Last updateFri, 18 Jul 2014 3pm

La Manzanilla Memo - March 31, 2012

Banking hell

My bank has misappropriated over 6,000 of my pesos.  Regardless that they are at fault, I’m the one who has been relegated to banking hell.

It all started simply enough.  I tried to send my daughter a birthday present, a box of her favorite potato chips from my hometown in Ohio.  All previous transactions with this company, using my Mexican-bank debit card, have been seamless over the past four years.  This time it was declined.  The bank said my address was incorrect.

Okay, so the company is located in small-town, rural Ohio.  Mexican addresses and spellings can baffle them.  I had the clerk tweak the address and try again.  Declined for the same reason.

When I called my branch to verify my information on file, the address they gave me was different from the PO Box I´d used successfully for years. (To date, I still have no explanation for why it was suddenly invalid.)  Chalking it up to “all part of the Mexican adventure,” I was back on the phone with the potato chip company to retry the transaction.  Declined: incorrect address.

Trying to communicate with someone on the bank’s 800 “customer-service” – I use that term loosely – number is slightly less painful than having root-canal surgery performed without anesthesia by a first-year dental student. (You’re probably nodding your head in agreement right now.)  After many transfers through long periods in “hold hell,” they advised I go to my branch and register yet another address.  I did, and armed with new data I tried again with Ohio.  The transaction was declined anew for the same old reason.

Meanwhile I had checked my bank balance regularly on line.  The thought had crossed my mind that my account was being dinged for all these declined transactions.  My balance appeared static, however.  Until I tried to withdraw a little cash from the ATM in Melaque.  What do you mean no hay dinero sufficiente?!?

There ensued an in-branch folly involving various lines and much animated chatter, mostly on my part, until I was ultimately banished to the hot-line phone to Mexico City located in the bank´s exterior lobby.  That’s right, the one on the wall between the ATMs.  Imagine trying to carry on a confidential conversation over a bad phone connection while standing between two hot slot machines.

Bottom line: every time the bank “declined” my transaction, they posted it as “pending” against my balance.  And, I’ve been informed by denizens of their customer-service abyss, that my money could go either way: back into my account, or cleared for delivery of potato chips.  My daughter is ecstatic at the prospect of getting 40 pounds of her favorite snack.  I have become the poster child for promoting the use of medical marijuana to keep one’s blood pressure under control while struggling to get my money back.  Thanks to a friend’s credit card from a U.S. bank, however, at least one birthday box of chips is on its way – better late than never.

Busted, Buster!

I’m not the only one whose ass got busted last week.  Buster, Stephanie Wunner’s pet eight-month old burro, escaped his backyard corral on Sunday evening and went missing for almost 12 hours.  An APB was issued on our message board, and a search party (armed with carrots, Buster’s favorite food) combed La Manzanilla.  Buster eluded capture until the following morning, when he was busted by the trash-truck drivers who saw him on the road out of town, headed for the highway.  A gardener with a bicycle and a rope was quickly dispatched to lead the errant donkey home.

Stephanie described Buster as a “500-pound puppy that craves attention.”  Apparently he felt that his daily ration of affection was lacking and figured out how to open his recently reinforced gate in search of more.  She admitted that Buster had wandered off before, but he usually stuck to their usual daily-walk route and was easy to find.  This was his first foray into the main streets of La Manzanilla.

None the worse for wear after his nighttime escapade, Buster is content to be back home in his corral.  New burro-proof gates will be installed soon.  Another happy ending in La Manzanilla.

Careyes Polo season finale

Copa Agua Alta, the biggest international event of their season, is scheduled this week at the Careyes polo fields.  Matches will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, and will continue at the same time on the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with the final match on Saturday.

The public is invited, at no charge, to watch players from Mexico, the United States, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Columbia and Peru compete in this grueling five-day tournament.  Food and beverage service will be available fieldside, as will intriguing merchandise from local artisans’ pavilions.  Matches are expected to last until 7:30 p.m. each day, at which time everyone is welcome to mingle with riders and fans at the Punto Como Italian restaurant in the Plaza de los Calalleros.

Sponsors for this year´s Semana Santa event include Seguro Atlas, Milagro tequila, BMW Group, Italian fashion house Scappino, and PANYC investments.  The Careyes polo fields are located north of La Manzanilla on the beach side of Highway 200, between KMs 49 and 50.  Look for the small sign marking the entrance, drive – slowly – a few kilometers to the first field, and stay on that road ‘til you get to the playing field with all the activity.  Punto Como is a short drive north of the polo grounds, on the right at the curve where the hospital is located.

Spring forward

Mexico finally switches to Daylight Savings Time at 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 1.  Yes, that’s this weekend.  Remember to set your clocks ahead one hour before you retire on Saturday night, so you’re on time for however you spend your Sunday.

Sunday’s change to DST will put us back in sync with friends and family in the US and Canada, where time changed on March 11.  We will plunge back into early evening darkness on  October 28, when we “fall back” an hour, to be followed by our neighbors to the north on November 4.