I have heard from other foreigners in Korea that there is a foreigner price. I thought little about it until I kept hearing more stories. In fact, now that I think about it, it may have happened to me as well because I have had my suspicions. However, What brings me to write about it are the many stories I have heard and perhaps we can get to the bottom of it.
The post office story
Terrence told me, “last week I sent a CD to a friend in Cheongju, a city near the Seoul area. But the CD did not work so I had to send the same CD again this week. I realized that the price I paid last week was different from the price I paid this week. Another thing that was different last week was the fact that I went with a Korean co-teacher who came along to show me where the post office was. She also handled the mailing since I could not communicate efficiently with the clerk.
The next day I went alone since I now know where the post office is to mail the same CD. But this time instead of paying 2 thousand won as I did when I was with the Korean Teacher, I paid 4 thousand won. I know my math is not that bad. So what gives? Is there a daily rate to the post offices in Korea or something I don’t know about?”
The Gatorade Clerk
Jameson writes, “I have experienced the foreigner price when I buy Powerade after soccer training. There is a small shop next to my apartment; it is across the street. I used to go there all the time to buy Powerade, Gatorade and other small items for a quick eat. But each time I went, it seemed as if the price was different. So, I started keeping tabs to verify this for sure.
I started keeping my receipts to see if it was true that I was been cheated just because I was a foreigner. I found out the prices were different when I bought Gatorade and Powerade. On Sunday afternoons when I bought Gatorade or Powerade, the clerk was a young girl about my age perhaps younger. Other times, it was her father, who from appearance, was perhaps in his late fifties or early sixties. When I bought the drinks from her, the price was 2 thousand won but when I bought it when he was there, the price was 2,600; I paid an extra 6 hundred won.
When I discussed this with the Korean teachers, they disagreed with me and other foreign Teachers who say they have experienced this in more than one occasion. Another Teacher from Australia said that a taxi driver tried to charge her 8 thousand won because he did not turn on his meter for what is usually a 2 thousand won cab ride.
Anyhow, I stopped going there to buy Gatorade or any other drinks at the shop next to my apartment. I started buying from another shop that is just down the street from the one I felt cheated at. What confirmed that I was being cheated by the old man is the fact that at this other shop, I pay 2 thousand, the price that his daughter was charging me. So, it seems the old man was pulling a fast one on me after all!”
Are we as foreigners just paranoid and on guard because we are in a country that is not ours? That maybe so but these things do happen. And more often than not you will be targeted before someone who knows the ins and outs. And everyone has their story and their filter, biases and so forth when telling it. So how do you differentiate the truth from the illusion? You can’t sometimes and therefore cannot really know what is and what isn’t and whether someone is cheating you or not. And not knowing the language doesn’t help either.
So I then ask you, what do you think of these stories? And have you had an experience as such?