Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Takes a Village

Grab this related post Widget!
Let's wind the tape back to several months ago when we had first decided on this residence. When you rent an unfurnished apartment here you are normally expected to provide your own appliances. Who knew?? We had our washer, dryer, and refrigerator on the way in our container, but needed to go out and purchase a cooktop, oven, and microwave.

We looked around at several places and compared prices before deciding on a beautiful store specializing in kitchens and bathrooms. The ones that sold appliances and motorcycles (and there are a lot of them!) just felt a little too sketchy. Why appliances and motorcycles, you might logically ask? Class, who's been paying attention? Johnny, what's the answer? "I have no idea." That's right! Good job!

This store feels just like a high-end place in the States, and in fact carries a number of US brands. We picked a GE microwave that was in the same price range as South American brands we'd never heard of, figuring we couldn't go wrong with the reliability of a product from back home.

It quit working as soon as we plugged it in. (Sigh).

So we took it back immediately and said we wanted another one. Thus began an ordeal that, for me like watching a "Sex in the City" or "Traveling Pants" movie, seemed like it might never end.

You see, this store feels like a US store; it looks like a US store. But when you need for something to happen, the clock strikes midnight, that illusion vanishes, and Cinderella's beautiful coach turns back into a pumpkin.

Or in this case a bumpkin. A whole store full of them. You talk to this guy. He shuffles through some papers, leaves, and returns with another guy. They both frown and stare at the computer, confer, then go upstairs. You wait. And wait. Then---you wait some more. Everyone comes back downstairs with even more papers, maybe even with a new guy, that they all seriously study.

Finally they have reached a decision. We can't have another microwave. Their technician needs to diagnose the problem. But this is a brand new appliance under warranty--why don't you just give me another one and send this one back to the factory?

Oh, you may have guessed I'm not actually saying any of this; we brought along our Cuencano ally to run interference. This was very soon after our arrival here, when our language skills were limited to "please," "thank you," and "where's the bathroom?." Now months later we can effortlessly toss out more complex utterances like, "Excuse me--can you please tell me where the bathroom is? Thank you very much."

After much jaw-boning the truth is finally revealed--they don't have another microwave like ours. They could order one from their store in Guayaquil but aren't sure when it would arrive, but their technician could look at ours first thing in the morning and--------.

Fine. Fix the damn thing. Three days later----no microwave, no call about the microwave--nada. So we bring our friend back into action, she calls and chews them out and magically it shows up the next day.

And it works! For about 3 days. This time our landlord graciously returns it to the store. About a week later here it is again. And it works perfectly. Until last week when it suddenly flatlines.

There is a saying that the third time's the charm. For me it's three strikes and you're out. I'm done screwing around with this BS. Our friend and I load that piece of crap back into the box and stomp into the store ready to rumble.

She is a lawyer, proceeds to demonstrate why if I'm ever in court here, God forbid, I want her in the chair next to me. Her eyes are shooting lightning bolts like a character in the X-Men; she's spewing Spanish so fast an auctioneer would have stared in amazement. To his credit, the poor guy stood his ground throughout this withering assault. Then he started shuffling some papers, left, and returned with another guy. Sound familiar? Here we go again-------

Except this time it's more serious. We have demanded to walk out of that place with another microwave--NOW. If there is a difference in price I will gladly pay it, but---NOW. A decision is required, and it appears that no one in this culture likes to make a decision. So we wait. Up the stairs. Down the stairs with someone else. He gets chewed out. Back up the stairs. We wait. More paper shuffling and frowns and computers. Which microwave is it you want? That seems like progress. More this, that, and the other.

After at least an hour of this nonsense a decision is reached: they can't give us another microwave yet. WHAT!?!? Yes, you see, it seems the technician spoke to a worker in your building months ago who said that your plug was 220 instead of 110 and that's what is causing the problem. We must investigate to see if this is true.

My eyes start getting a weird color--my skin starts turning green--my shirt begins splitting down the back--I'm "Hulking" right here in Cuenca, Ecuador, baby. I didn't give a rat's ass if anybody understood a word I said. I unleashed shock and awe that had been marinating for months about this and every other frustration of trying to get anything done around here.

These folks hate confrontation, and the manager had sweat beading up on his forehead. But the SOB held his ground--the technician HAD to come by, and an appointment was set for 9 AM Friday. (Double-sigh)

9 AM--no technician; 9:15--no technician; 9:30--my friend, who is taking time out of her workday to stick with me through this fiasco, gets on the phone and after 5 minutes says, "Let's go. We're going to get a microwave right now."

What?? I ride in the cab in stunned silence. I'm afraid if I say anything I'll break the spell. We arrive, she talks--quietly this time--to some "old friends" there and several new ones (how many people are there upstairs??), I pay the difference, sign about four new pieces of paper to add to my fistful of previous ones, a guy loads the microwave into the trunk of another taxi, and we're on our way home.

Now I can ask. What just happened? What did you say to these knuckleheads on the phone earlier?

She smiled and said, "Before this morning they thought I was just your friend. Today I became your lawyer. Did you notice they called me Dr. instead of Senora? And how they treated us with respect? I told them if they didn't give you a microwave immediately I would sue them. And I would win."

Thus ends a three month ordeal. Multiple trips back and forth way across town. Before writing this I thought back over the whole process and believe it's safe to say we spoke with 8-10 different employees. All over a $145 microwave.

For those of you who wonder or ask, "So what do you guys do down there?"----------. It's a great life, and we have tons of fun. But this is not Utopia, my friends, and having the patience to deal with stuff like this is part of the price of admission.

In the end, is it worth it? Oh, hell yes!!

By the way, the burner on that new oven we purchased from the same store keeps going off. A technician is coming to look at it next week-----------------------


David L. Akins said...

It Takes a Village????....Sounds like it takes an Ecuadorian woman with 'Attitude'. I can' wait to meet her.


Sapa Ynca said...

Well Ed you said you are a man of Adventure....welcome to the adventure called ECUADOR! But when it is all said and done...wasn't that more interesting than Walmart! Hold on...well more interesting than Sears anyway...VIVA!

zootenval said...

Let's see....sounds like between yourself and your attorney friend, a lot of man-hours, anergy and emotion were invested in getting a replacement microwave. How many man-hours in total? 10? 12? 15? Add in the emotional strain, the hassle factor and hey, the multiple taxis, and it seems that it was a lot for a $145 small appliance. For my money and sanity, I would have returned it, asked for a refund and purchased a different one right away. I might be out another $150, and the refund might take a while, but at least the drama is minimized....

Then again, letting one's inner "hulk" out for a walk once in a while is theraputic, no?


Edd Staton said...

Good point, Andy. I neglected to mention in my post that the "return for a refund" strategy was attempted early on---that was SO long ago I forgot. Reply: "no es posible."

Karen Kimbler said...

And I thought our little trip through Quito bureaucracy was tough, I bow to your patience and diligence.

zootenval said...

"No es posible..."

What's with that? Of COURSE it's possible, in that the physical act of giving you or anyone else a refund is possible.

I'd rather have someone just tell me from the get go: "Hey, sorry for your problem. We'll have our tech try and fix it, which may take a month of mananas. Other than that, you are basically SOL, unless you want to lay down another benjamin or 2 for another new one."

At least it is honest, and expectations have been set. I'm not a fan of passive-aggressive B.S..

I admire your positive attitude as you continue to adjust to Ecuador.


Glen Birbeck said...


Your writing is great, I laughed, I could see it all in my head. The guys running up and down the stairs, the studying papers. More Blue Man Troup than three stooges.

True fact, I made my living for about 35 years as an electronics technician. Fixed consumer products at times.

I would not be surprised if your power is all over the place. Voltage spikes, dips in voltage. The electrical equivalent of the water system. Sort of like poping the clutch a lot, stresses things.

You going to test it in the store next time (don't hit me). Still, DOA's happen a lot here too. The recovery, however, is a given, not a struggle. Thanks for the object lesson!

adios, Glen

Anonymous said...

¡ yanqui go home!

Edd Staton said...

Well, Pedro (if you really exist), a guy from Greece got the award for the farthest away post, Dr. Mike is the runaway winner for the longest post, and you are hereby recognized for the most unexpected post. As repeatedly reported on this blog, the people of Ecuador have been wonderfully kind and open, and your comment is quite frankly an embarrassment to all of them. Shame on you for such reprehensible (look it up) behavior.

Sapa Ynca said...
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Sapa Ynca said...
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Sapa Ynca said...
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Sapa Ynca said...

Please pardon my response but that just pisses me off so Gonzales this is for you:
See :

Al llegar todos los inmigrantes ilegales fuera de mi país, entonces podemos hablar de todos mis pueblos inmigrantes legales en la tuya. Vamos legalmente, contribuir económicamente a Ecuador y llamamos nuestro hogar.
Y como Yanqui es ofensivo para las personas de la parte sur de la EE.UU. .... mierda la cabeza estamos en casa! Si estás en casa? Pero en caso de que se encuentran en Grecia ..... Λατίνος πάω σπίτι!

Sapa Ynca said...

Ed and don't let one Cook get the "wind out of your sails". If he is in Greece then he is just probably not happy to be there. Sorry if I seemed a little rude in response to Gonzales but "Yankee go home" just ticked me off when I fight so hard here for folks to understand the plight of the illegal immigrants here in the US. There are a lot more folks yelling "Latino GO Home!" here in the USA I fight than one idiot in "Greece" yelling it anonymously on a blog of a friend. VIVA!