Monday, January 11, 2010

You know you are in Brazil when

You know you are in Brazil when the bill for your internet service arrives in the mail today and the due date is (wait for it…) TODAY. If you are late even a moment, there will be a penalty.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. When the mail service was spotty late last year we would get some bills AFTER the due date – and yes, we were responsible for late fees. It was our responsibility to call the company and ask what we owed and to pay it, before the passing of the due date.

For my Portuguese class at the federal university I waited more than two months to finally get a bill. I was told the internal billing and payment processing system at the university was experiencing problems. It was not possible for me to pay prior to being issued a statement. When I finally got the statement from my instructor, the bill was due three days later. Carving out the time to wait in line at the bank to make the payment (no, you cannot just put a check in the mail – in fact it is against the law to send money/a check through the mail) I paid one day after the due date and was charged interest on the unpaid/late balance.

It can be a little ridiculous. (OK, maybe a lot ridiculous.)

Everything is the consumers’ responsibility.

Oh – how about this one? Luiz went to return a Christmas gift from a major clothing store (it was a personal appointment calendar). It turned out that he could have exchanged it for an item of the same value only until Christmas day (since past.) Then for the next week he could exchange it for 80% of its original value, then after the first of the year, just 60% of its original value. The store never loses.

Retail returns of things like cell phones are allowed only in the first 72 hours. After that you must deal with the manufacturer. The retailer passes you along…

Now believe me, we are grateful for the privilege of simply paying our bills on time, arranging for many to be paid via automatic deduction, and to pay some via the internet. Plus, we have sufficient funds in the bank to avoid all of the ridiculous and exorbitant banking fees charged regular folks here in Brazil.

My post is not meant to be a whine or a complaint. But I do think it is worth commenting on the high cost of just trying to engage with businesses. It seems we must anticipate occasionally paying a penalty just for the privilege of spending our money.

(Oh - and you should hear Luiz on the phone gettin' all American with the customer service rep. They don't have a chance. And he usually saves us a ton of money!)


Andrew Cicchetti said...

My name is Andrew. Like you I am a US citizen who moved with my partner of ten years to Brasil (Juiz de Fora). We had met and lived together in NYC up to recently. Would like to correspond. Please feel free to email me at Take care. Andrew

Maggie Winter said...

Just gotta love some of the crazy systems here. I have had 3 weeks of hell with internet service providers. Vivo and Claro are in for some real grief from me. I have had a claro account for 4 years but because my id number has changed in the last 4 years I am no longer me and therefore they can't sort my problems out, even though I go pay my bill in that store every month and they know me. Vivo, well they just don't want customers, the Saquarama store just keeps telling me they do nothing for smart phones?? Insane, but what can I do. As for bills you are so right they arrive late and its your fault and Brazilian don't see a problem with this?
Oh I feel better for that rant thanks a lot. Good blog Thx.