Tuesday, May 20, 2008

South American Time

I decided to write my post today about "time". I'm not talking about the bewildering set of time changes you go through every six months if you are trying to synch your schedule with customers or coworkers in the Northern hemishpere.

By "South American time" I'm talking more specifically on the value that Uruguayans receive and place on their individual time. Without characterizing it as "unvalued", let's just say that most Uruguayans and Uruguayan institutions place a low *monetary* value on each others time.

While this can be a pleasant suprise when you need to call a plumber to your house and he charges you $10 for his time. Or, when you want a bag of chips and a coke from the corner market and they will deliver it to your door for no additional charge (!) Or when you see people leisurely taking 2 or even 3 hour lunch breaks....

....it can also spill over into some areas where you'd like to have your OWN time valued :) ...like waiting on queue at the bank like it's payday in a mill town in the early 70's (before ATMs) or you are trying to get a job here and you realize the pay here is pretty lame.

In the US especially, you have a huge commercial arbitrage opportunity that has creeped into the entire culture -- you pay for "convenience" -- (which usually means time/hassle savings).

If you want to go cheap, you herd into planes in groups (SouthWorst), you park in gninormous lots and mil through warehouses in the 10's of thousands of square feet for ketchup and tubesocks (walmart, costco).

If you want to go "pay up" one of the big tangible benefits is time savings -- you go first class and get a different security line (or a private jet and avoid it altogether), or you go to the "convenience store" and pay 2x what the same food costs in larger less convenient groceries with lower margins and higher volumes.

In Uruguay, the corner markets (mini-marts) have the same prices as the supermarkets.

In Uruguay, those services which would typically be premium in the North, are often not available, not necessary, or costs the same as the "inconvenient" or "slow" way.


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