GringoPost | Ecuador: Be careful

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Be careful

I recently experienced a series of events that turned out to be related in a way that made me want to send out a reminder / warning to everyone who's living this wonderful life in the paradise called Ecuador.

I've lived in my house in a small town outside of Cuenca for almost four years. When I moved in I didn't want a landline telephone but when I had my ETAPA internet set up, I was made to understand that my internet service arrived at my home via the telephone lines. So I haven't squawked about the $3.30 or so monthly bill for my phone line.

My wife recently mentioned that she would like to have a landline for some calls she typically makes at a nearby phone booth. So, on a recent 10-day trip to the US, as a surprise I bought a very inexpensive old style corded telephone to use as our landline.

When I got home my wife excitedly opened the phone and we got it turned on and plugged in. But we kept getting a "no service" message. So, a day or two later we stopped by ETAPA to ask about the "no service" message. They said they'd send someone out to the house to check on the problem, but the day before they were to come we got a (cellphone) call telling us that there is no service at the house and never has been; that the owner of the house had the phone service cut off years ago.

So we stopped by ETAPA again this morning with the past two years of payment receipts in hand. We were prepared to demand a full refund for payments on a non-existent account. The person we spoke with at ETAPA was pleasant enough as she pointed out that the phone line I'd been paying for was located in another town. Looking over the receipt closely we realized that I've probably been paying my landlady's phone bill for the past four years.

This incident brought to mind an experience at the ETAPA offices just this past week when I went by to pay my phone bill. I slid last month's receipt under the glass along with a ten-dollar bill. The cashier counted change into her hand and pushed a pile of coins under the glass back to me. Thankfully I had in mind what my change should be and when I quickly counted what she'd given me, it was three dollars short. It's not like she counted out my change and forgot the $5 bill, no, she had substituted the $5 bill for two one-dollar coins; presumably to slip three bucks into her purse later on. She sheepishly corrected the problem when I pushed the coins back under the glass to her with my comment that it wasn't correct.

As I was thinking about this later in the day I remembered another time that the exact thing happened at ETAPA - another time I wasn't given the correct change. Luckily that time I noticed it, too, and the person behind the glass quickly made reparations.

I guess my whole point after all this is be careful. When I first arrived in this country with zero Spanish skills I had to trust in the honesty of everyone I encountered. And I don't regret it because I know that the overwhelming majority of Ecuadorians are very honest, kind, helpful people. And I love living here. But somewhere it must be written that it's okay to take advantage of people living in this country if they're from North America. My wife (who is from Ecuador) tells me all the time that people will take advantage of me just because I'm a Gringo and I argue that it simple isn't true, that people are honest and fair. But today I feel like a fool.