The Filipino Finders Fee! Microeconomy at its most dubious!
I’m an Australian through and through, and where I come from you never try to rip off a mate. Business is business, and we’re all entitled to earn a living, but when it comes to friends, family and neighbours we take a different approach. And so do many in the Philippines, but not everyone! There are those who always have their hands out for a finders fee, and those in Australian Filipina relationships need to learn about this.
What is a finders fee? Is it a commission?
OK, of course it’s easy to criticize when you’re in the luxurious position of being able to say “Oh, no. That’s OK. I don’t want any money.” And it’s a lot harder when you are living day-to-day. Life can be very hard in the Philippines, and there is a distinct lack of safety nets. However for many, they could do better if they thought beyond the immediate opportunities and reaped the longer-term rewards that come from integrity.
What it means essentially that there are people here in the Philippines who will always “top up” a cost, so as to include something for themselves, or they’ll just outwardly ask for their cut. In most cases not something that bothers the locals very much, because they come to expect it. And they may even do the same thing themselves, so don’t see the problem. And of course if someone genuinely works for something, they are entitled to make some money. You get someone running errands, standing in lines, negotiating on your behalf, well then sure. If they didn’t include it in the price at the start, you would tend to give them a decent tip anyway.
The one that’s annoying is the unearned or barely-earned fee. The Filipino who does practically nothing, then wants to profit from it.
Examples of questionable finders fees
- “Hello neighbour! Do you know a good plumber?” Neighbour texts a plumber he knows. Plumber turns up and works. At the end of the job, the neighbor hits up the plumber for a finders fee.
- We had a driver once who used to tell businesses that we dealt with that they were the one who directed us to go there, and would stick his hand out for payment.
- Same driver found a masseuse for Mila who would come to the house. Used to get a cut each and every time the masseuse came here.
- Needed an NSO birth certificate for our daughter Remy (many years back). A relative volunteered. She was late-registered, and relative claimed the birth certificate became more expensive the later it was registered. Would have simply paid her for her time if she had asked, but it was the lying that I never quite forgot.
- Distant relative told us of a farm for sale in the province. A bit of a bargain. Did nothing more than this. Found out later wanted a HUGE cut from the seller. On principle we just walked away.
Finders fees. The problem.
Again, this is mainly a problem when you don’t expect it. Australians traditionally don’t work that way. You help out a mate, and you are 100% upfront with them. If you help them pour a concrete slab, you are happy with beer and a good feed at the end. You also know you can count on them if you need help, in the same way that Filipinos accumulate utang na loob. However that’s very much a back-of-the-mind thing. If you never need help with concreting, it would never bother you.
We loaned some money to a very honorable couple of relatives recently. They wanted to let us plant rice on their farm in return. Mila told them directly that I would never even think of that. Aussies don’t make profit from those we are close to. It doesn’t feel right. And decent Filipinos feel the same. But there are always those who don’t.
Back to those you could, should, or with time will come to expect it from!
You can expect the taxi driver who suggests a particular hotel to come in with you when you check in, and get a little handout. You may have a guard at the airport who suggests a particular hotel and says “Give them this card”, which is a card with his name on. Yes, he’s organizing a payment for himself later. If someone at the hotel offers to organize a beautician to do a manicure for your wife, they will get a small cut. If a staff member asks if you need a good money changer, they have some in mind who will give them a handout. When you’ve been here long enough, you know this and it doesn’t bother you. I actually admire this, because they’re showing some initiative. They help me out, and they make a bit. I’m fine with that. And at the end of the day, they’re just trying to support their families a little bit better.
And again, to me? Business is business. Where I have a problem is when it’s someone whom you trust, or where it’s a blatant ripoff. Or when it’s an employee of yours making profit in excess of the salary you pay them. The other thing is when they see the white man foreigner and they go for the big rip-off. The taxi driver who charges 10 times the prices because he may just get away with it. Makes a big profit today if he gets away with it, but will never get repeat business. No doubt hard to resist when the opportunity is there, but there is this thing called integrity. Those who do act with integrity and don’t take advantage of short-term opportunities can instead win the trust of those around them and build a strong reputation for honest dealing which will pay off far more over time.