The Holy Grail of Chinese ingredients in Bogotá II

Since I was not going to buy a barrel of 15 kg soy sauce from the Chinese wholesale supplier, I had to resort to the retail packaging from a normal vendor. Exito is one of the two biggest supermarket chains (actually they belong to the same group – Grupo system!- so the supermarket sector in Colombia is really a monopoly in disguise). Exito‘s markups are super high because of the overhead that it is bearing, with lots of extra pairs of hands because there is a person behind each till bagging products in plastic bags..

Lots of standing around at Exito

Lots of standing around at Exito

I found my soy sauce easily in the oil and sauce section, next to the meat sauces. Without further ado I went straight to the till to pay. I was happy to get my turn very soon because I was hoping to get home asap after the disappointing journey at the Chinese shop. The cashier scanned the bottle several times, but the price just wouldn’t appear! He asked me to wait while he attended to the customer behind me.

I didn’t want to wait any longer so I grabbed another staff who seemed to be free and she went off to check the price. She came back 5 minutes later and said she was not able to get the price. Strange. The cashier who was serving us then went away, saying that he had to check the database.. After a long 15 minutes, he came back with empty hands, ‘The product isn’t on the system.’ Wow! Great!

‘Then please simply give this soy sauce to me. Since it’s not on the system, it wouldn’t make any difference if one bottle was gone,’ I suggested half jokingly.

Of course he said no.

‘Please come back another time.’

I had a feeling that I would just come across more obstacles (that is what I have in general experienced here in Colombia), so I double checked with him, ‘We’ll be back on Friday, will the price be known on Friday afternoon?’

‘Yes,’ he stuttered.

I wasn’t convinced but then there wasn’t anything else I could do..

On Friday at about 4pm I returned, and was quite worried to see that the rack where I found the soy sauce still hadn’t got a price tag for the product! I tried my luck anyway, bringing the bottle to a till, and as expected, the price was still not on the system! I was extremely angry. It seemed that if I hadn’t made any inquiry, the company probably would not have the price for the soy sauce FOREVER! After a convoluted battle of another 15 minutes  and lots of blame game among the staff, finally the ‘product manager’ brought a bottle of dark soy sauce from the same brand (basically a different species of soy sauce) and said that the two bottles had the same price.

Staff trying hard to 'GET' the price out of the system

Staff trying hard to ‘GET’ the price out of the system

I’m not sure if l’d ever cook Chinese food again..


  1. Carlos Gomez · · Reply

    Just quoting a chinese saying Jessica, crisis (or in this case complications) mean opportunities… got it? 😉

    1. Yes – that’s what I have been thinking – there are so many opportunities here, (until I understood the procedures of trade, regulations and licences in this country)!!!

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  3. hmmm…suggest from a semigod…next time to have an even more intriguing story…steal the product…& (if) they catch u…tell them ok u caught me,let me just pay for it…!!!

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