In the Peace Corps I witnessed a strange phenomena, where volunteers would get utterly outraged because they were overcharged, and haggling could not get the price lower. We go there we learn the language and we live with and like the locals, but some people just don't believe that. Some people feel that we are still especially wealthy, we're not locals and we should be expected to pay more.
The point of this post is because I wanted to ask; Do we actually owe more? I think the answer is yes. Part of the answer is that a place with less resources might not be able to afford available protections for their environment.
For example, if we look at the life cycle for a plastic bottle, it might get reused, but when they final become refuse, they will not get recycled. Or even disposed of in an environmentally concious manner because the system is not in place, or not affordable. We need to take responsibility for our actions, especially environmentally. So when we, as westerners travel, we bring along more of a burden for the environment. Drinking bottled water, buying pre-packaged foods. We might 'dispose' of them, but what actually happens. Are they thrown into a ditch outback? Put into a pile and burned? So we go there, impose our style of living, and cause an excess of damage.
Paying a little extra is the least we can do. Hopefully the tourist associated places, that charge exorbitant prices are using the extra costs to manage their waste correctly so that there is infrastructure being built up.
So why do we get outraged? I think the base is not getting what you want. We come to the country, and we have learned how to get around so we're better than the average tourist. Therefore we should be able to negotiate our price accordingly. When we are denied that our tempers flair and we are denied our privileged.
One particular example of outrage I've participated in, I was travelling with my friend Dan. While travelling through Guinea from Labe to Mali, we asked a police officer in a small town (possibly Fougou) where we could find some food. He took us to a food stall nearby and sat down with us while we ate. It was really awkward scenario, they even brought a small child to have lunch with us, but we declined. At the end they wanted to charge us 1500 Francs for the mean, it should have been 1000. It turned into quite a row, eventually we paid and went on. We could have taken the high road, but we got quite offended. The cost was small to us, even as Peace Corps volunteers where our salary was about $250 a month. That is very low for the US at the time, but more than an African in the region who could be living on less than a dollar a day.
We left the situation in a state we could readily make amends with all parties involved. Some of the stories I've heard are more outrageous. Where volunteers become verbally abusive over a mango. After hearing one such story, I realized that in my own situation we were probably in the wrong. There comes a point where, you can take it or leave it and you really shouldn't lose your cool. We assumed we knew the price, and then for them to overcharge us at that point was a bit rude but we could have made sure of the price before hand. We had other instances on the trip where we did get what we wanted. We tried to take a ferry across the river, and they wanted to charge us some excessive amount of money, even though all of locals agreed that the price should be free for bicyclists. We just boarded the ferry and waited, which they took us across eventually because a car also needed to cross. If they had offered a reasonable price, we definitely would have paid, but it was something ridiculous. Another time we paid for a coke with a Franc note in Senegal, and the hotel didn't want to accept the note because it was an older style soon to be invalidated. Similar to our Fougou experience, had they told us beforehand they don't accept the old money, we wouldn't have made a purchase.