September 10, 2006

Fixed Calculators
Máncora, Peru

Fixed: To arrange or influence the outcome or action of, esp. privately or dishonestly: to fix a jury; to fix a game.

I'd never heard or read about fixed calculators before, but after encountering them with the money changers on both the northern and southern borders of Ecuador, I felt the need to write a blurb on the subject.

Aggressive men with large wads of cash lurk around the borders. They're money changers, and for a percentage will swap one currency for another.

I saw it with my own eyes—twice. The crooked changer did the mathematics with his calculator, but the figure didn't come out properly. Trading pesos at the northern border with Ecuador, I should have seen something like US$16.50 come up on the screen, but instead US$13 was displayed.

It would seem that some of these guys are using modified pocket calculators that can significantly skew the conversion in their favor.

A few basic guidelines for changing money at a border:

  1. Know the current exchange rate ( is a good site);
  2. Know how much money you're going to exchange, and how much of the new currency you should be getting;
  3. Always complain about the exchange rate;
  4. Never be afraid to turn your back on a changer and walk away;
  5. Always use your own calculator to verify; and
  6. Always take and recount the money from the changer before handing over your cash.

Rare will be situation where you'll only have one money changer to deal with, so be educated beforehand, push as hard as you want, and don't believe their lies—these are the last people you should ever listen to.



September 12th, 2006

Interesting point:

"A la orden" actually derives from the strong military influence. It is the standard response to one's superior.

Me da pena que no fuiste al oriente… está bien, otro dia podrías venir a visitarme. Cuidate mucho. Brook. :)


Craig |

September 13th, 2006

Neat fact, Brook!

Here's another:
The Spanish etymologist Joan Corominas states that gringo is derived from griego (Spanish for "Greek"), the proverbial name for an unintelligible language (a usage found also in the Shakespearean "it was Greek to me" and its derivative "It's all Greek to me"). From referring simply to language, it was extended to people speaking foreign tongues and to their physical features - similar to the development of the ancient Greek word βάρβαρος (bárbaros) - "Barbarian".

Are you in Ecuador right now? If I knew you were actually in Ecuador I would have jumped east to say hello!

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