Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cablemas guys

Waiting for the cable guy: It's an almost universally shared experience north of the border. A bad movie. A metaphor for frustration. Who knew that Mexico has its own version? Sorting out our cable account in Mérida has become an ongoing test of patience, strategy and language skills.

I've been striving to become more independent and self-sufficient in Mérida. I needed a lot of help, early on, with basic needs and arrangements. Now as my Spanish slowly improves and I learn how things work, I'm trying to start paying our own bills and arranging services on my own. There's only so much I can do when we're only there for a small part of the year. But amending the cable contract seemed do-able.

 The contract with Cablemás was opened by the property manager, in her name because I was back in Canada at the time. I wanted to change it to my own name, and set up automatic payment so it would be one less thing to think about. It seemed to be going so well.

I got a copy of the letter that needed to be signed by both of us to change the name on the account. I got a copy of her ID, and brought in  my passport. After a bit of a wait at the air-conditioned office in the Garcia Gineres neighborhood, my number came up and I presented  my documents. A form was filled out and it all seemed right. Another form was produced to start the automated credit-card payments. I was happy to learn there is a healthy discount for paying by this method.

I was lulled into complacency by how well it appeared to be going. Even Tom, waiting patiently, remarked on the apparent efficiency of the operations. We've endured much more bureaucratic and frustrating experiences with Mexican bureaucracy in the past. 

After returning to Canada the next day, I registered for online access to my account, checked the latest statement and  - ack! - see the account information has been changed, and is now completely wrong. Instead of my name and address, it now has the property manager's name and address. The wrong information must have been typed into the system by mistake. I take another look at my copies of the paperwork from Cablemás. The name change form looks right, but that's when I notice another mistake: the account  number for the automatic payment is incorrect. Looks like I could end up paying someone else's cable bill.

I email Cablemás, and get no reply for several days. So I call the office. The phone line is terrible and I can't make out most of the important details in the responses of the patient Cablemás employee on the other end of the line. She kindly offers to try it in very slow English. It goes a bit better, but her main point is that I have to come in to the office to change anything. When I explain that I won't be in Mérida for months to come, and I have no relatives there who can do it for me, and I'm afraid my service will be cut off, she says she'll see what she can do, and asks me to call back.

After a second phone call with a different person goes no better, I try the online chat support. It is much easier than the phone. I toggle back and forth to Google Translate to check unfamiliar phrases and parse my questions. Flor, the chat support person, says not to worry, the account details will be changed on the next bill. I relax a little and wait.

Update #1, April 2012: 

Flor is right, the account information is changed. It has my name but now it has my former property manager's address instead of our house. Not good. But the cable service is uninterrupted at my house.

I promise myself I will contact Cablemás and try again to sort out the problem with the account address, then spend the rest of the month distracted by other obligations.

Update #2, May 2012:

The new account statement arrives in the email. The bill is paid, and the payment is showing up on my credit card statement, so that eases my worry that I will end up paying someone else's account.

But the address for the account is still wrong. And there's another strange change. The latest charge is half the cost of the previous ones. Just under 180 pesos. I'm supposed to be charged 379 minus the discount for automatic payment. Has my service been changed? I check the Cablemás website and there's no price reduction in their package for TV and internet.

Back on line I go with the chat support service. Once again I'm told I have to come to the branch to sort it out.  Once again I say that's not possible. Once again I'm asked if a family member can come in. Once again I explain I have no family in Mexico, which seems incomprehensible to Cablemás employees. I'm promised someone will be able to help me in English if I try their toll-free line, but I feel I've been down that path.

I find the online chat support service with Cablemás is very pleasant. But nothing seems to get resolved. Why can't they just check their records and see that someone made a mistake typing in the account change?

I'm slowly conceding that I have to give in on this one and get someone to go in to Cablemás and sort it out for me. It's a bit of a defeat in the quest to master independent living.

The whole exercise gives me more empathy for immigrants and refugees everywhere, learning to live in a foreign culture, language and bureaucracy. Also the realization that frustration with the cable company knows no borders and needs no translation.