I decided this experience was memorable enough (and provided such good insight into Jed Herrmann’s mind) that it warranted a separate entry. A few days ago we woke up in Amman and took a taxi to the bus station to seek transportation to Petra. When we got out of the taxi (in the pouring rain) a man standing nearby pointed us to a bus and said “Petra, 2.5 Jordanian Dinars per person.” (For reference, 1JD is equivalent to $1.40) We walked over to the minibus where the man told us it was indeed going to Petra and would cost us 5JD per person. Jed announced to the man, (and everyone else nearby as he used his typical outraged loud voice) “that is preposterous; we will find another way.” Leaving me with the bags (and a lot of attention from the male vendors at the bus station), he set off to find alternative means of transport. He discovered that the minibus was unfortunately the only way to Petra, but did find someone who confirmed the government-regulated price was 2.5JD per person and advised him to talk to the police as he was being overcharged. With the help of the local, a policeman accompanied Jed to the minibus where a long argument in Arabic ensued, filled with a great deal of yelling and gesturing. Finally the ticket collector of the minibus agreed to charge only 2.5JD for each of us. Jed finally walked over to find me and announced, “well, I got the right price, but I am not sure it was worth it.” The satisfied look on his face, however, told me otherwise. We walked back to the minibus—Jed, proud while I, slightly embarrassed—only to be told we would be charged an extra 0.5JD each for our “big luggage.” I (normally the one more reluctant to spend money) felt this was a small price to pay, but Jed was now on a mission. At this point the minibus was filled with both tourists and locals, but Jed stood his ground. After again much yelling, angry gesturing, snatching of money, and as a final angry gesture, the driver opening the window in front of where I was sitting letting in the cold air and pouring rain, Jed succeeded in only paying 5JD total. I spent the entire bus ride trying to avoid eye contact with the other passengers and staring warily at the driver hoping his anger would subside. (Jed was obviously unaffected given that when we arrived in Petra, he asked me if we should ask the driver he if he could drop us off directly at our hotel.) Even now, as I write this and ask him if it were worth it, he responds: “We saved 5JD, dude…that’s seven bucks.”
Rebuttal (Meg says I need to make clear that I’m writing this in response to the above story):
The essential facts of the above are true: they did try to charge us 5 JD per person for the bus ride to Petra; the government-regulated price is 2.5 JD per person; it was raining.
However, much of the above constitutes artistic license (read not the truth) by my (lovely) wife:
1. I declared we wouldn’t pay 5JD per person (which in the end we didn’t so this was a correct statement and told Meg that we should look into other options (for reference we hadn’t taken an actual bus in the past week as we had taken the often cheaper and readily available service taxis, so exploring bus alternatives had worked in the past and was a strategy that Lonely Planet recommended for this journey).
2. I didn’t actually want to involve the police in the price negotiation; I only wanted to use them as a negotiating tool. However, the police official marched over to the bus immediately.
3. Much of the yelling between the bus driver and the policeman was about related to the fact that he had quoted us a rate of 5JD total for the two of us, but that is was fair that we should pay a charge for our large baggage (which wasn’t any bigger than the many cardboard boxes of crap that was being loaded into the back of the bus)
4. I did not have a satisfied look on my face when I told Meg that we had gotten the right price, though I did say that it probably wasn’t worth it to get that price
5. We did pay the right price of 5JD total
6. We did save “only” $7 but that amounts to 50% of the cost (a sizeable percentage by any measure, especially in a country like Jordan)
7. While Meg is complaining; we got there fine, paid the proper price and it was a nice trip.