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:
- Know the current exchange rate (XE.com is a good site);
- Know how much money you're going to exchange, and how much of the new currency you should be getting;
- Always complain about the exchange rate;
- Never be afraid to turn your back on a changer and walk away;
- Always use your own calculator to verify; and
- 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.