- Category: Getting Along
- Published on Sunday, December 19 2010 05:07
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 1798
Every month of December, residents of the rest of Costa Rica migrate like Canadian geese to the southern Pacific port of Golfito, not to nest but to buy. The town contains the duty-free zone where bargains abound and the determined shoppers seek Christmas gifts for their families and themselves.
The daily newspaper Al Dia reports that the most sought-after items are plasma TV screens up to 50 inches, refrigerators, washers and liquor, limited to a dozen bottles per customer.
Each adult resident in the country has a right to purchase a card allowing purchase of up to $1,000 of retail goods twice per year, but such is the economy that only with the Christmas bonus (alguinaldo) of one month exta salary burning a hole in his pockets do most lower and middle class citizens take the trek (four or five hours by car, longer by bus) to Golfito.
The cards are available from January to June and from July to December. The paper reports that the average weekend count of visitors is 800 but, showing how brisk December business becomes, the first weekend after employers shelled out the alguinaldo this year, customers numbered some 3,500.
Buyers can hire trucks to carry the booty home or load up the car. But side businesses abound, reports the paper. Most sought after are the cards of tea-totalers who have an unused liquor space on their card. The thirsty one can then "rent," as it were, the dry person's card to stock up on drinkables.
But, lest you think the numerous stores in the zone are only populated with alcoholic customers, tires are a hot item as well as toys and clothing, especially kids' clothes. Expensive name-brand tennis shoes are also sought after.
This peculiarly Tico custom began when Golfito was a sleepy banana port on the southern Pacific coast and the port traffic withered away. In order to combat the poverty that overtook the sector, the government established the zone there.
The move to a duty-free zone may have been due to the upper class custom of going to Miami (to Central Americans, the Paris of the hemisphere) to shop for, presumably, a better selection of retail goods and more favorably priced as well. The duty-free zone not only gave the less well to do a chance for bargains but the government hoped to keep sales (and sales taxes) in the country.
(Currently, one can usually buy the same goods as in the U.S., thanks to such concerns as WalMart and Pricemart.)