A somewhat typical trait in my, Henrik’s, family is what is called småsnål; no problem taking two years off from working – and the associated rather significant opportunity cost – but determined to save US $10 on a GPS. Hence the decision to buy a GPS in Argentina as thereby the detailed map of South America is included for free, whereas in the US the map is US $99 in addition to the cost of the GPS.
Without spoiling the rest of this post, I will let you know that this was not a wise decision.
Be that as it may, buying many things in Argentina is different. Here’s how it works: Karen and I walk into the electronics store. As soon as we do, a nice gentleman, let’s call him “Works for a commission”, Como for short, greets us. We already know pretty much what we want, and point it out to Como. Como has to get the keys to open the display case as, of course, the GPS is behind a locked glass door. BTW, the GPS is approximately US $ 190. There are no GPS’s to play with, none of them can be turned on, but at least we can touch it. (Side note, when we were buying a map at the AAA of Argentina, we were allowed to look at the folded map in its plastic wrapper, but we were not allowed to unfold it and thus actually see what we were going to buy. Otherwise buying a map is identical to buying a GPS…).
We tell Como that yes, we wish to buy the GPS and we would like to put in on my, Henrik’s, credit card, an American Express platinum card; I only mention the type of card because from our appearances, and from the type of card we wish to pay with, the odds are we are well-off American tourists, not a couple who makes a living stealing GPS units.
Now Como believes we are good folks, and he wants to make his commission, so he tries to make the next step as painless as possible: Como has to fill out a sales order on the computer, and since we are foreigners, Como needs to enter passport info as well as credit card info. But, I didn’t bring my passport. Luckily Karen did as her next stop is the embassy of Paraguay to get a visa. So, Como enters my credit card info, and Karen’s passport info onto the sales order.
Enter the next dramatis personae, the “But I don’t get a commission, so what do I care if the sale goes through”, let’s call her the B..ch. Como takes the sales order to the B..ch who has to enter the identical information – passport and credit card – into her computer. The B..ch quickly notices that the name on the passport, Karen, is not the same as the name on the credit card, Henrik. Now the B..ch has two choices: she can be helpful and say a) “unfortunately this is against our policy, but here’s how we can fix it”, or she can check with the manager and then choose to say b) “The sales order is wrong, re-do it”. Her choice was (b).
So, Como goes back to his computer and changes the sales order to show Karen’s credit card number as opposed to mine. Unfortunately, Karen’s card is a Visa, not an Amex, and while Como changed the card number, he did not change the type of card. Thus the B..ch again finds a fault with the sales order and rejects it.
On the third try, Como gets it all right. And the B..ch can now RE-TYPE all the correct info into her computer, plus take copies of the passport, and take paper copies of Karen’s credit card – even though the card has been run through the regular machine for approval – before issuing the invoice, which Karen signs.
But wait, there’s more.
We now receive a copy of the invoice for the sale, which we take to Mr Inventory, Mr Inventory goes back to pick up the GPS, then, in front of our eyes, cuts open the brand new, SEALED, package, that contains the GPS, and inspects the contents. He then stamps the invoice, and creates another piece of paper, the delivery notice, which Karen has to sign.
Having directly worked in operations, as well as having led very complicated sales / manufacturing organizations, I can confidently say that there are improvements that can be made here…
To add further salt to our logistics sores, we found out later that we had to buy a USB cable in order to connect the GPS to our laptop – so we can download locations where other overland travelers have camped, bought gas, bought propane, crossed salt flats etc. The USB cable we originally bought was incorrectly made, which cost us another day of frustration to trouble-shoot and resolve.
The moral of the story is: spend the $10.