Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Toxico

As I am getting settled back again in Buenos Aires, I am faced with the grim reminder of how business is done here. Or rather not done here. I have decided that there’s no word in porteƱo (the Spanish dialect that is spoken here in BsAs) for customer service.

Here it goes… My beautiful, gorgeous Nokia has been declared “toxico” by the cell phone company because I had used a chip a friend had given me when I lived here earlier in the year. The account is in arrears because my friend has been trying to close the account for four months, but there is no one at the company who will help her. Nice, right?

I tried to resolve it the nice way, but ultimately end up screaming like a banshee at an unhelpful and rude drone who works for this horrible company, Claro. The guards circle me, maybe afraid I am going to do something crazy beyond yelling? No, he tells me, this is not our problem. Your phone is the problem, the other cell phone companies are the problem, but we, we are not your problem.

I stormed out in a whirlwind of rage with a littering of expletives echoing behind me. But I realized that I just wanted to prove this asshole wrong. So like an American invasion into an Afghan village, I storm back in with guns ablazing. I get a number and I sit. After a couple of minutes, they announce that the computer system is down and the masses spill from the sliding glass doors into the street. But not me. I’m not going anywhere.

I make small talk with a young woman, Sabrina, who is clad in purple ankle boots and slightly overmade for a daytime appointment. She tells me that Claro sold her a bad phone and she has been unable to use her phone for 6 months. Is that insanity? Yes.

They come ‘round again, telling us it will be at least another hour or longer. But the insane part is that there are people covertly droning on, printing out documents, quietly talking to customers. I notice the asshole manager looking my way now and again. I’m not one to be filled with too much ego, but could this work stoppage be because they don’t want to deal with me? Yes, Sabrina tells me, probably.

Finally, a woman Moria tries to help. We’re halfway there, but my phone remains “toxico” to companies that are not the horrid Claro. Supposedly, it will take a few days to clear this nasty list. Still waitin’.
As much as I hate to blog about my own trials and tribulations in this mundane sort of way, there's a point here. The system in Argentina is pretty broken, the people are pretty broken by it and violating people’s rights is not a big deal to these greedy companies and people just expect it in their everyday lives. The government steals, why shouldn’t the big boys steal when they can? That’s life in a kleptocracy, I guess.
Note: Photo from

1 comment:

Yonas H. said...

UGH. That is such a freakin' bummer. Everything you said in your story reminds me of an equally horrific story a friend once told me about how things are run in Italy. No surprise there, obviously. As much as I've bitched in the past about the US, we really have our shit together in a lot of ways.