Sunday, February 10, 2008

Entrepreneurial Spirit

There's a newsstand at the end of our street where, every morning for the past year and a half, I have purchased two newspapers at a cost of a buck-fifty. Throw in a few magazines each month, plus the occasional candy bar, post card or street map, and it's safe to say I'm worth about $600-$700 a year to this operation - I'm not exactly Wal-Mart, but I'm still a pretty valuable customer.

So this morning I pick up my papers and hand the lady a 20-peso note, which she looks at and hands back to me. "I can't take this, it's torn," she says - and sure enough, there's a tiny little tear about halfway down the left side. For some reason, the myth - and it is a myth - that torn, dirty or otherwise defaced currency is invalid simply refuses to die here. I try to explain this to her, but she won't budge. Okay, but if I leave here empty handed I'm not coming back, I say, noting that there are three other identical newsstands within 200 yards - one of which we can actually see from where we're standing. She shrugs. I leave, walk across the street, pay for two papers, passing off the damaged note without incident, and walk past the first newsstand on the way back home in the hopes that she might actually say something about the 700 US dollars she just flushed away for literally no reason. And again, she just shrugs.

It's got to be a drug/money laundering front. I mean, no one is that dumb.


'Eddie Willers' said...

Yes - she really is that dumb.

The myth of the worthless currency is self-perpetuating. Many small businesses won't accept torn, soiled or defaced notes because they know they cannot use them at other stores and they are afraid the banks won't accept them.

There's a small stationery store nearby that I refuse to patronise for this very reason. I got into an argument with the sales clerk until, exasperatedly, she said (in so many words) that she was sorry but she had to do what the pinche owner said, and he said no torn or defaced bills.

Our stores accept any bill as long at it's legal tender (ie: serial number intatc and a genuine Banco de Mexico issued bill). Some of the raggedy-ass bits of paper we get as payment have to seen to be believed - comes from fat, old biddies keeping their dosh in plastic bags stuffed down their corsets.

Anonymous said...

I hate that myth, because it is actually silly.

Sometime ago I found a $50 pesos coin, the goverment made some of this (in 1995 or so), but this were heavy and not practical, so slowly but surely this coins disapear. Still I found one in my house and decided to spent it, at the corner store they didn't accepted becasue they believed it was worthless, so I went to the bank and ask for a bill, they did and told me that this coin, while old, it retains it's value.

Of course is nice to see that this myth is not general, like in your case.

Burro Hall said...

I'm just going to pay for everything in 20 centavo coins from now on.