Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bills, Bills, Bills.

Here's something new. Picture getting a bill... for the installation of your cable or internet, for a snowplow or yard service, for painting, for delivery of an item, for pretty much anything. What does it say on the bottom?

Payable in 30 days, payment within 15 days of receipt, something to that effect. Right?

In Costa Rica, all bills are Payment Due Upon Receipt. The minute it is handed to you, you have to pay. This requires carrying lots of cash, or making trips to a cajero automatico with vendors impatiently driving behind you.

It also adds a layer of serious stress... if the dishwasher repairman comes, fixes it, and then leaves with your payment, you have no time to see if it is truly working properly. His receipt, with contact info, may include a cell phone number that never works again. And your money's gone.

So there's a whole new level of "I've got a great handyman" type recommendations. They carry a lot of weight, and people do not lightly share the handyman, delivery service, cleaning crew, security consultant, moving company, courier, taxi driver or any other service they use. After all, their recommendation carries a lot of trust and high stakes with it. There's no Angie's List or Consumer Reports!!

It is a big mental adjustment, getting used to "Payable Upon Receipt." It adds a level of immediacy, a level of rush-rush-right-now that, funnily enough, adds to the days slipping by on "Central American Time"... which means that things get done when they get done, appointments are rough estimates, and things always seem to 'come up' that prevent the day's business from being completed. Like, running to the cajero to pay a bill! That sort of urgent thing gets done, but big grant submissions or workouts at the gym... not so much.


  1. The "land of Grenadia" is very similar. Recommendations are your lifeline. Otherwise you end up like my friend Scotty who had his car literally kidnapped by the mechanic. The mechanic told people that Scotty had given it to him...mmmmm...I don't think so. Do you also have to pay your bills in person? I have to go to the bank every month to pay my power bill. Can't mail it, can't call it in, and you definitely have to have cash. Oh, and the bank is only open from 9am - 2 pm with an hour off for lunch. I MISS auto bill pay.

  2. Well, I guess we all have one thing in common. I can't get our contractor to show up on a regular basis and just when I think he's "on his way" he calls to tell me he can't make it and will see me in a few days. And, he only takes cash. Go figure!

    By the way- in an effort to avoid the harassing phone calls, my response card is in the mail! I loved it!

  3. Oh man, I would spend every waking minute in social terror by this system alone. Mental note, never live in Costa Rica or Granada. Check.