About the middle of last September 2012 I figured out that our electric meter was not working at all. Our bills for the previous two months had been $5 and $5.79. The first bill of $5 did not hit me as being odd because we were not living in the house, they were replacing all the electrical wiring, light fixtures and electric plugs so we really had no electric usage, plus they were running extensions from our rental to run their equipment. The second month having a bill of $5.79 I just thought that is what the usage was because again the house was under construction and really very little power was being used. Then we moved into the house and one day I just took a look at the meter and it was not moving. I wrote down the meter reading and looked a few days later, it was the same – that is when I knew for sure that the meter was dead. I talked to Patricia about the process of getting a new meter installed and her advice was to visit the local CNEL office in Charapoto and inform them of my situation.
Because my Spanish is not good enough to explain what the problem was, I wrote a letter in Spanish with the help of Google Translate, simply stating that the meter was not working and that I needed a replacement. Attached to this letter I had copies of the electric bill from our closing (because electric bills are not received here you just need to know when to pay it), my cedula and censo, the first five pages of our deed showing that the property was in our name and a photo of the meter just for good measure. This was October 5th. The young woman asked if I have air conditioning which we do not but will eventually add to our master bedroom. I then noticed why she was asking that question – there are two different meters one for 110 volt and one for 220 volt. We will one day put in the a/c unit so we require a 220 volt meter. She updated her list with that information and we left.
On Tuesday, October 30th 2012 while Joe and I we walking out of the gate I noticed a CNEL truck parked on the street at Gina and Jorge’s (Tututa’s) house directly behind ours. The guy was looking around like he was lost so I knew they were looking for us. I said to Joe let’s just wait around for a few minutes to be sure and I was right they were here to see us. Of course neither of these workers spoke any English but the one man keep saying multa, I had never heard that word before so I had Joe look it up in our Spanish/English dictionary. That is when Paola, our neighbor came over to try to help. She knows our language skills are pretty basic and tried to reason with the one guy. She suggested that I have Patricia talk to him, I knew that Patricia was at the dentist out of town that morning and I really did not want to call her, but I did. She was available to speak to the CNEL employee and after talking to him three different times she finally figured out that he wanted us to do was give him a bribe. The reasoning was that he would report the meter as newly nonfunctioning and we would not be liable for any back charges. He was telling us if we don’t pay him we have to go to Manta to get a meter, and on and on. Problem is we don’t play that way. Our comfort level is simple. We want to pay what is right not the underhanded way around things. That is why I went to the CNEL office in the first place instead of waiting until someone figured out that the meter was broken and came to us. Joe and I pay our way, we have always paid our own way and will continue to do so.
The bottom line is an inspector will be sent out to our home, a new meter will be installed and I will be ready with a letter translated into Spanish that I will have Patricia review stating the facts of our living in this house.
This is only the third time we or our representatives have been approached for a fee, money for a coke, a multa or in my words a bribe. The first was when we were having our luggage brought from Puerto Lopez to Salinas and our driver was stopped by the police and they saw our luggage in the back of his car, looked at our luggage tags which didn’t match his driver’s license, and requested a tip of $10 to allow him to continue to Salinas. Our driver paid so we paid him back. The next time was when our attorney on the purchase of this property was trying to figure out what the holdup at the municipal office was on our deed. The inspector was looking for a bribe to move things along regarding the inspection of our property. Our attorney stated that her law firm does not do that, which we fully support. I find it sad that an electric company employee was so callous to ask for money to do something he is already paid to do. And am even sadder that I did not take his picture for the blog.
I know that is how things are done here but I fear that one day down the line if we just paid the multa someone from CNEL would figure out that we did not pay our bill and I would end up having to pay twice. Once for the bribe and again for the electric usage.
Believe me Joe and I are not “holier than thou” but if this is going to be our long-term home we must handle ourselves in an honorable manner. To give in to this type of treatment will only give these company employees the idea that all Norte Americanos are dripping with money and can be shaken down.
I wrote this on February 4th, we still have no meter. Things move slow in Ecuador, you just need to go with the flow!
Others may handle this differently. Everyone should do what is comfortable for them. Your mileage may vary.
Today May 7th 2013 a gentlemen came to the gate and I assumed it was CNT the telephone company with our new telephone line but I was mistaken it was two or three truckloads of CNEL employees. They have replaced every single electric line on the poles and are now completing the electric lines to the individual homes. As a side note: Joe and I just had the line from our electric pole to our home replaced by Serano about three weeks ago. But they needed to replace it with what CNEL is using so we have all new wiring twice in the past three weeks.
If you drive down our street you will be amazed to see beautifully positioned wiring going from each home to the pole instead of the crazy maze of wiring of all different colors dangling like party streamers. It was a professional job done with a minimum of discomfort on our part. Joe and I did go out and clean up the bits and pieces of junk left but that was a small price to pay for such fine work.
Check this out our bright new shiny meter.
Now lets see what this beauty is going to cost me and then lets see how they go about charging me for electric usage since last September…Oh, and no bribes today but there was plenty of glasses of water all around and I gave our neighbor Pilly $3 towards the beer he was getting for them all as the day wore on and the sun got hotter – it’s the tropics you know. The nicest thing about the whole day was the look I got from Pilly when I offered the money, I think he was teary-eyed because of my offer. I feel he knows who I am, and that I get him. Cuz these are just the nicest folks we’ve ever been privileged to live near.