Photo by zug55 on Flickr
Basically, he agreed to pay a price but forgot to pay part of it and no one asked him for it. He had a moral dilemma.
Some thoughts…though perhaps unpopular…
While you should always do the right thing, I’m going to say that the tour operators were the ones taking advantage of him and even if he had held onto the money, he would have been okay.
I was at the Nazca Lines this in July 2009 and I too paid $50 per person for the flight. I thought it was expensive for a short flight, but we had been gotten off the bus at 3:30am, it was dark, we were tired, this guy was at the train station looking for tourists and was going to take us to his “office” (ended up being a hostel), had limited time, didn’t have any other offers to compare it to, and the price had been negotiated down from $75.
Only after some time in the city did we realize that some paid the $75 and one girl only paid $30 (disclaimers: she was an amazing negotiator and almost always got the lowest prices). That was a difference of $45 on one person! Imagine how much they are making off everyone every day! All the passengers got on the same flights to see about 10-12 figures, even though the people selling the flights said that cheaper flights would see fewer figures.
Nazca is pretty much a tourist town and the people who work in tourism are doing fairly well, even when tourism is down a bit. Tourist prices are almost always overpriced to begin with and the industry can make up the money on the next unsuspecting tourist. Sometimes I think that since I come from a developed country (US) and can generally afford to pay more, it’s not that bad if I get ripped off here or there. I think that’s why sometimes people overpay/overtip (I’m talking to you, fellow Statesiders) too. However, the problem is not just that we paid too much but that it only lines the pockets of those middle men and people involved in tourism. It doesn’t seem to help the people in Peru who seem really need the money and it also doesn’t help the country in general because we (developed nations) start pricing out that country’s residents and people from countries that don’t have the good fortune of have that kind of money.
I do kind of regret paying for a $50 per person for the flight, even if I don’t regret the flight itself. I paid too much and at the same time perpetuated the cycle. It is best if I try not to overpay and I should not feel guilty if I get a good deal though in the end, your word is your word and you should have a clear conscience. So do what is right!