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-----------------------