The Butter Problem

Today we went to pick up a payment from one of my clients. It was a little bit far and time was tight so we decided we needed to take a car instead of a bus. A taxi would cost around 400 pesos or $12 round trip but one of my ex’s friend’s girlfriend’s son (follow that) had a car and offered to take us. Price was not negotiated in advance (always a mistake) but we figured 300 pesos, about $9 was fair.

So we go there and it is clear that the son doesn’t really know the city. Luckily we do so we direct him there. We pick up the money and then head home. Except, the son doesn’t know the roads at all and ends up taking a exit off the highway without asking and we went way out of our way. Over an hour wasted in the car and we finally get to our neighborhood. We stop to change the money. Whenever dealing with money in the Dominican Republic one needs to pay attention. The guy counts the dollars $20 short. We correct him. Then he gives us the change in pesos and it is about $8 short — he counts again and gives us the right amount.

We have the son drop us off and ask what we owe him and he says that he has used all the gas he put in (his fault for going the wrong way without asking) so we should give him 700 pesos, about $20. This is Dominican logic. They feel they are entitled to something without earning it. He doesn’t feel any responsibility for using the gas or wasting our time, in fact he expects us to pay for it.

So we give him 500 pesos which is still more than a taxi would have cost and way more time but it is the only way to avoid a hassle.

Then we go to a supermarket and buy some groceries. There are many specials including a 2 for 1 offer on butter. I buy some. After I pay I check the bill and see that they butter was charged full price. They send me to customer service which is basically a bored woman at a counter where they sell cosmetics. She calls someone else over. They ask a bunch of questions, the second woman leaves and the first one tells me to wait. We wait.

Meanwhile I observe that the second woman is walking around the store, talking to people and clearly not doing anything for us. I walk up to her and ask if she is going to help us. She comes over and asks the same questions. I show her the bill, I show her the butter, I show her the store circular with the offer. She says it’s not the same butter because in the picture the package is yellow and I’m holding a silver package. I show her the name and type is the same. We walk together where I got the butter. I show her the sign in front of the butter advertising the special. She still isn’t convinced. She asks a young guy who works in that area about it and he confirms that yes, it is the right butter. She then takes the butter to a cash register and rings them up and see that yes, they are both charged full prices. She does this twice.

With a sigh she says that she guesses they will have to return my money for one package of butter. We go to another window and she says they will give me the money back for both butters and then I pay for one of them again. I don’t understand this but follow her. Meanwhile she keeps stopping and telling people about this butter problem. One guys says that the clerks at the register are only supposed to ring up one of the two butters. No one has told the clerks this of course. They both muse over the problem.

Finally she gives me back the money for both butters and rings one in again. Over 30 minutes for a $3 refund and not once did anyone apologize for this.

We walk with our groceries to the corner and take a public car to the corner near our house. I give the driver 100 pesos (the fare is 20 pesos per person). He doesn’t have change. Our stop is approaching and he still hasn’t given us the change. I advise him that we are leaving soon. When we stop he gives us 50 pesos, 10 pesos less than we are owed and just says he doesn’t have change.

Three examples of how in the Dominican Republic the customer is never first. There are things that I like here but this particular attitude which is rampant and worse because I’m a ‘gringa’ drives me crazy.

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