When in Colombia, don’t be surprised if your taxi driver tries to talk you out of going to your booked hotel and tries instead to steer you to some deluxe apartment or condominium for rent. Taxi drivers in Colombia get a commission – cash money – for every person they steer to a rental and the place gets rented. Yes, the taxi driver gets a piece of the action.
I don’t know if this kind of side business is common practice elsewhere, but in Colombia along sidewalks near hotels or in touristy areas you will see men holding makeshift signs that read “APARTAMENTOS”. Some are scribbled in English, too. They are part of a brigade of people who get paid a certain percentage when the person they bring to the rental office agrees to rent a unit. They are all over Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena and other hot tourist spots in Colombia, chasing after potential short-term tenants.
My disdain for taxi drivers – not all, just some – has been well documented here. (Read the BARRANQUILLA TAXI post). So when one of them tries to talk me into or out of something, I go on full alert. On my way to my hotel in Cartagena, that’s exactly what happened. My taxista said my hotel was cool, but had I considered an apartment instead. He said for less money I could live in style. Yeah, right. What sort of scam are you trying to run now?
As he drove me to my hotel, he said it wouldn’t cost me anything to just have a look. Since I really wasn’t in a hurry, I thought, what the heck, would be nice to see the inside of one of these spanking new skyscrapers overlooking the ocean, in the Cartagena area known as Boca Grande, but to locals as “Little Miami” because of the new towering beaches, some still being erected.
So I agreed to go along with the taxista and he pulled into the driveway of the Palmetto, a luxury condo building complete with gym, two swimming pools, a hot tub for 100 people, concierge, 24-hour security and a long list of other amenities.
As I stood in the lobby, the concierge handed me a telephone. It was a young woman in the management office who handles the units for the absent owners. She asked that I take the elevator to the 4h floor. I said before I do that I would like to hear how much. She started at 250,000 pesos a night, about $138. Picking up on my silence, she immediately dropped the rent to $100. My further hesitancy drove the price down again, to $90 and then $80.
“I think I’ll just go to my hotel, they include breakfast” got it down to $70.
“That’s still more than I really wanted to pay” brought another reduction. She said she could not go any lower. Sold!
Here’s the building from the outside.
Cool, no? It’s called The Palmetto. That’s me waving from the eighth floor. For much less than I would have paid for a hotel, I got The Palmetto. Well done Mr. Taxista. You’ve redeemed my faith in your kind. Well, at least until my next taxi ride.