Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Same again, please

Since my return to Chile three weeks ago, I've noticed some changes that happened while I was away.

New buildings, like the hotel in this photo, are going up. I see signs of renovation and new construction everywhere. New restaurants, shops, and hotels are popping up like mushrooms in Bellas Artes and LaStarria.

Bike rental racks have appeared in random places, and lots of people are using them. Not just the tourists who mob barrio Bellas Artes, but Chileans, too, are riding around on the rented orange bikes.

I've also seen more police presence at the Metro stations, and since a bombing last year, plastic trash bags have been installed in the stations instead of the metal trash cans that used to be there.

Fewer people are smoking on the streets. It occurred to me that, while out running my daily errands, I no longer have to hold my breath when I pass by office buildings or walk behind someone in the street. There is less smoking going on since the Chilean government imposed a higher tax on cigarettes.

In my neighborhood, where we've always had street dogs lying around on corners during the day and sometimes running in packs at night, I have seen almost none since I got back. I don't know where they've gone, or why or how, but they're mostly gone from my immediate vicinity.

Some things, though, have remained the same. Last year, before I left, I went to Movistar, my local wifi provider, to cancel some of their services.

I was paying for a tri-pack which included home phone line, wifi, and TV cable. From the beginning the cable never worked right. You see, many buildings here were prewired for one company or their competition. My building is wired for Movistar wifi and VTR cable, so a tri-pack in this building is virtually impossible to provide.

The Movistar tech, Luis, came to install it all. Everything worked briefly, but after a couple of weeks, my cable was kaput. A call to Luis produced another week or two of TV viewing and, then, out again.

Every time he came by, he wanted a small "tip" so that he could "pay for parking." I began to suspect that he might have been cutting the cable himself since I learned that he had a storage unit in the basement and was here in the building every day. Finally, the cable started working consistently.

The phone line gave up the ghost in November of 2013. I used it so seldom that I didn't bother calling Luis to fix it, but in June 2014, the cable went out again. The concierge claimed that a VTR tech had come through and cut off all the illegally installed cables, including mine, which had been connected to VTR instead of Movistar. Luis offered to hook it up again for 25.000 pesos, about $50.

I lived without TV. Before I left last September, I went to the Movistar office to tell them that I wanted to reduce my service to only wifi since that's all I was receiving anyway. When the representative asked me why I wanted to reduce their service, I made the mistake of explaining to her exactly why.

She seemed appropriately incredulous, offered me a discount to continue with my tri-pack, promised that they would come out and make sure everything was working, and said that Movistar would investigate Luis.

When I left here in September, I gave my Chilean cell phone to a friend so that she could answer it when the technician called and make arrangements to meet him at my apartment. But of course, no pasa nada. The phone never rang.

My friend attempted to communicate with them to find out why no one had made contact, but something got lost in translation. Finally, I asked Vivi, my Spanish teacher, to phone Movistar. They told her that they "didn't have enough information" about the problems I was experiencing to send out a tech. What?! I would have to go into the office and make another complaint before they could send someone out.

Now I'm back and Luis is gone, but I still have no cable nor home phone. I went yesterday to the Movistar office, determined to insist that this time they reduce my service to wifi only.

I walked out of there with well-used landline phone, as a "gift," and a piece of paper which I'm praying has enough details that a tech can resolve my issues because, once again, those slick-talking thieves convinced me to stick with their tri-pack. The handsome young rep swore that someone would contact me "within days."

I'm giving them until Friday.

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