Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How much for that doggy in the window? It depends... São Paulo

Yesterday I went to the bookstore with my son to find some new books in Portuguese. I tend to import my books in English from the US (in a heavy suitcase) but we are forced to pay the big bucks for Portuguese books here in Brazil. While we are looking at the books, I let my son (age 6) choose one himself. He immediately asks "how much is it?" (money is getting to be more interesting to him now that he has some from tooth fairy and grandmas). And I look over the book from stem to stern and there is no price. Of course not! I know that!

Nothing in this country has a price written on it. Okay, HUGE exaggeration, but true in bookstores for the most part. Magazines do have prices probably because they have a shelf life. So every time you find a book that looks interesting, and scarily expensive, you need to head over to one of the bar code readers. There is no price on the shelf. There is no price on the book. And as that little red zappy light is reading (or if you're like me and apparently have no hand-eye coordination and have to move the bar code around 50 times) the bar code, you start to get anxious on whether or not the price will come back as 8 million reais. Could it be taking that long because it has to read all the zeroes? 

And then the price finally pops up -- in this case, the book is a pretty reasonable US$12. But then my son decides he doesn't want that one, because it doesn't have enough predators in it so you're off again on the mystery ship of book prices.

Many stores here (not all) have this kind of price check system. I am not sure if this dates back to the days of inflation. During the hyperinflation decade (1987-1997), price increases were more than 40% a MONTH. Your savings would decline by 2000% a year. You had to cart around bucketloads of money to pay for bread. I was not here in those years and I can only imagine the chaos this bred, and not only on the bookshelves.

But it's 2013. It's 6% inflation. Can we put a price on something? 


  1. No, not bucketloads. You would just use a Cz$500,000 note to pay for it. If the note had gone through the banking system since the last currency change, it would probably have a stamp on it (rubberstamped, not the sticky one) saying NCz$500. Personally, I only got confused once when there were two of those changes in quick succession and I couldn't tell which note was worth more, the 500,000 from two generations ago (missing a stamp) or the 5,000 from either the previous or the then current generation.

    Good times... not!

    1. Andrew!! Where have you been??/! I have missed you pulling my chain and keeping me honest.

    2. What can I say, work just got too busy so blog reading got relegated to my lunch hour only (on good days).