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Dollars to doughnuts

25 April 2011

It never fails to amaze me that even people who live here think we can handle their dollars the same way a bank can.

With inflation and the general slow business climate here, I’m not unique in looking to save a few pesos wherever I can.  I rent a spare room in my house to tourists occasionally.  Rather than post the same pictures and answer the same basic questions again and again, I just threw together a little website, and posted links to the site in ads on craigslist and the like.  When I wrote the ad, the dollar was a tad weaker than today, so I guess if my latest renter had made the deposit in dollars (via paypal) he would save … oh… twenty pesos (well, actually nineteen pesos and 79 centavos)

Of course, renting a room in my own house, I prefer people congenial to my own way of life… quasi-hippies (the kind who bathe regularly and don’t smoke marijuana) or surfers or artists or free-spirits… who are likely to be a little more financially challenged than the usual run of tourists.  I just don’t expect them to be quite as financially anal to follow the day to day rate exchange, especially when we’re talking about less than a thousand pesos (ok, 600 pesos to be exact).   The latest renter wanted to make the deposit in pesos, at the dollar exchange rate.

It’s been a while, but one sign that I was going native was when some tourists thought I was helping them negotiate some street purchase.  I was helping… the vendor:  negotiating the price upwards to cover the her hassle factor.  It’s not that we (and note that when you live here, you’re a “we” not a “they”) want to cheat tourists, or soak them for the yanquí dollar, but that all of us, even us free-spirited regularly bathing quasi-hippie types,  have to deal with the annoying money laundering regulations here like everyone else.  Dollars in Mexico aren’t real money, but only as potential money.  I can’t spend them anywhere except in tourist joints (at a discount) and — “thanks” to money laundering regulations — can only make the deposit at certain hours, and won’t see the deposit in my account for about a week.  A lot of trouble for about the price of a a couple doughnuts.

(Dollars given to the MexFiles, however, are always welcome, since they are used to cover server costs, domain registration and the on-line purchase made in dollars.  A thank you to “Craig” who recently sent 26 US$ … or is it 301.25 pesos? )

One Comment leave one →
  1. "Craig" permalink
    25 April 2011 2:37 pm

    Hey! That was supposed to be 322.55 pesos. The banks are skimming off the top again . . .


    The “money laundering” regulations are just absurd. Supposedly, only $300 US per day can be exchanged (at miserable rates, btw) and every transaction has to be fully documented and tracked with visa number, passport number, etc, etc, etc. But all you have to get is get a few friends and they can run around and exchange lots more. A contractor gives each of his employees $300 and 20 guys go get in line at the window = $6000 exchanged. It’s just absurd. Nothing is controlled, but the “little people” are hassled, a lot!

    Meanwhile, Wachovia (now Wells Fargo or did they collapse too?), literally laundered MILLIONS (and perhaps billions) in drug money. The Feds (in both the US and MX) know about this and have decided that “looking back isn’t in our best interests.”

    Here it is: “A DEA investigation says the bank laundered $378 billion in cash.”

    “Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history — a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product.

    Nice. They laundered boxcar loads of cash, admitted it in court and:

    “Five days later, Wells Fargo promised in a Miami federal courtroom to revamp its detection systems. Wachovia’s new owner paid $160 million in fines and penalties, less than 2 percent of its $12.3 billion profit in 2009.

    “If Wells Fargo keeps its pledge, the U.S. government will, according to the agreement, drop all charges against the bank in March 2011. ”

    More of “the big guys win and the little guys lose…”

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