Sometimes getting things done in Panama can be … ahem … interesting. Do not ever count on anything being fast or easy. Sometimes it is, but now always.
Fast and easy was my car that needed new license plates. I went to the insurance office, waited while they pulled up my records and printed me the necessary documents, I wrote them a check, and done. Same for the inspection. Walked in, no waiting, done in no time. The next day I went downtown for the plate. Again, no waiting, paid, took the paper to the next window, they found my plate, I signed the book, and done.
Speaking of license plates, you get a new one every year, no stickers like in the US. The insurance is similar to the US except your insurance comes with a towing benefit, very nice. The inspection is quite funny. You park your car in the designated spot, they come out with a camera and take a few photos, and give you your “revisado” document. This year they didn’t even check the lights and blinkers. But, you need your insurance and title to get your revisado, and your revisado to get your plate so just go with it. Plates expire at the end of the month so don’t wait until the last minute, or you might wait in line with all the others who also waited until the last minute.
The not so fast and easy… there is the saga of the microwave (get a cup of coffee and a comfortable chair). Joel bought one from the DoIt Center at the end of April, and it died recently. The Sunday before last I went to talk with my friends in the appliance department. Yes, it has a one year guarantee but you need the receipt (which we can’t find). But since we are on the frequent shopper program the guy at customer service can look it up and print a new one.
We go to customer service and wait, and wait for the guy who said he would be right back. A woman tries to help but can’t find our records. Another guy comes by but says he doesn’t know how to do that, so we continue waiting. Finally another woman comes by and informs us that the guy we need is at lunch. By now it is around 2PM and we decide to come back the next day.
The next day (Monday), the guy we need is at the customer service desk and prints our receipt. On it is a phone number and I am told this is the call center and I need to talk with them. I call, make it through two menus, reach a real person and explain what I want, get an answer I can’t understand, get put on hold, and then cut off. My friend Tomás at customer service bales me out and makes the call for me. I am told I need to take the microwave to Taller Acosta to be fixed. Tomás wasn’t given the phone number for the shop though, and the next 15 minutes are spent with him and others running around DoIt Center trying to find someone who knows where this shop is located. The customer service guy comes to the rescue and draws us a map and explains how to get there – in English! (who knew after all this that he speaks excellent English)
We set off to find the shop which involved going through the most congested part of downtown, and finally find what we think is the shop to find it closed. It is lunch hour. We call it a day and go home.
The next day (Tuesday) we head out to the shop to find it closed again. I ask at the convenience store and am told that is not the shop. We need to go a few more blocks down the street. We find the shop which says nothing about Acosta except for a URL on the window that is something like serviacosta.com. I explain what I need, Joel fetches the microwave and brings it in. Oh NO, we don’t work with that brand. You need to go to the shop next door. OK, fine, so we go next door and wait. They get done with whatever they were doing in the back, come out and take one look at the microwave – oh no, we don’t repair that brand. You need to take it back to DoIt Center for a replacement.
(I told you that you would need coffee and a comfortable chair for this story. There is still quite a bit more)
We go back to DoIt Center to see the customer service guy. He can’t just take it back without proper documentation and authorization. He calls the call center and nothing is resolved. They need to contact the shop to find out why they wouldn’t repair the microwave. He is told they will investigate and he can call back after 3PM for their answer. He will call me to let me know what he finds out. I never got a call.
Wednesday, we bike down to the DoIt Center. The guy at the service desk is off today. I didn’t even ask the others if they knew anything about our case. I’ll just go back tomorrow. Thank goodness we live as close as we do.
Thursday, they guy was in but hadn’t heard anything. He says they are still investigating and he will call if there is any news.
Friday, wrong time. He was at lunch again. We have learned to use other methods of heating foods, and have realized how often we use the microwave without even thinking about it.
It is now Saturday. Should I publish the story so far, or wait for the resolution? Monday I plan to ask him if we can have our money back, or at the very least, would he please call again and try to speed things up?
Get another cup of coffee and go back to your comfortable chair.
I wasn’t out and about on Monday, but on Tuesday I stopped by and our guy was at the service desk. He hadn’t heard anything so he got on the phone. We wandered about, said hi to my friends, wandered back and he was still on the phone. After much conversation and me explaining how to find my house, the word is that someone will be at our house tomorrow to fix the thing. If they don’t show up I am to call the call center again.
Wednesday – they didn’t show up.
Thursday (today) we go back to the DoIt Center. The guy we have been working with no longer works there. We explain our story to various people who try to help, and finally a manager comes to the desk. She says we should have gotten a change order from the shop when they couldn’t fix the microwave. We refuse to make another trip to the shop. She insists there is nothing we can do without the change order. Can she get the guy who didn’t show up to fix the unit in their store because we aren’t taking it home again. She calls the call center, then calls the shop buy by this time they are closed for lunch. I offer to do our errands and return in a while when the shop should be open again. No she says, we need to go to the shop and get the change order. By now Joel is totally over it. We tell them the microwave is now their problem, and we walk away.
We have been without a microwave for about two weeks now and have decided not to replace it. We don’t need it to defrost things if we plan ahead better. We can reheat things on the stove or in the toaster oven. We used to cook veggies in the microwave but find we like them better steamed on the stove. Now we have one less thing taking up space in the kitchen.
I can end with a fast and easy story though… more or less. We went to Dolega to get plates for Joel’s car (you have to go to where the car is registered). We wait for our turn, hand the revisado with a copy and $35.10 to the lady, go back to wait, and are called to pick up a document confirming our registration. Joel was late and they didn’t have any more July plates, so we’ll have to go back later to see if they have some in.
There is no place where you can live without hitting some bumps along the way, and Panama is no exception. I have been told that Novey is much better about returns so if we change our mind about getting a microwave, we’ll go there.
I am thankful that we live close to DoIt (after these multiple trips) and I am very thankful I know enough Spanish to communicate because except for the Customer Service guy, no one spoke any English. Patience is a good thing to have. It’s a great life here in Panama and sometimes you even get an advanced class in patience. Without opportunities to practice your patience how would you ever improve? I’m thankful for all the opportunities over the years because I fail a lot fewer classes than I did years ago.