When buying an iPhone charger resembles a drug deal

If you’re an iPhone owner in Latin America and you lose your charger, you’re pretty much shit out of luck. I tend to lose lots of things, so I’m shit out of luck very often.

Since Apple is not really a thing in Latin America, but Apple products still exist in the world, the Latin American market has produced variations of Apple product knockoffs, including chargers. I’ve bought a number of these and have experienced similar patterns; the charger will work for a period of time, and then a few weeks down the line will mysteriously lose its charging power, like a piece of tape that loses its stickiness with multiple use. The ones that do continue to work generally do so through fits of seizures.

Because of the rarity of iPhone chargers in Latin American, and the varying quality of the product, purchasing one sometimes resembles the motions of a drug deal.

For example, I recently lost an iPhone charger in Mexico. I happened to notice its glaring absence in Mérida, as my phone reminded me that I had 10% batter left and accusingly asked me if I would like to set it to low battery mode. After cursing my frequent spacy-ness for the umpteenth time, I admitted defeat and asked the hostel reception where I could find an iPhone charger.

“I know a guy. I’ll take you to him,” said Eric, one of the hostel receptionists. Perfect.

We walked the colonial streets of Mérida on a busy Tuesday night, heading toward the Plaza de Tecnología. Upon entering, we were blasted by the aggressively bright lights and stark white walls that seem to signify the presence of technology nearly everywhere in the world. Walking through the indoor “Plaza,” salespeople standing guard over various counters laden with chargers, phones, cameras and more implored us,

“Hey, what are you looking for?”

“I’ve got what you need.”

We passed them by, dozens of salespeople popping HD-bright against the white lights as Eric made a beeline for “his guy” with the iPhone chargers.

We came upon a counter that looked like all the rest… white shelves and counter with glass casing displaying his wares. The man behind the counter was young, smallish, and looked like he could haggle the white off rice.

When we requested the iPhone charger, he began pulling various counterfeits from the walls, expounding on quality and pricing.

“This one is two meters long. This one is coated in water-resistant plastic. This one is pink.”

“Do you have any real iPhone chargers?” I ventured.

The man gave me a knowing smirk, and commenced to pull out boxes and cartons of technological goods. Then, the holy grail: an original iPhone charger. He opened the box and held out the elusive piece of technology like he was opening a clam to reveal the pearl inside.

For this rare specimen, the price was 200 Mexican Pesos, about $10. However, the counterfeit, non-water-resistant, non-pink charger was 80 Mexican Pesos, about $4.

By now I’m an old pro at counterfeit iPhone charger purchases and I know that you NEVER make a purchase without first sampling the product. No one likes the bad trip of iPhone seizures.

“Can I try this one?” I asked, indicating the counterfeit one. Before you get all high and mighty and point out that it’s only a $6 difference, remember that I’m on a backpacker’s budget.

Eric and I watched silently as the product was tested for quality. The man took my iPhone and the charger, and plugged it into the wall. Would the battery symbol turn green? WOULD IT?

In the next moment, the battery symbol lit up. The product was legit. I exchanged dinero for goods and we walked out of the electric light of Plaza de Tecnología, the world of counterfeit technology closing neatly behind us. But one day I will walk back into that dazzling world again with a 10% battery and a pocket full of foreign currency, ready to do this song and dance again.




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