I wasn't criticizing you or assuming you were behaving arrogantly. I was really just mouthing off for the benefit of other yanks on the forum.
As to knowing when to offer to pay something -- I think if you are sending the right signals of gratitude or anticipated gratitude, they will either assure you that they don't mind helping you and you don't need to worry about it, or they will give you the signal they expect something more tangible in return. In which case, if you have figured out the sum, you just give it to them in whatever way is most discreet, in the palm of your hand, folded in some documents, or whatever. The main thing is to shape the conversation in that direction - like, it's MY problem, I screwed up, can you help me? While at the same time pressing gently for it to get done now and simply, and not to screw around, and let them know that you would consider it a service
. You can't lose that way, because if they are actually nice, you will have said the right things in response for the favor; if they are more mercenary, you will still have said the right thing -- that is, that you realize and appreciate the value of the favor, and are willing to show your appreciation tangibly. That creates the client-service provider relationship which is the key to solving your problem.
In the shi**y corrupt country where I live, the traffic cops are all on the take, without, as far as I know, any exception (even though oddly enough you can get a building permit
without paying anyone anything -- try that in New York
City!). In more than 90% of the cases, it's real simple and not at all unpleasant -- you got for me speeding [or whatever], can't we settle this in a simpler manner? And it's over in a couple of minutes, usually with a smile and a friendly suggestion to slow down a little -- you're treated like a client.
I have had a few cases where the cops were embarrassed to be doing this with an American, and ask guiltily whether the cops in the U.S. take money
. I answer truthfully -- no -- but I make them feel better by saying that I understand their salaries are somewhat less than what an American cop gets. They are always happy to hear that. I realize I'm not doing my bit to reduce corruption here.
In a very few cases -- 3 or 4 times for me, out of probably more than a hundred traffic stops in 20 years (yeah, I drive too fast) -- you get a cop who either invents a violation which you didn't commit, and/or simply intimidates you in order to scare you into paying more. The way I deal with this depends on the situation -- more often than not, I face them off aggressively, and in their own language, showing them that I know my rights and I'm not afraid of them -- but sometimes I just pay. A lot of this has to do with whether the guys seem like he's just looking for an easy mark and will let you go if you seem to be too much trouble, or whether on the contrary they have gone to some trouble to put on a show of being real hard cases who will not be too lazy to take you down to the station and kick your a**. It's a kind of dance, like two animals
in the jungle showing each other teeth and claws, trying to establish who is mas macho. In any case, this kind of situation is very unpleasant.
Originally Posted by getlostonpurpose
Please note it was the constant changing of the laws in Ecuador that got me into this situation last year. It wasn't that I disregarded or misunderstood a law. They simply changed the rules while I was out of the country and no one seemed to know how to fix the situation. In the end, it was all a stupid computer thing and I'm probably still sitting in their system as an unresolved case.
Giving bribes seems to be a learned process and one you need to know in Latin America. It's hard to know... 1. whether it's appropriate to give one 2. when or how to give it 3. how much to give Eventually you just figure out that "look" some guy gives you.
When I'm in a "confrontation" with officials in a foreign country I treat them exactly like the police back home. I'm nice to their face and as soon as they turn around or leave I'm flickin em off.