The Worst Thing About Buenos Aires

I had previously written about the best thing in Buenos Aires, so now I found it only fitting to write about the worst thing in Buenos Aires.

Crime? Nope.
Lack of good sushi, peanut butter, pickles and spice? Close, but no.
Inflation? Ridiculous, but not it.
Dog poop on the streets? Annoying, but wrong again.

It’s electronics.

Being a technophile, living in Buenos Aires without access to the latest electronics has been difficult to say the least. Add in the fact that they’re ridiculously overpriced due to the government’s protectionist tax policies, and you can see why BA is a gadget-lovers worst nightmare. Plus, there is no real Internet shopping (yes, I am aware of MercadoLibre) and finding a better price at a different store is near impossible as prices tend to be fixed.

This latest rant comes from the fact that we needed to buy a 32″ LCD TV. In the States, we would have used Google shopping and Tech Bargains to look for the best prices and coupon codes, order online and have it shipped to the house. Things are not so easy here. We went to several stores to find out that for the most part, every 32″ LCD is priced the same, regardless of brand. The only real discounts tend to come in the weekend paper and offer 15% – 20% off on specific models if you hold a certain bank credit card. These discounts change every week, so we needed to wait until we found the model we needed with the bank card that we had – Standard Bank.

This past weekend, we found a promotion on a model that would do – the Samsung LN32B450.  This is the lowest level model that Samsung makes, and would never satisfy me in the States, but here it sells for AR $3,699. That’s an incredible U$S 937! The comparable Samsung TV in the States sells for U$S 397. Luckily, Falabella was offering a 20% discount for Standard Bank cardholders which brought the price down to AR $2,959 (U$S 750). This promotion also included 20 interest-free payments, which is pretty much the only way any normal person here could afford to buy electronics. We jumped on it and now have a new 32″ TV at double the price and with less of the features. Woo-hoo!

Another example of this problem with gadgets is the launch of the Apple iPad in Argentina last week. It launched on September 17, 2010, exactly 167 days after the US launch. This is an eternity for an early-adopter! In addition,the lowest model iPad is priced at AR $3399 (U$S 861). This same model from Apple in the States? Only U$S 499.

The good news for most temporary expats is that this tends not to be much of a problem if you bring everything with you. I always recommend that people bring all the electronics they want and hope that nothing breaks while they’re here. I brought three Vonage routers with me just to make sure.

One benefit to the high electronics prices is that it has spurred a bit of a cottage industry amongst expats who “bring in” a few extra electronic items from the States when they come.  These can usually be sold at a profit which helps to offset the cost of the plane ticket. The other benefit is that older electronics tend to hold their value longer. For example, I sold my old iPhone 3G on MercadoLibre a couple of weeks ago for AR $1,790 (U$S 453). This is quite a premium over the comparable resale price in the States, and was also the lowest price on the site.

Luckily, I’ve had a few friends and readers of the blog who’ve graciously offered to bring me electronics from the States, and I’m currently awaiting a new wireless router and computer speakers which should arrive shortly. If anyone else is coming from the States, I’m sure I could think of a few things if you have some space…