Thursday, February 19, 2009

Utilize This

Dear Mexico,

I've been living here for almost two years and while I've come to appreciate the vast differences between you and my native country, there is one area that I need to discuss with you.

The utilities.

Back home, we received monthly bills for gas, electricity, phone/internet, and cable. I would slip a check into the provided envelope and mail them back to you. Some people paid them online (something I was about to switch to when we moved) and others have the amount due automatically withdrawn from their checking account.

You do things a little differently: you make people pay their gas, water, and electric bills in person. In a country where people the postal system is a joke, I can understand not wanting to trust your revenue to the men in pink and green, plus a lot of people cannot afford stamps. I dutifully go to TelMex and CFE when my bills are due and wait in line with everyone else.

But then there's the satellite service, which doesn't send a bill at all. We pay over the telephone, but it doesn't always take effect and, more times than not, we lose service for a day or so. With the Oscars approaching around the time the bill is due, I'm very nervous something will go wrong. (This same concern happened last month with the Superbowl.) I know it seems logical to just pay the bill early, but I don't even know the exact date it's due.

I mentioned the horrid postal service earlier, and this is another thorn in my side. You see, the developers for our condo moved out last fall but they never set up mailboxes for the people who live here. While they were still here, they received our mail and would flag us down if we had anything. Now the mailman sticks letters and bills between the metal bars and the glass on the vacant office's door. If we're lucky we'll see if something arrived for us (I did get my grandmother's Christmas card) but we went four months without ever receiving a phone bill. Again, I know when it's due, so I just bring the old bill to TelMex and make sure I have enough cash to cover what I think will be the amount due. (It varies because they charge for every phone call.)

Even though we've paid our telephone bill on time every month, I often find myself without service, sometimes for an entire day or two. My internet (almost) always works, but the phone line will go staticky and the phone will be useless. I'd understand if the internet also didn't work, since they're on the same line, but it's just the phone. This has been going on for over a year and is just another thing I've come to expect.

Finally, the electric company. Every two months someone comes and places a sheet of paper (the bill) on the meters on the far side of the parking lot. For several months I thought the bill was due every three months, and I cannot seem to keep it in my head to watch for the bill more frequently. Two days ago our power went out (as it does quite often - just another charming aspect of Mexico) but when we heard the radios in the neighborhood start back up and our power didn't return, we knew something was going on. My husband stopped at the electric company on his way to work and discovered our bill was less than a week overdue. One week, and they cut the power off. If we could just get a bill like I'm used to, this wouldn't be a problem.

I also have issues with the water constantly running out, but I'll save that for another time.

Irrationally yours,
Melanie


ETA: I also have issues about this, but that's a lot more than I can fit into this post.

24 comments:

Pink Ink said...

Wow, that "billing" system would drive me bonkers.

Small price to pay to live close enough to the ocean and "summer" year-round, eh? :-)

Janna Qualman said...

Stinky stinky poo poo. I wish better for you!

Melanie Avila said...

Pink, I don't have a problem with the system when it works. All the utilities are located near each other, which is genius in my mind, but something is always off.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, my facebook status has revolved around utilities so much lately I thought it deserved it's own post, lol.

spyscribbler said...

Wow! Ohmigosh, I have enough trouble staying on top of the bills WITH the monthly bill! (I've set them up automatically now.)

That is absolutely crazy, Melanie! I don't know how you do it!de

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, fortunately I'm a very anal person and tend to remember a lot - I think that's helped me stay on top of it. But I DO forget every now and then.

And the every other month bill really screws me up.

WendyCinNYC said...

Oh, how annoying. I hate doing just about anything in person.

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy, I try to look at it as a chance to practice my Spanish, blah blah, but it is a big switch from what I'm used to. At least the electric company has an automatic machine - similar to how you pay at a parking garage in the US.

Nadine said...

The whole billing system sounds horrible! And I can't believe they cut off the power after only a week!

I always try and see the positive in everything - so I guess the positive in this is that you are getting more material for your memoir. But I really wish the billing was better for you.

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, it makes sense for a lot of people here - it's a cash society and a lot of people don't even have bank accounts - so going in person to pay is understandable. Plus it gives armed guards a few more places to work. :)

Yes, it definitely is more material...

Michaeleen said...

The postal workers wear pink and green?? How awesome - retro preppie! ;-)

Melanie Avila said...

There's a picture of one at the very end of my latest photo album on facebook (A walk through Zihua, or something like that).

Jen said...

What a giant PITA, Mel. I am notorious for forgetting stuff like this, so I have a lot of bills set up to be paid automatically.

If I lived down there, I'd be constantly getting my utilities shut off, lol.

*hugs*

Pam said...

I'm an accountant, so to say that I'm anal about when and how I pay my bills would be an understatement. What you've described would make me crazy!

It sounds like you've got a good attitude about the whole thing. Did you feel better after writing this post and getting it off your chest? I would have. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Jen, I know we've gone longer without paying it before, although maybe that's why they didn't give us as much leeway this time, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

Pam, it took some getting used to, that's for sure. That, and seeing a phone bill that reads $1025.00 (pesos). I nearly had a heart attack the first time I saw it!

Sadly, I didn't feel better after writing this, just informative.

Robin said...

How incredibly annoying! And really inefficient for the country! In America, people "go postal" when utilities or mail doesn't work properly. Not that I'm suggesting anything...

Katie said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now, but haven't commented before. I studied in Mexico, which I know is very different from living in Mexico, but still I completely identify with this post. Thanks for sharing!

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, there are armed men at all these places and I don't think they'd wait very long before taking action. If we can get a volunteer to see what happens, I'll certainly watch!

Melanie Avila said...

Hi Katie! Welcome. :) It's funny, I think I've mentioned the utilities in passing, but I've gotten so used to it that it wasn't until everything happened at once that it occurred to me to share with everyone.

Where in Mexico were you?

colbymarshall said...

Oh, Mel, it's a wonder you're still sane!

Razib Ahmed said...

I live in South Asia and I can assure you that for most people in my part of the world, some of the problems you mentioned in this post is just a part of every day life. What I liked a lot is that you could depict the situation very nicely.

Melanie Avila said...

Colby, some days I wonder, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

Welcome Razib! Yes, it is all just a part of everyday life. I try to share those things with my friends and family here, and I'm glad you feel I've put them in a positive light. I try really hard not to bash things just because they're different.