EDD SAIDGringo beware! Quick change artists have a deal for you

Feb 17, 2011

By Edd Staton

You strike up a conversation with a cabbie in a city you’re visiting on the way from the airport. He mentions he knows of a great investment property you really should take a look at.

On the way to your car the bag boy at the grocery store mentions he's got a hot stock tip he wants to tell you about.

You’re getting your nails done and the manicurist whispers that her boyfriend is starting a business that’s a total home run.

In your daily life, would you act on any of these scenarios? “Act” is defined here as actually following up and putting your hard-earned money in play. I’m thinking the answer is a resounding, unqualified N-O-O-O-O!!!!!

Well, guess what? On a frighteningly regular basis, people just like you are doing the equivalent of that right here in Cuenca. They’ve read all the Internet hype–they get off the plane excited to arrive in The Promised Land–they’re desperate to be in The Promised Land–they’ve got money burning a hole in their pocket–they down a big drink of “The Kool Aid” at a Gringo Night, hook up with a Cuencano who speaks good English, and the next thing you know within days they’ve rented or bought a place and are giddily on their way back to Estados Unidos.

Paradise, here we come!!!

Except, oops, those damned details. It turns out that being bilingual is the only marketable skill the Cuencano had. Real estate license—uh, no, but I have a business card. Does that count?

I know gringos “renting” apartments who have no lease. Why? Because their “representative” doesn’t have a clue about anything beyond showing apartments and collecting a commission. I know gringos who supposedly “own” properties but can’t get a deed. Why? Read the previous “why,” except substitute “condo/home” for “apartment.”

Enough is enough. I really don’t blame the Cuencanos who could easily be labeled as “predatory” for taking advantage of knucklehead gringos. This is a poor country, and if you have a marketable skill, like speaking good English, I say,” Work it, baby. You earned it.” Mastering a foreign language is difficult. I know——-.

Nope, I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of my U.S. compatriots for being, well–knuckleheads. At home you’re not gonna put maybe $100,000+ on the “good advice” of your taxi driver/bag boy / nail chick. Why in the hell are you going to get on a plane, lose your mind, and behave like an idiot in Cuenca-friggin’-Ecuador? You can do that a lot cheaper in Vegas. Trust me–I lived there.

So, my unsolicited, uncompensated (keeping the “un”-thing going — unfortunately) advice is this—BEWARE. There are more and more unqualified, unlicensed (wow–“un” is again alive!) individuals here who want to separate you from your money. Not by picking your pocket. Not by snatching your purse. No, by being your “friend.”

I knew someone once who lived in Germany. She was magnetically attracted to anyone who spoke English. He could have been a serial killer but, hey–he spoke English when ev eryone else was speaking, uh–something else.

Amigos, that’s not enough. Be smart. Be safe. Be conservative.

There truly are qualified individuals in Cuenca who can help you every step of the way on your journey. Take the initiative to find and use them.

You’ve worked hard for a long time to earn that money. Treat it, and yourself, with the respect you both deserve. 

Editor´s note: Edd Staton is a Cuenca resident, writer and community activist. He is author of the Edd Said blog, www.eddsaid.blogspot.com, and writes a column for Cuenca´s afternoon newspaper, La Tarde. 

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