Mzungu Price

I’m nursing two stop sign sized blisters on my heels so we headed to town yesterday to buy a pair of flip-flops. We found a very eager salesman in the souk who quickly launched into a spiel, his extra-large silver crucifix prominently displayed on his chest. He cheerily quoted me 12,000 Tzs for a pair of red (probably Chinese made) flip-flops. 12,000 shillings is roughly $8, an amount not far from a local monthly earning. We saw these same slippers on plenty of feet around town, so 12,000 could hardly have been the price. Not even in the U.S. I should have worked harder but in the end I paid 6,500 Tzs, or $4. We left with the slippers but I knew we’d paid the “mzungu price.” Not far from the market we ran into Julius, the cook who took care of us while we were volunteering. He was chatting with an acqaintance and getting his shoe fixed by a sidewalk cobbler. Telling him about our morning, I pointed to the new purchase on my feet and asked, How much should these cost? He replied, Oh, 2000, maybe 1800. Doh! We told him how much we’d paid, at which point he turned to retell our market adventure to the other two. When all three burst into fits of laughter shaking their heads, I knew he’d reached the punchline. Glad to have provided the day’s entertainment. Ah, well. What’s done is done, but we did pass the sandal vendor today while shopping for fabric. He smiled broadly and inquired how we were doing. I responded by asking if he was Catholic. Puzzled by the unexpected question to his question, he said that in fact he was. I pointed to my red flip-flops and suggested he go to confession this weekend.

The mzungus head for Kilimanjaro tomorrow. Up, up and away!

3 thoughts on “Mzungu Price

  1. Great story!
    For what it’s worth you have probably overpaid far more for shoes or clothes in the U.S. Most of that overpayment goes directly to the coffers of large corporations. In this case you subsidized one African sandal vendor.

    Just imagine if “the shoe had been on the other foot” so to speak. What if this vendor had to tell his friends that he had given you anything other than the “mzungo price.” They would have laughed at him just as heartily don’t you think?

  2. I love to bargain and i take pleasure in getting a good deal. However, when i travel, i dont think of getting a good deal, but rather, how much am i willing to pay that will make both seller and myself happy. That being said, i am glad u bargained for the flip flops. I am sure many visitors paid more than u.

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