I’d been looking for awhile for a smaller bag to carry just my iPad and maybe a journal. There are times when I don’t want to lug around my day pack with the laptop and SLR — I just want to have a coffee, read the news and catch up on email.
I found the perfect solution while roaming through the market in Antigua – it was just the right size, lightweight and easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, I somehow dropped a zero while juggling numbers and spent 10 times more than I thought. And I wasn’t even drunk.
I was starving, making my way to a nearby cafe when I spotted it. I’d been out shooting early and had skipped breakfast. The vendor asked for 300 quetzals (the current rate is 7.75 quetzals to the dollar) and instead of dividing in my head by 8, I divided by 80. Umm… Yeah… Bit of a difference there…
Considering that I’m only spending 50 quetzals per night for my hotel, you think I might have caught that. But in my defense, I’d gotten used to dividing by 20 in Honduras, so dropping the zero came naturally. And I’m not very smart.
Also, I’m pretty sure she hypnotized me.
Convinced that she was asking for about $4 US, I still hesitated, thinking I could get it for even less in a smaller town (Yes, I’m a cheap bastard). Antigua is the main tourist destination in the country and one of the most expensive. Sensing my waffling, she dropped the price to 225 quetzals and I went for it. What a deal! Can’t go wrong for 3 bucks!
Except that I had actually handed over $29.
So what’d I get for my money? It’s handmade, stitched suede leather, which allows the whole thing to roll up fairly well in my main pack when not in use — just right for travel. Best of all, it’s double-sided, with main pouches on each side — I can fit my iPad in one side and my SLR in the other — perfect for that early-morning coffee run and doesn’t scream “I’m carrying valuable electronics!” It’s just what I needed.
Back home I wouldn’t think twice about spending that much –I spent $39 on a ‘smart cover’ that only covers the front– but here… well… Had I realized the real cost, I’d have waited and bought it elsewhere for probably $15 or less.
Each country is different and after awhile, they all start to meld together in your head. In Thailand, I dropped a zero and divided by 3. In Cambodia I dropped 3 zeros and divided by 4, while Laos required you to divide by 8 — the one thing I hated about Laos. Vietnam was easy — drop 3 zeros and cut what’s left in half.
It’s not the first time I’ve made bad decisions based on shoddy math, many of them more costly. I’d like to say “lesson learned” but I know it’s not — I’ll do it again eventually.
At least I really like my bag.
Now, c’mon and fess up: what’s your worst currency conversion screw-up?