Students barter for cool stuff in Spanish
Bargaining in a foreign country market-place can be likened to the animated interaction of live theater. More than 140 Ecker Hill sixth-and seventh-grade Spanish students bargained with student-vendors for the best price on whoopee cushions, false teeth, slimy gooey snakes and other rarities galore, paying with pesos they had earned in class. But all transactions had to take place in Spanish.
Ecker Hill Spanish teacher Nichole Muraro holds the marketplace twice a year. Students earn Muraro pesos for doing good deeds in class; acts of kindness or helping their teacher or, they can lose pesos when they are not good. The pink paper pesos have the image not of Muraro, but an official looking guy with a unibrow and mustache.
Bargaining is an art form not often practiced in the United States. Muraro said she has bargained in every single country she has been to, including Bolivia, Chile, Panama and Puerto Rico. "Cambodia and Thailand were great countries to bargain in," she added.
The skill starts with an offer for an item. The vendor counters and the game is on. To add a little spice, the buyer at some point needs to put the item down and start walking away, which he hopes will draw an even lower price from the vendor. When the vendor stops bargaining, the buyer likely has found his lowest price.
Muraro taught her students how to barter in Spanish by telling them how to say to vendors, "it’s too expensive," "lower the price," and "I don’t want it." and be comfortable verbally slinging Spanish numbers during the passions of trade.
Seventh-grade student Emily Schmitt might have been considered wealthy having the highest number of pesos in this marketplace 62. She earned the pesos for her help in class. She had a shopping bag she hoped to fill, but first, "I want to get an i Pod Nano case for my sister," she said. "This is a fun way to wrap up the semester."
The vendors, fellow Ecker Hill Spanish students, who were helping out, had a minimum price, otherwise they could ask whatever they thought the market would bear. Muraro coached them and told them they had the right to refuse to sell if the customer was being "completely obnoxious, or was cutting in line.
Thursday, Jan 11, the first marketplace took place during Spanish class. Students lined up in front of tables full of colorful fun stuff. Four vendors (including Muraro) began to barter with customers.
When one buyer was ready to pay near full price, Muraro gave a pep talk "You’ve got to push them," she said.
Muraro used to work in marketing before she became a teacher. She said she loves teaching, and loves conducting the marketplace, but added preparing for the marketplace is exhausting. Students contribute up to $5 during the semester. Muraro then said she goes to dollar stores for the cheaper items, and buys more expensive fare for students who have come to market with pesos burning holes in their pockets.
Some items remain on the tables, and Muraro yells, "ofreta," or "sale." Vendors sell merchandise for whatever it takes to liquidate it, and the marketplace is over.
Muraro took photos of students display their most prized acquisitions.
At the end of the day, sixth-grade student Isabella Andreini said she would like to try her Spanish and bargaining skills in Mexico. She said she went to Mexico when she was younger, and when she bought things from vendors, "I paid too much."
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