More Red Tape Stories from the Rich Coast

Canatico bar in Quepos, Costa RIcaIt’s been awhile since I wrote a “red tape” post so I thought I’d fill you in on the details of Friday’s outing in Quepos.  There’s a saying here that goes something like…if you have 5 things to accomplish in a day here in Costa Rica, expect to only get 2 of them done.  There’s another expression that is also quite fitting for the day: (Ticos) Make Easy Hard

I currently have a Tico friend staying with me for a few weeks (had yet another near break-in the other day so having someone at the house with me gives me a bit more security) and I thought I’d utilize his local skills to help me accomplish a few things I’ve been wanting to do for some time.

Here’s what was on my list:

  1. Open a safe deposit box at the bank
  2. Talk to the bank about getting a credit card so I can rent a car ($1,500 deposit is required and most rental agencies only accept credit cards for the deposit)
  3. Talk with ICE (cell phone/internet provider) about why they told me I could have unlimited internet on my cell phone’s prepaid service if I pay them $18/month but the internet isn’t actually unlimited)
  4. Go to the hardware store and get wooden dowels for my windows
  5. Try to return a phone to Gollo

Only 5 things right?  That seems like it can be accomplished in 2-3 hours, right?  And everything is centrally located in Quepos, almost right next to each other really.

So to begin, the first thing that took extra time is the argument I had with my friend when I asked him to measure the windows for the dowels.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: Can you use this tape and measure the window sills for me?

Him: Chris, you live in the jungle.  I’ll just go find some wood and find a machete to cut it down to size.

Me: No, can you just use the tape and measure the window sills please?

Him: No Chris (now leaving the house and starting to search outside for sticks), I’m going to find something here. You don’t need to pay for this.

Me: I don’t care about the money.  Just measure the sills!

After a few more minutes of back and forth discussion, the sills eventually got measured and that is probably what started the original delay of the day in motion…

At the bank, we were next in line but there was only one person at the Special Services desk and it was 40 minutes later that it was finally our turn.  We told the man I wanted a safe deposit box and no joke, it took 2 hours to set up the file.  I cannot explain to you what took so long.  Really, I was present the entire time but for all I know, the guy was sitting on his computer chatting with a friend on Facebook while we waited.  At one point, he left the cubicle and I swear he went to take a coffee break.

By the time we got done with that, the girl who handles setting up credit cards had left for lunch (and it appears there’s only one girl who can set up a credit card).

So we left the bank and walked across the street to ICE to figure out why I was told less than a month ago that if I paid $18 each month, I could have unlimited internet access on my prepaid plan.  We were quickly seated in front of Allen who told us that about 2 months ago, they stopped offering unlimited data to prepaid plans.  So we asked why did I pay for something that no longer exists?  Of course, he had no answer.  And I didn’t have the name of the guy who originally helped me.

Then my friend asked if I could have a post paid account (which I already knew I couldn’t have since I’m not a resident, hence why I signed up for the $18 data plan 2 weeks ago).  So we decided that my friend would set up a post-paid plan for me in his name but…of course…I couldn’t keep my same phone number. The number that all of my clients and friends have.  Perfect.

An hour later, Allen presented me with a new phone number and a new phone (it came with the plan).  The plan offers unlimited data/internet but a minimal amount of minutes and texts. I don’t use the phone that much so it shouldn’t be a problem.  I hope.  Since I have this new phone, I decided to keep my old prepaid number and put the simcard into it so that I could periodically check it for messages.  But I first had to buy a new simcard since the new phone’s simcard size is larger than the iPhone simcard size.

Here’s where I get confused – they can transfer my number from my old simcard to the new simcard.  But they can’t transfer my old number into my friend’s name? With both of us sitting right there?  It just doesn’t make sense.

Anyways, we were starving at that point so we went to lunch, drank a beer and relaxed for a bit before having to return to the bank to open the credit card.  While we were setting up the safe deposit box, the clerk told us that I just needed to give the bank $200 as a security deposit and they would give me a $2,000 line of credit.  Seemed a bit odd but this is Costa Rica so I just went along with it.  I thought maybe the rules were more lax here.

And…of course…that wasn’t actually the case.  I had to give the bank $2,200 FOREVER (well, until I cancel the card) and they would give me a credit card with a $2,000 limit.  Because I only want the card to have the $1,500 deposit for the car rental, it just wasn’t worth it for me to give up $2,000.  Nor do I even really have that amount of money available right now to give up.  That process, just to discuss the options of how to set up the credit card, took almost an hour.

From there, we headed to the hardware store to get the window dowels.  More problems ensued when we showed up with the measurements in inches (since the tape I own is from the States) and had to figure out what size I needed in centimeters.  At least I think that’s what the guys were converting it to, I had lost interest at that point.  When we went to the lumber area to look for dowels (the clerk wasn’t really sure what we needed), all of the wood dowels were too large in diameter so we searched for other materials and found aluminum which then needed to be cut down to size.

Hardware store in Costa Rica

It was now after 4 and our day had started at 9. We decided to save the trip to Gollo for another day as it was beginning to rain and we were both tired. We did actually get 3 out of the 5 things accomplished which I suppose is quite impressive but I’m still dumbfounded as to why everything takes so long.  I don’t know if I’ll ever really understand.

Cost for the day:

  • Safety deposit box: $40/year
  • Post-paid phone plan: $20/month plus $25 to setup plus another $5 to buy a new simcard with my old number
  • Lunch: $25
  • Aluminum dowels: $2.50

Pura vida…Chrissy