Thursday, October 10, 2013

Service charge–not included

Baksheesh, greasing the palm, a little something for you, tip, bribe, dash, tax, service charge – however you want to assign a name to it it’s that little extra bit of cash, passed in a handshake or hidden in the fine print, that makes things happen.

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Here we sit in the domestic airport of Lagos, Nigeria. I tipped our driver – the man who carried our luggage to the ticket counter – the man who carried our passports to the ticket counter for us (bypassing the 50 yard long line) I paid for our luggage overage and I tipped the security guard who was questioning Sara about the beads she had bought at the market . Here in Nigeria this is called Dash – appropriately rhyming with cash.

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These little bribes are commonplace as we travel around the world and while our friends back home n the States may turn their noses up at the perceived impropriety – these same folks find no fault in paying hidden charges on their airline tickets – service fees – luxury taxes – paying shipping and handling for “fee” items -pricing automobiles san tax and title- destination fees for rental cars etc. etc. and of course none of these fine folks would ever enjoy a hundred dollar meal at some shmancy joint and then not leave a tip for their waiter. It’s all perspective my friend. At least when I slip the equivalent of twenty bucks in a Moroccan cop handshake I know that money is going to an individual who will spend it locally.

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This toe dipping into Africa that Sara and I are participating has not left us a whole lot of time for sightseeing yet – but we have managed to get out a little thanks to the kindness of our new friends we are meeting at the schools.

I collect masks and I mentioned this to our middle school crew at the dinner they hosted for us. Immediately two of the teachers there volunteered to escort us to a nearby market. The invisible magic charm we seem to be traveling with on this jaunt seems to be holding out. We were warned about crowds, pawing vendors, mud, pestilence, and locusts the size of geriatric dachshunds. (Okay, I made up the part about pestilence and locusts.)

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What we found instead was a pleasant stroll through uncrowded stalls populated by persistent, but not pesky proprietors. I scored a couple masks and Sara some giant glass beads and a table runner all at prices that we felt were more than fair. Great fun was had by all. And as an added bonus – when we later went back to school to have dinner with the high school teacher – the guard who signed us in was the same guy who sold Sara her beads in the market an hour earlier.

Now I’m not saying that greasing the wheels every now and then by donating a little extra cash into local economies has given me a little bankroll in my karma credit union account – but I’m sure it hasn’t hurt.

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The young man on the left carried our packages through the market for us – I tipped him well.

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