Published in El Pais, January 14th 2020.
Inflation is part of everyday life, normally a little bit of inflation is helpful as it helps deal with a rising population. What is not good however is a rate of inflation in the double digits, or in Argentina’s case 55%. This is what the people of Argentina experienced the past year 2019. I had to experience that firsthand as well because I was living in Argentina. Therefore, below are some of my notable experiences of living in a country experiencing hyperinflation.
- The Price is right
I pretty much had to play my own version of the popular game show daily. If you were to ask me how much a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs cost, I could not give you an answer with much confidence. Many times, prices would go up 2 or 3 times in a single week and there was little, if anything, that could be done about it.
2. Is it for sale?
This was short lived but after the first election in August the peso went from 45 to 65 per US dollar in one single day. Many businesses understandably were at a loss on how to respond and just opted to close as they did not know what to charge their customers. Some stores would alternatively refuse to sell foreign goods like Fernet until the peso settled down.
3. Bulging wallets
Having a wallet overflowing with money is usually a sign of wealth but in Argentina with the 5- and 10-peso bill still hanging around you could have a large stack of bills in your pocket despite having the equivalent of only a few dollars.
4. Schrodinger’s Peso
With hyper-inflation larger bills are becoming more common place with ATM’s and banks dispersing $500- and $1000-peso bills. With this, the problem is that many stores could not provide an adequate change and would often refuse it if they tried to pay with large bills to buy small things. For example, buying a bottle of Coca Cola with a $ 500 bill would put anyone in trouble to give change. At that moment, you think the ticket is worth a lot, but you realize that it is really worth nothing since you finish that amount in purchases from a neighborhood store.
All this of course goes with the hardship of many people earning far less than they were a few years ago as salary adjustments would be nowhere near the rate of. The peso seems to have settled down for now, but their will be a few stress tests in the coming months to see if the bleeding has truly stopped.