Shopping at “Vargas e Hijos”

My friendly neighborhood hardware store in Atenas, Costa Rica

With my move to a different house, there is a good chance I will need some hardware as I set up housekeeping again. The nearest Home Depot type store (different name) is in San Jose and I hear they are more expensive with employees who are less helpful than the hometown hardware store. Plus hometown store is surprisingly well-stocked and I can walk to it! The one I use is Vargas & Sons where I have found everything I’ve needed thus far! Now get this “interesting” way all “ferreterias” (small local hardware stores) operate:

  • A lot of the merchandise is not on display, so I may have to ask for it, be specific in Spanish, wait until it comes from the stock room, and if it is not the item I want, repeat the process. Patience is a high virtue in Costa Rica!  🙂
  • There is often someone shadowing me. This can be annoying, but when I need help it is great, so I try to be nice! I’m likely to need help! And my limited Spanish adds to the adventure! The young ones are more likely to speak some English, so I tend to favor them. 
  • Checking out is a regimented three-step process: 
  1. First the person helping me with the product(s) has to write-up a “factura” (invoice) on their computer terminal. They ask for my “nombre” (name) to attach to it. 
  2. Next, I visit the “cajero” (cashier), where I give my name, pay, and receive two receipts, one for me, the other left at the next step. 
  3. At the “entrega” (delivery) counter, I provide both receipts, the person there checks the itemized receipt against the product(s) in a basket, stamps both receipts (rubber stamps are big here!), and assuming they match, he/she bags my stuff with one of the stamped receipts. More often now he asks if you want a “balso” (bag) before bagging. (Going green or saving money?)

It sounds like a lot of trouble, but actually works very smoothly and quickly! And it provides several jobs!  🙂   The photo above is of their building across from the bus station as featured on their Facebook Page like an advertisement.