid material that picks up their colours. I’m still trying to find a seamstress, after all this time here, but at least I’ll have the fabric available for when it happens. I’ve so far settled on scarves to wear with all but one of the dresses I bought last week and I’m sure I can find ones to wear with these week’s batch as well.

      • When it is clear that a private conversation or negotiation is going on between a particular person (whether it be man or woman) and me and someone injects himself or herself into the private conversation, I quickly turn around and hold my hand out and say, “pardon me, but I have not had the pleasure of meeting you and you are —————.” 1) you will find out if he actually “owns” the business and if the lady doing work for you is employed by the owner or 2) you will find out if the guy injecting himself into the conversation is her husband, but it sounds like she can “handle” him pretty well. (If not, she can always drop him off at the husband day care center, otherwise known as the friendly neighborhood bar.)

          • Well, Rae, one of my neighbors and I have noticed that there has been an attempt to import those “cultural norms and expectations” to the US. You are right; however, more often than not, at least in this country, those norms die hard, but they do eventually die. There is a nice lady from Mexico (she has three children enrolled in our school system) who helps my neighbor and me with certain work in our houses, and I arranged for the school bus to drop the children off at my house after school. After they have a snack and do their homework, Maria has finished up and is ready to go home. Lynn (my neighbor) and I pay her in cash; she sticks most of her pay in her bra and puts a few dollars in her purse. More often than not, her husband doesn’t show to pick up her and the kids. So, we take them home (and often make a stop at Wal-mart for groceries and a few school clothes); when I turn the corner on the street to her duplex, guess who is standing on the corner with a bunch of other guys “chewing the fat.” Yes, you’re right, her husband. My neighbors have offered him work because everyone loves Maria; sometimes he shows up, sometimes he doesn’t. I look at Maria while I’m driving her home and say, “just think about how much money you could save with one less mouth to feed.” She knows what I mean, and we look at each other and laugh. Yes, the culture is there, but Maria knows it can die if need be. She is not the “shrinking violet” she once was.

  2. It’s nice to have a whole wardrobe of clothes that fit and are comfortable. Too bad the shopping experience was not as comfortable this week. I also don’t see where you did anything wrong, though. You are not responsible for the power struggle between the man and the vendor.

    • And are pretty and dressy-ish! 🙂

      I’m sure there’s some jerk out there who would find a part of the blame for me to hold, but I can’t figure it out either. It’s just so unfortunate. 🙁

  3. Dee, the norm I’m talking about here is the American attitude that the customer is the power player in a transaction. Sure, in the US you can go to the person and say who the hell are you to come into my transaction? But not anywhere else in the world I’ve been other than Canada. It was a private conversation between the vendor and this man. If I was to have any part of it, I would have been included. Who knows what could have happened had I done that — I could have become known in my tight-knit neighbourhood as the gringa who sticks her nose where it doesn’t belong, the very thing I’m avoiding.

  4. No doubt, you did the right thing; the power play was between your vendor and the man who “came out of nowhere” when the two of you (only the vendor and you) were engrossed in completing the transaction. All you did was simply wait on what was to be the final price of the dresses. The vendor stood her ground (no matter how embarrassing); somehow I have a gut feeling she has been through this before. Not all Mexican women are shrinking violets.

    • My new friend M lived in a part of Mexico that is very matriarchal before coming here, where he finds that the society is more patriarchal. Regardless of that, most Mexican women I know are very strong.

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