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Saturday, October 6, 2012

More On's

Just to let you know, the title IS a double entendre....as you'll soon realize somewhere in this entry.  I have so many things to write about, I can't limit myself to just one topic this go-round.   Here goes:

More on Here vs There.  

I received a lot of feedback, all positive believe it or not, on my last entry.   Some gave me more examples, some alluded to the fact I could've posted a hundred more.   Here's a few more:

There:  I was there for 3 weeks, in a cosmopolitan area with more than 1 million population.  During that entire time, I don't think I heard a car alarm more than 3 times...and I'm being generous.
Here:    The DAY I got back, the number of times I heard an alarm started racking up like I won big at a slot machine.   Within hours I heard MORE than 50!!!!

Here:   October 1st and Christmas trees were being hoisted into place at the mall and merchandise hitting the shelves.   Geez, it used to not start until after Thanksgiving (like the 1950's), then it slid back to Halloween, now it's invading back-to-school!!!  
There:  Ditto

Here:   LAN airlines is probably the BEST airline I've ever flown.  I don't usually hype a big corporation, but get this!  Flying internationally from EC to there:
  • Flight Attendant uniforms were VERY professional.  Hair was coiffed.  Perfect makeup (on the women), and they carried themselves with dignity and pride.  They stood at attention at their stations when the safety announcements were running.
  • Waiting in my seat was a plastic bag filled with a blanket, pillow, earphones, earplugs, and an eye mask (like Kitty Carlisle used to wear).  NO CHARGE
  • We were served a hot meal with SILVERWARE....metal!!!...in COACH!!!   With WINE!!   FREE!!   in COACH!!!
  • Each seatback had its own video screen where I could select from an array of movies, tv shows, documentaries, or music.   I could use a remote in my armrest to control the sound, fast forward, turn the lights off/on, etc.  FREE.
  • I wasn't charged any fee for my baggage, nor for any onboard snacks.
  • When the FA's served a drink, they used tongs to pluck ice from the container to the glass. 
  • When they handed me the drink, they looked me in the EYES and smiled.
  • After everything had been served and most had eaten, they came by again to give us a refill on our wine and/or offer a shot of WHISKEY!!!   BINGO!!!!
There:  I fly American Airlines for the frequent flyer miles and the fact they partner with Alaska Air and LAN.  What a difference:
  • When checking in at an automated kiosk, it asked me how many bags I was going to check.  One.  $25 please.
  • Flight attendants wore pants and shirts.  The shirts were usually baggy and pulled half way out at the waist.
  • Hair was....pull it back and slap a clip on it.  Over time, some clumps of hair obviously worked its way out and frizzed, but no one seemed to care.
  • Meal?  Sure...for a price.   I just wanted a bag of nuts.  $6 please, and give us your card so we can swipe it through this thingamajig right now.
  • Prefer an aisle seat?  Yeah, if you enjoy getting sideswiped by the FA's hips every frickin time they walk by!!!
  • When they fill a drink order, they take one cup and schlep it through the ice and dump it into another cup....crrrrrrrunch!!!!  
  • When they hand you the drink, all you see is an extended arm.  The FA is moving ahead...NEXT!!!!
There:  Tip everyone.  Tip the dry cleaner, tip the person who scooped your ice cream, tip the coffee guy, tip the taxi driver, tip the doorman, tip the luggage porter, tip the guy who hailed you the taxi driver that you're going to also tip, tip the store clerk simply because she gave you the correct change.  It's up to 20% now for food servers.  Interesting, what with the prices of everything going up, the price on the menu goes up, too.   Therefore, food servers have built-in raises.  When real estate prices go up, the real estate agents get hefty raises without doing anything different.  Funny, I was lucky if I got a 3-5% raise at the bank.  And, there's the ever-present argument of just how to calculate the tip...based on the total bill, based on the taxes, based on the bill minus taxes...ugh!!!   One friend of mine is adamant it is 'double the tax' and (he or she) brings it up E-V-E-R-Y time we dine out.  So, when the tax rate goes up (and it does frequently), it's an automatic raise for the server.
Here:   A large percentage of restaurants include a 10% service charge which is either stated on the menu and/or the bill.  If not, a dollar or two is sufficient.   Taxi drivers are not tipped.   Nor is every one else and their brother or cousin.   Just those who have always been tipped (like in the 1950's)...the luggage handler, the tour guide, and the grocery boy who takes your bags to your car.

Ok, nuf of that.

When I got back from my trip 'there', I picked up my kids from two different places.   My dog, Gracie, went to Auntie Na-Na's house where she was spoiled and played with cousin Desilu for 3 weeks.  Though, there was that incident where she chased Na-Na's roommates rabbit around the yard and proudly brought it to her front door...albeit lifeless.  AHEM...cough, cough.  

The kitties stayed with Aunt Peg who housesat my newly purchased apartment.  There's no parking at all in front of the building, so I pulled up onto the curb so I wouldn't impede traffic in one of the two lanes, and put on my 4-way flashers.   It took a couple of minutes for Peg and I to round up the two runts and carry them downstairs and out to the street.  In that short amount of time, a tow truck had arrived and had my car half-way dragged up onto their tilted ramp....with Gracie INSIDE!!!    Being on a busy, noisy street with one cat in my arms and the other in Pegs, I was freaked and threw them inside the car right away for their safety.  The parking officer said it would cost me $70 for them to release my car right then and there, or $45 for them to finish loading the car and haul it away to the car-pound...wherever that is....WITH my 3 kids in the car!!!   Excuse me, but who's going to feed them or give them air when they have no way to open the car or lower the windows???!!!  Peg pleaded with them in Spanish that all we were doing was getting the cats and loading them for just a few minutes.  I mean, c'mon, out of 40 apartments surely it's the norm to have a car stop and load/unload regularly.  AND, the military hospital down the block who also doesn't have any on-street parking had a line of cars with flashers flashing and THEY weren't hauled away!!!   I'm sure Peg won them over with her freshly learned spanish and her blond good looks didn't hurt either!!!   So, my car (with Gracie, Bozo, and Chip) were released to us without prejudice.   GRRRRRRRR

Warning Will Robinson, WARNING WILL ROBINSON!!!!

Like I did recently (blog about renting a house from one "Macrina" who tried to gouge me for $200 a month utilities), I feel it is my duty to let others know of someone they might want to consider avoiding.  I have yet another experience I want to pass along in hopes that others will be able to steer clear of a pothole I slammed into.  This time, it's a person in real estate SALES.

'Cuenca Real Estate' is well-known.  They have what I consider as the largest online inventory and a nicely presented website, albeit in need of better functionality like most of them do.   They are also affiliated with 'TuCasaCuenca'.   Kathy Gonzalez Corral is a 'piece of work'.   I'll let you be the judge based on the FACTS hereto and forthwith and assunder (whatever):
  • I called on a Monday at 11am asking to see the property,  KG said she was trying to get access to the apartment because there were tenants in it.  Wednesday...no call, no update.
  • When I made an offer and it was accepted, she said she wanted $5k earnest money so she wouldn't show the apartment to anyone else.  I responded  challenging the notion that a large deposit was required in order to constrain her from continuing to show the place.  There’s nothing to stop her from continuing to show the place and obtaining backup offers should the agreement between the seller and I fall through, and only then would those backup offers be activated.  The accepted offer alone (not earnest money) is the basis to stop presennting offers…and only accepting backups in case our deal falls through.  Earnest money is about giving the seller a level of confidence, and a level of commitment by the buyer the deal will go through.  What am I doing...training KG?
  • I requested a conference call between myself, her, and the sellers (who reside in the USA) specifically so we could spell out what needs to be done and who does what and all 3 parties would hear the same thing at the same time.   8am.   The sellers and I are on the line...but not Kathy.  I call her, 'OH....I thought it was 8pm!!'.  She joined the call.   During the call I got the feeling she wasn't paying attention.   I asked her WHO takes care of getting the signed/notarized documents properly registered, recorded, and title changed?  She said she would take care of that.  (save this for later)
  • When the report of 'no liens' came back to KG, she wanted to set up a closing for 2 days later.  I had to remind her that I clearly documented (and reviewed in the conf call) that there were a list of contingencies to be met first.  She then wanted to review the list with me.  I responded there was no need for it to be reviewed..it just needed to be DONE!!   There were things such as proof the taxes were current, utilities paid current, the unit was cleaned, verify the inventory of included items (ie; kitchen pots/pans, bedding, tv, etc) were still there that still needed to be done.  AND, I wasn't about to take someone (KG's) word for it that there were no liens...I wanted to SEE the report.  KG just wanted to rush to closing and get her commission.
  • When we closed, we reviewed the charges between the buyer and seller.  She arbitrarily decided to charge $100 to pay to someone to 'go stand in line' to get the documents recorded, registered, and title changed at the Property Registry office.  She said 'I don't do that', 'I don't have time to waste standing in line'.   Ok, go back to the 3rd bullet above where she told us she takes care of that.  So, I decided I would inherit that charge since it was in my interest to get the documents recorded properly, though I thought a hundred bucks was a pretty hefty fee given wages are in the $2 - $5 an hour range here.
  • I also told KG that the electric and water bills are paid in arrears, so her affiliate, the property management company that handled the unit, would still need to pay those when they become due in Sept.   She collected $30 from the buyers side of the balance sheet for that.   (save this for later)
  • When we were finished at the Notary’s office, I asked her how long it would take to get the documents registered and she said about 15 days…which was during the time I would be in the USA.  She said she would get copies of the finalized documents and I could get them from her when I returned.  I wasn't betting on it.
  • When I returned, I emailed her asking if she had the finalized documents.  She said she would get back to me the next day…she didn’t.  I again asked for a status.  She responded telling me “The property is registered and the capital gains paid. I have a ten dollars balance.”  That’s not what I asked!!!!  I asked about having the documents!!
  • I replied asking her where I can pick them up.  She replied with the address and that she'd drop them off at 10am the next day and leave them with Carla.
  • The next day I waited awhile before going, knowing that 'miss spacecase' might forget or be late.  I drove to the address…there was no such address on either one of the cross streets she provided me.  Sitting in my car that was overheating (and myself, too), I tried to find her phone #.  Finally, I called someone I knew who had it and they text’d it to me.  I called KG and told her there was no such address.  'YES THERE IS, YES THERE IS!!!'  'Ohhhhh.....wait....it's not 3-46....it's 4-36!!'   GRRRR!!!!!  She told me she and Carla were waiting for me at 10am but I didn’t show up.  I informed her no one made an appointment…that she was simply going to drop them off!!! Then she told me Carla was not there..she had gone to the IRS…for me to come back later after 3pm.  GRRRRRR!!!!!
  • I drove to a gas station and put water in my radiator and decided to check out the office and see if someone MIGHT be there.   Lo and behold, minutes after our conversation, Carla was in the office along with, presumably, KG's business partner. Carla handed me a $58 check with no explanation.  KG told me in her email there was a $10 overage of cap gains paid.  So, why the $58 and why no explanation????  I left with the (supposed) registered documents in hand.
  • The next day I went to the Electric company to change the account name.  The documents I got from KG were required in order to change the name.  I sat in queue only to be informed they needed me to make a copy to leave behind with them.  I walked down the street and got copies made and went back to the electric company, got another number, and waited in queue again.  Then, I was told that the copies KG provided me were not valid because they didn’t have the registry’s stamp on it.   What she gave me was nothing more than the exact same document I left with when we left the Notarys office over a month prior!!   GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!
  • I called KG and, in disbelief, she asked me ‘the documents aren’t registered?’.  GEEZ, how am I supposed to know?  SHE was the one that was hired and paid to shepherd this transaction through! She thought maybe her ‘helper’ simply went and paid the capital gains tax.   How could that be…we paid the cap gains tax directly to the NOTARY when we signed the documents over a month ago!!!!  She said she didn’t look at the documents she gave Carla…WHAT???...she doesn't check things to be sure they’re correct?
  • KG called me back later that night and informed me her gopher didn't have the papers registered.  She wanted me to return the papers to her and she would have it done.  Funny….how could she tell me a few days earlier that ‘the property was registered, cap gains paid, and you have a $10 balance’ if nothing was done at all?  This does not add up.
  • Which brings the question to mind….what happened to the $100 I gave her that was supposed to be used to pay for this gophers service?   Who’s pocket is it sitting in?  And, for what?   NOTHING!!
  • And, that $30 I gave her to pay for the utility bills?   When I got back from my trip, I checked both the water and electric bills and they were not paid.   So, I paid them myself.  I'm sure KG never informed the property management company they were supposed to do this and, of course, never handed them the money, either.  
It's my belief that once this deal closed, papers were signed, and commission paid, KG simply filed the folder away as 'Done' and no longer had any interest (because there was no longer any monetary motivation) to follow through. 

Red flags went up in my mind when I first met her.  She plows through conversatons like a bulldozer with a wrecking ball attached.  You'd think she was born, raised, and just got off the train from da' Bronx.  She kept asking questions she had already asked before but, clearly, didn't pay attention to the answer.   If she took notes, it was random scribbles all over the face of a file folder.  She reminds me of a person with A.D.D!!

If I didn’t have the experience I have in real estate, I’d be sitting on a property that was never properly registered.   This has happened before to other people KG has represented and it was a mess to get it corrected.   Most people, let alone foreigners, don’t know the process and depend on the people they hire, to do what they’re supposed to do so their investment is safe.  And, they depend on what they say as being fact….verified fact.

I sent KG a note stating: 

"Some of the most critical elements of being a good real estate agent is good communication, being organized, being thorough, and attention to detail.  Need I say more?"



    PS.....oh, BTW, if you're coming to Cuenca and have the need for short-term housing, rather than stay in a hotel room with a bed, you might check out my apartment, see if it meets your needs.  I have it listed on Air BnB and FlipKey.   Here's the link to my unit on AirBnB:   https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/720684  And, the link to FlipKey (by TripAdvisor) http://www.flipkey.com/cuenca-condo-rentals/p441432/


    1. Auntie nana loves Gracie very much! Ans Desi Lu misses her!

    2. OMG you are home! Tell the truth: how many packages of Swiffers did you bring back with you?

      How was your mother? Are you going to do a blog of being back in the US?

      Charlotte NC

      1. Nah...I figured the blog is about my life in EC, so why focus too much on the US. Not a whole lot to write about my trip anyway, other than the foliage was amazing and I had a yard sale. Mom (81) is doing fine, making big bucks playig bingo 8 days a week.

        Yes, I crammed two packages of swiffers in my bags...they squish down so easily!!!

    3. What a nightmare! Thank you for sharing. I love your apartment. I went through the comps, yours is a gem. Much Love, Ron

    4. I love LAN too and I hate to admit that I think the food is good. :).

      I have heard some passing things about Cuenca .real Estate. Thanks for posting your "adventure" with her. We are still looking for our elusive farm.

    5. While I appreciated your first There/Here posting, and this one started out in the same vein, the last 1,730 words equate to a big old hairy rant!
      Hope you feel better now, sweetie.

    6. Dano do you know how LAN is with flying dogs?

      1. Hi Sherrie. I flew LAN from JFK to GYE with my dog and there was no problem. She was in a crate in the heated belly of the plane and came out perfectly fine. You just need to check with them for their requirements because it differs from airline to airline and, sometimes, even between cities (ie planne size might be different if you switch to another plane within EC)

    7. Dano, I think you are doing a great thing by reporting some less than worthy experiences. Very helpful!!

      About LAN, I love them too, BUT my experience with getting a refund for a refundable ticket has been a nightmare. I bought a r/t ticket in May, for a trip to Quito. Having done all I needed to do in 1 day, I was ready to fly back home, to Cuenca. Alas, there were no more flights that day, nor any scheduled flights the very next day. They told me, no problem, your ticket is exchangeable and refundable. So, I had to buy a more expensive TAME ticket (did not like them at all). A couple of months later, when I new that I would not fly to Quito in a while, I initiated a refund. It took around 10 mb of correspondence, visits to their office, phone calls, and more messages, before they sent me an email stating that my refund was processed and would be posted in 10-15 working days. This was over a month ago. Still have to see my refund in my cc :( So, it is a good airline, no doubt, BUT do not buy R/T tickets in Ecuador


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    About Me

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    Palma, Mallorca, Spain
    This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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