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Doing Business

Some stores give discounts for paying cash (although check before you get to the till); others charge a premium for using credit cards. Carry both, and keep your options open. Tourist-area shops may try to charge you in dollars or euros what they charge Argentineans in pesos. Always confirm which currency you're dealing with. Bargaining is accepted only in some leather-goods shops on Calle Florida. Elsewhere—even in markets—prices are fixed, although it is worth asking for a small discount if you’re buying several of the same item.

"Refund" is a dirty word. No shop will give you back your money just because you change your mind. Even if a product is faulty, exchanges or credit notes are the norm. Many shops won't process exchanges on Saturday, a busy shopping day.

Keep receipts: the 21% V.A.T. tax, included in the sale price, is refundable for purchases over 70 pesos at stores displaying the Global Blue tax-refund sign. Visit the return desk at the airport to obtain your refund, but remember to have the goods on you in order to present them to officials.

Timing

Malls are typically open from 10 to 9 daily. Shops that aren’t in a mall or part of a chain may open an hour or so later and close an hour earlier; they also tend to be shut on either Sunday or Monday.

Get Buzzed In

Locked shop doors are standard anti-theft practice, so don't be surprised (or intimidated) by having to ring a doorbell and be buzzed in. Once inside, you’ll find that sloppily dressed customers usually get sloppy service. Porteños (as residents of Buenos Aires are called) take shopping seriously, and they dress for the occasion. You should, too: ditch the sneakers and fanny pack and look like you mean business.

Value for Money

Clothing in Buenos Aires is fairly cheap and plentiful, but bear in mind that the quality may match the price. Pay particular attention to seams and hems; stitching isn't always superlative. This is true even with international-brand items, which are often labeled "Made in Argentina."

Local brands come at even lower prices in the discount outlets on Avenida Córdoba (4400 to 5000) and in the unofficial new shopping zone, Palermo Outlets, between Malabia and Serrano—most chain stores have a branch here. End-of-season sales can work to your advantage, too. Remember, when summer is ending in Buenos Aires, it's just beginning in North America and Europe.

Clothing Sizes

Porteños are, on average, smaller than Europeans and North Americans. Chic women's boutiques often don't carry clothes in sizes larger than a U.S. 8. It doesn't get any better for men: a porteño men's large will seem more like a small to many visitors, and trousers rarely come in different lengths.