Work Abroad but earn in USD

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Incredible Monedas Story

The train in Buenos Aires is a very common way to travel. Tickets cost 65-75 centavos depending on how far you are going. Yesterday I was headed out to provincia on the train, and the guy in front of me was buying a ticket with a 2 peso bill. The woman asked him if he had a larger bill or exact change. He said no. She let him pass without paying. The incredible thing is that SHE HAD CHANGE!!! Because then I stepped up to buy my ticket with a 2 and she said the same thing to me. So I pulled out a 5 and she gave me 2, 2 peso bills and 35 cents in coins as change. Clearly, she had been instructed to not give more than a certain amount of coins as change. Amazing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Problem with Monedas (Change/Coins)

This is really really annoying. To the point that I have to actually ask the question: is a single peso coin worth more than a two peso note? The answer is quite clearly yes! Several situations, the most recently of which just happened right now, as I sit here in this fair coffee shop, have popped up in the last week. Ok, so everyone knows that change is hard to come by in Argentina, that breaking 100 peso notes is hard, and that the buses only take coins, but it seems as if no one really understands the gravity of this problem. Here are a few situations: 1. Cab driver gives me a two peso note as change when I paid with a 20 for a fare that was 19.12. He would rather give the two peso note and LOSE MONEY than give up his coins. 2. Coffee shop last friday. Bill is 9 pesos. I pay with a 10 peso note. No change is given. I asked for the coin. Then they asked me for a coin so they could give me a two peso note. Why should I even have to ask for my change? I said I would leave an extra two peso note as tip if they gave me the coin. They said NO!!! (and they even laughed about it) 3. Coffee shop just now. Bill is 14. I pay with a 5 and 10. 1 peso change is due. No change is offered. Same situation as 2 (but a different location). 4. (And here is the kicker...) I go to the bank to get change. I walk to the front of the line to change a 5 into 5 coins. They say that they will only give 3. That their policy has changed. 5 is too much now. Oh, and also, I have to wait in the line of 40 people to do a transaction that will take all of 30 seconds. So the bank is putting up barriers (lowering/taking away incentives) to actually have correct change. Don't people realize that they are paralyzing their own economy when they do this? That when the people at the supermarket, or kiosk, or corner store refuse to make sales because they do not want to lose coins that there are dead weight losses? Everywhere down here there are signs posted (subway, train, stores, etc) that say "No hay monedas" or "Colaboren con monedas", and this does not help the problem. People are so afraid of giving away coins that they hoard them. I have seen many many kiosks that refuse to sell me a 10 centavo item for a 2 peso note because they know that I just want the change. So then I offer to buy something worth 1 peso, so I can still get the 1 peso moneda, and ride the bus--and they still refuse! This amounts to economic insanity. When the value of a one peso coin clearly outweighs the value of 2 pesos printed on paper, something is drastically wrong with the system. There are only 2 things that I see as possibilities: 1. People need the coins to take the bus. This is really the only thing in the whole of Argentina that operates only on coins. The bus system is also extremely extensive and is probably the main mode of transportation (although I don't have exact figures and the subway could be more) and as such, requires a huge influx of coins to operate. So the only logical explanation is that this huge influx of coins is not balanced by an equal outflow (i.e. the bus companies don't go to the bank and deposit these coins in their accounts thus giving the banks enough coins to give unlimited quantities as they do in the U.S. and other developed countries). But why would the bus companies do this? The only explanation I can come up with here is that they don't trust the banks and therefore hoard coins. Yikes. Anyone else have a thought on this? 2. There actually aren't enough coins in circulation. Supply and demand. Under supply and high demand. Again, the only place where there is a real high demand and no counterbalance is the bus system. Would it be possible to solve both problems (because they are not mutually exclusive) with a card system? As in people buy 10 peso or 20 peso bus cards that can be punched or scanned and avoid this change issue. I think that's wishful thinking.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Malbec in Argentina and Buenos Aires: Fad or Forever

Malbec has been long known as the signature grape of Argentina, but only recently has it achieved the fame and notoriety it deserves. My business Anuva Vinos, deals directly with this fine product of Argentina, and many of the tourists and expats who know a lot, or know very little, of its existence. As far as I know, though (and I do quite a bit of research on the subject), Anuva is the only company that provides wine tastings for tourists who are visiting Buenos Aires. This seems very ironic since the wine is becoming so popular in the U.S. and other countries. Why would it be so hard to find a good wine tasting in Buenos Aires? First of all, only since 2004 has the Malbec "boom" been taking place. It was then that critics like Robert Parker and wine experts like Michel Rolland declared Malbec, and Argentine wines in general to be worthy of world-class wine status. As many of you know, things in Argentina happen slowly, and thus, the creation of venues for tourists to taste these fine wines has gone by the wayside. Second, it is very hard in Argentina to sell wine tastings to the Argentine public. The tourist market does demand and increasingly demands fine Argentine wines, access to local wines and wine tourism, but the locals do not. Argentines themselves tend to consume a lot more table wine than fine wine, as a) very few of them can afford it and b) their culture is more one of mixing wine with soda water or coke than drinking nice wine from a crystal glass. Third, and mainly and extension of point 2, the Argentine wineries that produce the higher quality wines are looking outward for expansion. First to the U.S., then the U.K., Europe, Canada, Brazil and now China and Russia as well for growth. Per capita consumption of wine in Argentina is down from its all time high in the 1960s (when they consumed and ungodly 80 liters per capita!) and people are moving more toward beers and liquors for their spirited beverage choices. But Malbec and Argentine wine in the U.S. and elsewhere outside Argentina is booming. Exports are up 300% since 2004 and there is no end in sight. But more importantly than that, Argentine wines and Malbec especially have several things working in their favor: 1. Their price/quality relationship is unbeatable. With the lowest land costs and labor costs out of all the major wine making regions in the world, Argentina simply cannot be beat in this arena. 2. Malbec can take on many forms. From the ever popular fruit forward and smooth varietals without oak that fall in the less than 20 USD category, to the ultra-premium grand reserve Malbecs, this grape is very versital. That means something for everyone at many different price points. I highly doubt that this phenomenon will go away anytime soon, and insider information tells me that certain wine bars will be popping up in certain cities that may rhyme with the words "Cainos Haires" quite soon.

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