18 October, 2017

Paradise Tax - An Example

Living in paradise should be laid back and easy? Hah! Guess again. Here's just one example to give you an idea of what it takes to live in 'paradise.'

This is an example of what we, who live here, fairly frequently refer to as the 'Paradise Tax.' It's the price you pay to live among the palm trees and warm weather, and all the flora and fauna that make life here unique, and at times, a challenge.

Whatever the thing 'Paradise Tax' is referring at the moment, is frequently exasperating, frustrating, and maddening, often all at the same time. It seems to take forever to solve, and usually occurs in ways you never dreamed possible.

Take, for instance, the following scenario involving our MasterCard credit card.

You know how every three years or so, your financial institution makes you renew your credit cards? They usually send new replacement cards out about thirty days before the old ones expire, right? Right. Well, we've ridden in this rodeo before.

Oh, sure, we have a willing friend (Don) in the States, who, along with his wife Shelly, let us use their address as our 'stateside' address. You might use a relative or a rented mailbox, or something similar.

Your replacement cards should show up at whatever address you're using and your friend, relative, etc., dutifully repacks the cards and sends them on to you down here in Belize, to arrive in plenty of time before the old ones expire. Sound familiar?

Like I said, to stay with the rodeo parlance for no particular reason, we've had a go-round or two before. Each time the results have been slightly different than each other time. This time was no exception.

Since our cards were set to expire on 30 September of this year, we thought it would be a good idea to try and short-circuit the problem of getting our replacement cards down here. So, around the first week of August, I contacted Citibank, via Skype on my iPad. Remember, we've been through this goat-rope with Citi a few times before. You might think that they would have some idea of how to do this. To quote from the British version of House of Cards, 'You might think that. I couldn't possibly.'

After an hour on the phone with the initial call-taker (who is always so maddeningly pleasant), and after having been transferred to Citi's Fraud and Early Warning Department, and going over in detail that we actually want our cards sent, once again, to our Belize address, we felt fairly confident that things might not get too screwed up this time.

Like a bolt out of the blue around mid-August, I we got an email from our friend, Don, who let ua know that he had gotten a couple of credit cards for us, and did we want him to ship them on down to us? I emailed him and told him to go ahead and send them on to us.

Of course, we assumed the bank screwed up and sent them to him, which they did. Don mailed them on to us using standard international mailing. Naturally, they didn't show up down here anytime too soon.

I don't remember exactly what day it was, but around the first part of September, I contacted Citi, this time talking with Maria. I asked Maria (Citi) to resend the cards directly to our Belize address, as we had some recurring bills that were coming due, and without the new cards, that wasn't going to happen.

Citi more or less complied with our request. They sent them via USPS Priority Mail to our Belize address. As usual, we waited for them to arrive.

Finally, a couple days before the end of September, I stopped at the Belize Post Office here in Corozal and checked our box. Wow! Jackpot! Not only did the cards that had been sent by Priority Mail show up, but so did the set that Don had mailed. Not only that, but our trusty local Olympia bank, without a call or an email from us at all, sent us our replacement debit cards

After getting home, I got online with Citi on 10 October to activate our new cards. Wrong, nothing doing. Then, after several more tries online, we noticed the card numbers on the cards that Don had sent as well as the ones that had been sent via Priority Mail, all had our old card numbers on them, with new expiration dates. Something was definitely haywire.

I called Citi once again. And, again, after about an hour with the call taker, Jason this time, and with Citi's Fraud and Early Warning Department. I asked them to FedEx the cards down to us, as I know FedEx arrives here in Corozal via Tropic Airlines at the local airstrip. While still on the same phone call, we found out that FedEx was telling Citi that our address was no good.

Taking a mighty calming breath, they attempted to send me a text verification code via my cell phone, which also didn't work. They explained the need for the text code was to verify to them that I was who I said I was. This was after already being on the phone with them for over half an hour. the problem with the text message not getting through was strange as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, all seem to have no problem texting me to take care of any two-step authentication issues.

I asked them if there was some other way to handle this. Citi said they were in the process of contacting DHL to send the cards down here. DHL apparently didn't find our address problematical.

Citi assured me the cards would be here in two to three days. That was on 12 October. Citi even had a DHL tracking number for me.

As you can see from the image to the left, it became a long two to three days. There isn't much of Central America that our new cards haven't been to.

Now it's the 17th of October, and I just got off the phone with the DHL driver, who is leaving Orange Walk as we speak, so we should be getting some new cards very shortly. We'll see.

Would you believe it? About an hour-and-a-half later and I get another phone call from the DHL driver. He's approaching our road and would like me to meet him at the gate.

DHL Van Approaches
I grabbed my camera and briskly walked out to the gate. On the street, it was a wait of no more than thirty seconds and I saw a yellow van off in the distance.

Filling Out Delivery Form
 Of course, there's always paperwork, and the electronic version of that as well. He passed me an iPhone-sized device and asked for my signature, acknowledging delivery of the package.

I signed for delivery and wished him a safe journey back to Belize City

Three Long Months and Success!
As I came back in the house, I think Dianna and I had the same thought. What if these cards also had the old card numbers imprinted on them? I mean, after all, the two previous attempts by Citi to get cards to us had that error.

I didn't wait but proceeded to tear open the envelope to see just what had come through such a circuitous journey to us.

Dianna wanted to snap a photo of me opening the package. I'm wearing my appropriately colored shirt, totally by accident.

Our fears were groundless. Citi finally did things right. I immediately sat down at my computer, logged on to Citi's app, and activated the cards. It all worked well.

While I was on their site, I went ahead and authorized a payment to Citi. Everything works just the way it should. Finally.

This is just one of the things that seldom, if ever, occur in the 'first world.' And, if it did, a quick phone call and 'overnight express' really does mean 'overnight.'

So, after three long months, we have our new cards, and life is good. Paradise tax and all.

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