The Hidden Cost of Learning

Everyone knows that there are a lot of costs invovled in learning something new. There is the time that you have to put toward learning, the materials or classes that you need to pay for to help you learn, and the mistakes on the way that may cost money, time, or bring humility.

My cost that I want to share with you now is that of a mistake that cost all three.

The Delivery
Because I am still taking many photos, I need to copy those that I have taken onto a CD-Rom every now and then so that I have more room for new ones. This process of copying them to a CD is normally very straight forward: I hand my memory card to a photo shop, they copy it to CD, and I return later to pick them both up.

After two weeks of learning, I am slowing starting to be able to communicate what I need using Spanish… which is a good thing when many people here do not have a good grasp of English. My use of Spanish has improved now to the point that I am feeling confident to communicate without the need for English. But I was unaware that my confidence was premature.

Entering the first photo shop, I ask how much it will be, walking out in shock at a price of $20 pesos. Too much I tell myself, and walk into the next shop where I was sure their price was much less. $25 pesos I was told. Even with my new grasp of the language allowing me to tell the guy it was too expensive and asking for a better price I was unable to budge the guy. He told me that he simply did not have the authority to change it.

I had all but given up until I saw one last shop and decided to ask there. Their price was a very reasonable $12 pesos. Satisfied that I had found the best place, I handed over my memory card and left for Plaza San Martín, to return later in the day.

The Return
My time in Plaza San Martín was lovely. Under the shade of the trees on the soft green grass reading my Spanish books was a very enjoyable way to pass the time and it was not long before I needed to return.

At the shop, the attendant handed me what seemed like four packets of printed photos. I was alarmed. Closer inspect revealed that it was actually four seperate CDs with proofsheets (lots of mini photos on one page) in their packet. That was much better. I was getting a good price at only $12 pesos for four CDs.

As I looked through my new CDs, the attendant was adding things up. Still speaking in Spanish, I told him that it was OK, because I was told it was only $12 pesos when I dropped it off. He said that this was correct, except it was $12 pesos per CD. I was in shock. They were about to charge me $48 pesos for one memory card transfer. And I had walked away from $20 pesos because it was too expensive.

The Experience
A hot debate ensued in Spanish about how my entire memory card could fit on just one CD, so why should they need to create four. He told me that their machine could only fit up to 120 photos per CD. I then told him that I was quoted only $12 pesos for this, not $48. It was somewhere around here that he interjected and asked if I fully understood Spanish.

Of course I did not FULLY understand Spanish, but I was pretty certain I was doing ok up until this point. In fact, I was feeling very proud of how well I had been able to order this job without any hesitation and I was thinking that my Spanish was getting much better. He asked me if English was OK. Reluctantly I allowed him to pick up the conversation in English.

He then told me, in very good English, that the other attendant that had served me told me clearly that it was $12 pesos per CD, and that they could only fit 120 photos on each CD. To this moment I still do not recall that attendant telling me anything about either a cost per CD, or a limit of photos on each CD. But then if I did, I would not have left my memory card there. So I was at a loss. How could I argue with this, considering that my Spanish was still in its infancy.

Feeling very disappointed in myself, and with my pride fully deflated, I handed over $50 pesos to the cashier. As I walked out, I told the two men present during my discussions that, “I have learned a lot from this experience, but it cost me a lot too.” They just smiled as I walked out the door with my tail between my legs and much wiser for the loss.

My main lesson though, was that this was one of many of THE HIDDEN COSTS OF LEARNING.