Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Banex Saga Continues

It was Tuesday afternoon when we spent a full hour trying to get back a $30 chargeback into my bank account. AN HOUR! Finally, at the end of it all, they promised the money would be back in my account by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Wednesday came and went, no money. Thursday morning, no money. Esposo calls for me (thanks, dear!) to find out what the deal is. The "customer service" representative says that, gee, something must have gone wrong at the branch office we were at (ya think?), so she would call and see what was up, and definitely, positively, for sure, the money would be there before noon. Noon comes and goes, no money. Around 1:30 I ask esposo to call again, which he graciously does.

He is fairly livid at this point. He lets them know that this is not only the worst bank he has ever dealt with, but the worst business, period. He says they do not know the definition of customer service, and that they are basically run by idiots. He insists that the money be credited immediately or he will talk to the c.s. rep's supervisor and close our account (which we plan to do anyway). And guess what? After all that, the money magically appears.

Now, this measly $30 chargeback has been "sitting" in limbo for more than a month. What I do not understand is why it is necessary to threaten and get angry with these people before they will GIVE YOU YOUR OWN MONEY. If I have said it before, I'll say it again: I hate Banex with a passion that grows stronger by the day.

But in other banking news, I called Scotiabank and they also offer a savings or checking accout that a Gringa like me can get, which also has an international debit card. Whew. Guess what I'm doing next week.

Chickens, Dogs and Chicken-Chasing Dogs

I love keeping chickens. They are wonderful animals! And I admit it is strange for a vegan to keep chickens, since, obviously, I don't eat them or their eggs. I just think chickens are very cool people. And one of the things I like most about Costa Rica is that every other house has chickens. I've even seen them in the middle of San Jose! Though out here in the boonies, they're a little more common.

The first chickens we acquired were from mi esposo's mother, who tends to get animals and then get rid of them not long thereafter. We got a silver Sebright rooster, golden Sebright hen, and two Australorps hens. So cute! Since then, the gang has ranged from a pair of Polish (Sid and Nancy) to mixes of every color imaginable. At the moment, we have four of the original Sebrights' offspring (the roosters Frank and Penny, and hens Peet and Minnie), plus a couple of odd birds hatched or acquired here and there. A few months ago, I found a pair of silkies at the local agro for $10, so I snatched them up.

The "Puffs," Hufflepuff (left) and H.R. Puffenstuff (right)

Well, it turned out that one of the pair was actually another rooster who had yet to come into his own! I discovered this one morning when my silky hen started crowing — that was a surprise! Luckily, though, silky males are known for being mellow and easy to get along with, so we decided to keep them both. Then Numi came along...

Heeeeeere's Numi!

Numi showed up at the cafe one day and wouldn't leave. When she started growling at customers, I figured we ought to do something with her, and that something was to take her home. She is one nutty dog. There's a popular book out at the moment called Marley and Me, and I am pretty sure Numi is quite Marley-like. She digs holes. She chases the cats. She barks at all hours of the day and night. She escapes and runs after horses. And she chases chickens.

That last offense got her a new enclosure, where we had to fence off part of the yard and keep her in it, in the hopes that our chickens would survive her antics. Did I mention she was an escape artist? Unfortunately, the handyman who built her enclosure enclosed it with not-so-strong chicken wire, and Numi bites right through it. She has, at this point, made several holes in the "fence," which I have patched up using other, stronger chicken wire and/or zinc roofing. It looks like one of those "houses" that the people who live under the bridge live in. Actually I think the house of the people under the bridge probably looks better than this.

Yesterday, she escaped yet again. I woke up to chickens squawking and carrying on, and without even looking, I knew it was her. We have one big rooster that is (was) allowed to run the yard, but since I feared for his life, I decided to give away the Puffs and get Kepi inside the coop. That was done easily enough, so we gathered up the Puffs and a couple of hatchlings and carried them all over to our friend Esteban's house.

Esteban has an incredible property. It overlooks a canyon, and in the early mornings and late afternoons capuchins come and steal eggs from his chicken coops. He keeps Polish, Sebrights, Cochins, and an absolute myriad of mixed breeds and other breeds I can't remember the names of. It is an incredible array of chickens, which all started a few years ago when we gave him two of our babies, Francisco and Leticia, the offspring of Frank and Lynnie. Anyway... Esteban was more than happy to take the Puffs and the two babies, and I was very happy to have him take them, since he takes such great care with his chickens and they'd actually have more room at his place than at ours. I was sad to see them go, but I figure when we leave Costa Rica, he will get all of the remaining chickens anyway.

Except perhaps for Kepi, who is just an incredible pain and gets along with no other rooster. Now the real question is, what in the heck do I do with Numi?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rant of the Day: Why I Despise Banex

Banex blows. Banex is horrible. Banex does not know the meaning of the term "customer service." Customers? Do we have those? they ask.

Banex is a bank, based in Mexico, I think, and used to be BanCrecen. I have had more problems in the two months that I've had an account at Banex than in the SIX YEARS that I've had an account at Banco Cuscatlan. In fact, I still have the Cuscatlan account and use it for most everything. The only reason I opened an account at Banex is that they have a debit card one can use outside of Costa Rica (and if anyone knows of another bank here that offers a similar service, I'm all ears).

But, Banex is about the worst bank I have ever had to deal with. Here's my short list of (ahem) "issues" since opening my account:

1. I had to have some $ wire transferred into my account from the U.S. Generally a simple process, once one has the correct information. The wire transfer was sent, but no money in my Banex account. Waited a few days, still no money. Called "customer service." The first person I talked to said that it takes 14 days (WHAT? FOURTEEN FREAKIN' DAYS?) to get a wire transfer into your account. I was livid. What would be the purpose of the wire transfer, then? I had my (Tico) husband call the bank. ("When in doubt, get a local" is my motto.) He talked to someone completely different, who said that, in fact, a wire transfer shows up within an hour, but this one hadn't gone through, so send it again. Sent it again, went through in an hour. That was an "easy" probem to solve.

2. I often get paid from clients in the U.S. by check, which I need to deposit into my bank account here. Banco Cuscatlan takes 10 days from the time you deposit the check until it is cashed. I suppose they basically just hold onto your money so that they (not you) can earn interest on it, but whatever. Anyway, I made the mistake of depositing a rather substantial check into my Banex account. The infamous 14 days passes, still no money in my account. So great, time to call "customer service." I get some kind of story that, because of the weekends, blah blah blah, it's more like 21 days. After waiting for the 21 days to pass, still no $ in the account. So I call again, and I get some ridiculous excuse that since there was a federal holiday in the U.S. (President's Day, I believe it was), it is taking an extra day, and of course since it's Saturday, I'm gonna have to wait until Monday for the money to be in my account. President's Day? We don't even celebrate that in Costa Rica, so what in the hell does that have to do with anything? Time to get esposo on the phone again. This time he threatens to close my account if the money doesn't show up immediately, and guess what? It's there within the hour, even though they insisted there was no one there to deal with it on a Saturday. And that's the last time I deposited a check in that bank.

3. I sometimes use PayPal, and have a website hosted at Yahoo, both of which I pay for using said debit card from Banex. Both sites charge you $1, which is then supposed to appear back in your account after a few days, something about verifying the credit card. Ok, fine. I don't have a problem with that. I do have a problem, though, when PayPal makes a chargeback to my card and it never shows up. I also have a problem when I am charged twice for my webhosting, though I never made the second charge. PayPal tells me they initiated the chargeback over a month ago. Yahoo says they never charged me the second time. Guess what. Time to call "customer service." Mi esposo this time suggests we go to the bank in person, so I write down all of the $1 chargebacks that have never appeared, and the larger chargeback, and the extra charge. The person at the bank has no idea what I'm talking about, so she has to call over another fellow to help her out. Then the supervisor comes over and starts telling me (with some rather annoying attitude, I might add) that "I have to get the company I work for to redo the chargebacks." Huh? Um, dear! Help! About a half an hour later, they finally find the substatial chargeback that was processed but never showed up in my account. The three $1 chargebacks are MIA, apparently. When we get to the double charge, the guy starts telling my husband that I have to go back to Yahoo and they have to do a chargeback for the amount. Ah, yes, but I already spoke to Yahoo and they have assured me they only processed one charge. So I ask, what would one do in the case of an unauthorized charge being made on one's card? Well, he explains, one would put in for that charge to be taken off, but of course if they see it has come from Yahoo, they are not going to take it off the accout. I don't get this. Of course it comes from Yahoo, but it was not authorized. I fill out the paperwork anyway. He insists I call Yahoo and see what they can do about the second charge. I notice he has the wrong date on the paperwork. Since there are two charges on my accout for the same amount, but on different dates, I figure they would need to know for which date I am requesting the charge be removed. Duh, right? When I had a similar problem some years ago at a different bank (an ATM didn't give out the $ -- never use the ATM inside the Mas x Menos in Escazu!), I had to explain what happened, get the thing notorized, etc. This was just like, check a box and sign your name. I wanted to explain, but no go. I am quite sure that, after a month of Sundays has rolled around, the charge will not be taken off my account by my bank. Oh, and those three $1 chargebacks? They have no idea what happened to them, and suggest I call Yahoo/PayPal and have them reprocessed. Like I am going to spend my time doing that, which I exactly what they want me to do: not bother. Sure, $3 is not much to me, but add up all the other people that the bank is taking advantage of in this way, and it adds up. And how many people are going to complain about $1 here or there? I guess I just have a 'thing' about getting your money for nothing, even if it is $1 or two. So maybe I'll call Yahoo and PayPal after all.

One thing all this has taught me is not to use this account except for the things I absolutely need to use it for: i.e., using the card to pay for something outside of the country. And I warn everyone away from Banex. Blah. Seriously, though, if you have had the patience to read this far, please, please suggest another Costa Rican bank to me! All I need is one that will let me have a debit card I can use outside of CR. Is that too much to ask?

Hello! And welcome to the show...

Some people might ask, Why, for the love of God, have you gone and jumped on the blogging bandwagon? Well, sit back and I'll tell ya...

I see a lot of misinformation here and there, quite often put out by people who have their own interests at heart and what I sometimes see is not necessarily entirely true. A couple of examples? A website that claims there are "no water probems in Escazú." Someone else who says "there is crime everwhere in the world," and goes so far as to blame the victim for being a victim of crime. Admittedly, everything you'll get here is from my point of view, and I'll try to be as objective as possible, which, of course, isn't wholly possible, no matter who's doing the writing. :-)

There are things about Costa Rica that drive me right up a wall: bureaucracy, bad roads (when, with the amount of money that we're paying in license fees, should not be a problem, but that goes into the next one), corrupt politicians, fat women wearing clothes entirely too small for them, men who haven't a clue about how to check out a woman discreetly, the way animals are treated, banking, bad drivers, living behind bars... the list goes on, and you'll get an eyeful from me!

Of course, there are a few things I absolutely love about Costa Rica: nature and wildlife, street dogs (a bunch of them have found a permanent home with us), my Tico husband and son, the price of food and housing, being able to keep chickens in my backyard. Overall, after 6 years here, I'm ready to leave Costa Rica. For me, personally, the bad and the ugly outweigh the good at this point in my life.

For the record, I am not trying to scare off anyone from Costa Rica. This is just my own reality bite -- sometimes things are great here, sometimes they suck. Either way, I'm not holding back.