Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sur Motors update #2

So we went to pick up the car from Sur Motors on Tuesday, July 22nd. They said that it would be ready by 4pm. We got there and they were still working on it. But Jose gave me the bill and said that I could pay that while I waited. It was surprising! The $1000 estimate turned out to be very cautious. The final bill was only $130. Apparently only a few plastic parts in the transmission had to be replaced (imported too). The largest cost was the removal and reinstallation of the transmission. We happily paid this sum and headed back over to the garage.

They had been revving the engine a bit before we went to pay and when we returned they were still doing it to test something. This had me a bit worried that something wasn't quite working right. After a bit of a wait, they called us back into the garage to take a look. Jose explained that the problem was that the car did not idle well and would sputter out. He showed me the spark plug cables and they rubber coating on most of them had been melted (little bubbles and holes). They tested with another pair of spark plug cables (from some other car I believe) and the engine idled with no problems. So we needed to replace the 4 spark plug cables.

That sounds really simply right? Well, we're in Peru. Nothing is simple here. It turns out that not only do they not keep these in stock in Arequipa, but Lima is also sold out of them. So we had to goto the parts office and wait for the guy to get a quote and estimate. It turns out that they will cost around $55 for the full set of 4 and it will take about 25 working days to import them!

So as of tomorrow the car will have been in the shop unable to drive for a month now and is expected to be out of commission sitting in the garage for over a month more. Ugh! I am certainly getting an education on cars lately. I thought that I had replaced most of the important parts already. But I've learned that you need to check/replace the transmission oil after (or before) buying a used car and replace the spark plug cables after 50-100k miles).

It would have been nice if they had noticed this spark plug cable problem before I was set to drive the car out of the shop, but I guess that's just how it goes in Peru.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sur Motors Update

So we went down and found the manager of service (Jose Luis Romero) for Sur Motors in person today. Since we had been trying for so long on the phone and it went no where. Anyhow, he let us know that the 2 people who ran the office/phones/desk for service had been fired. He didn't go into details about it. But it may have had something to do with them taking Friday off when the boss wasn't around and me making the front desk operator go back and check on them. It likely also was because these sorts of problems were common when they worked there and many other people were unhappy.

So he called Hildemeister in Lima on the spot. They said that they may be able to send it to Arequipa tomorrow. So we're supposed to call him again tomorrow to confirm that it was sent from Lima. They are hoping that everything will be fixed by Tuesday. Either way we've bought our tickets to leave Tuesday night. So if it is late, it will have to sit in the shop for a few more weeks. We told him about this today and he said no problem, they have lots of room and the place is safe. He also assured us that there would be no charge for that.

I'm still not letting him off the hook completely. Just because those other 2 people (Jose Peraltilla and a woman secretary) were idiots doesn't excuse him. He is still the boss and has the responsibility for hiring them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Problems With Sur Motors In Arequipa

So I took my car into the shop on June 23rd to have it looked at. I went to Sur Motors which is a well known shop in Arequipa and was supposedly professional. It also is affiliated with Mapfre Insurance. They tell me that they will call when the diagnostic is done and before doing any major repairs to get my approval.

After a few days, they still hasn't called me. So I had to call them. They asked that I come into the shop. They didn't want to tell me any information or what the problem was over the phone. Very confusing and strange. So I take a cab and go all the way across town to meet them. They explain that the pressure test on the cooling system went well (no problems) and that the brakes have been cleaned (no major work, just stop the squeaking). Then they explain that the reverse doesn't work and it is a transmission problem. But since I have an automatic transmission, they have to send it to Lima (Hildemeister) to have it repaired and then sent back to Arequipa where they can reinstall it. They quoted me $1000 for this work (shipping, fixing, returning, etc). They also said that it would take 10 days to have the car ready to go once we gave them the OK to do it. I asked about just buying a new transmission and they quoted me a price of $3000. So the choice was fairly simple.

10 days wouldn't be so bad. I had guests coming to visit, but we could do without the car for a bit. After those 10 days there still was one weekend when they would be in town, so we could take a road trip or something. We agreed to the 10 days and $1000 fix it in Lima solution on June 27th.

10 days later, July 7th, we called to see how things were going. But they told us that the transmission was still in Lima and they didn't know anything about it. They said they would call Lima and see what was going on, then call us back. July 8th passed and they never called us.

July 9th comes and we call them again. They tell us that the transmission will be shipped to Arequipa on Thursday July 10th and then installed in the car on July 11th. They say that we should be able to pick up the car on Monday July 14th. So there goes our weekend road trip plans.

We call on Thursday July 10th for an update, but they won't let us talk to any one in charge of service. They tell us that they will have someone give us a call in a few minutes. No one ever called.

Friday July 11th rolls around and we call them again to see if the transmission arrived and if it is in the process of being installed like they said. The reception lady answers and then transfers us to service. This happens 10 times, each time I sit on the phone for 3-5 minutes with no answer. I spent over 30 minutes calling them and not being able to speak to anyone in service. I finally call back and tell the lady that I keep getting hung up on and that I need to talk to someone in service but no one is answering the phone. It's Friday at 3-4pm so it's right in the middle of operating business hours. I ask to talk to the manager/boss of Sur Motors and she tells me that he's on vacation until Monday. Finally the reception lady leaves her desk and goes into the garage to talk to someone herself. She comes back and tells me that the transmission hasn't arrived yet and it should arrive on Monday July 14th and then be ready for me to pick up the car on Tuesday July 15th.

Tuesday July 15th rolls around and we call back again. We ask to talk to the manager of the service, but they tell us that he's out on medical leave. They tell us that the transmission hasn't arrived yet and it should get there on Thursday. I can pick up the car on Friday July 18th.

We call today Friday July 18th (3 weeks after agreeing to $1000 and 10 days to fix the transmission). We ask for the manager of service again (Jose Luis Romero) but we're told that he's in a meeting. So we ask for the manager of Sur Motors (Brian Chavez), but we are told that he has a different schedule and doesn't come in until 3pm. Finally we ask the guy at the service desk about an update on the car. He says that the transmission won't be shipped back to Arequipa until Thursday July 24th and that we might be able to pick the car up on Friday July 25th!!!

So our 10 day estimate is now at minimum a month wait. At no point in the process did they ever inform us of what was really happening. They just made up things hoping that Hildermeister in Lima would get done and ship back the transmission soon. They never called us at all, after promising to over 3 times. We always had to call them and then were often not allowed to talk to people and given bad information. They always had an excuse for not letting us talk to someone in charge.


In 12 years of car ownership in various parts of the US and Peru, I have never seen a less professional mechanic shop than Sur Motors in Arequipa, Peru. I've never felt so jerked around, deceived, and lied to by a car dealership and service department. They make a bad name for Hyundai.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ordering A Dell Desktop In Peru, Beware!

I just went through yet another horrible experience here in Peru.

I've been shopping for a good new computer for a couple years now. I wasn't able to find a price I liked or a company that I was confident with. So I never made a purchase.

Recently Dell opened a Peruvian version of their website which allows many of their computers and monitors to be purchased in Peru (but not accessories). I was really excited by this as I had used Dell in the past (in the US) with good results. So I got my computer setup with their website and all the parts and options I wanted no problem. There weren't any warnings and everything looked good. The price ended up being around $2500 and $2700 after 'Shipping and Handling'. Great, so I sent off the order.

Everything in the US worked well and the machine was built, tested, and sent out on time. The estimated delivery date was June 6th after ordering on May 15th.

Problems started once the machine got to US customs. Dell used DHL as their carrier and that was a major mistake. Dell also did not provide me or DHL with the proper customs documents (In Spanish). And it took a week to get Dell to provide them.

But most of the real problems came from DHL. They stalled and bumbled almost every step. They asked for me to fill out 4 documents, then after days passed, I had to fill out more documents, then it just continued. They didn't seem to know anything about dealing with Peruvian customs. I had to fill out over 15 different documents, many of them multiple times because DHL did not provide any sort of instructions. In the most extreme case, DHL rejected my document because it had the word 'monitor' in it. They claimed that this was not in Spanish and told me to resubmit the document in all Spanish. Of course 'monitor' is a valid Spanish word and DHL just failed high school. This sort of thing happened repeatedly over more than a month. If I requested an update or information about how things were going, I often didn't receive a reply or only got it after a delay of 2-3 days.

I had worked with FedEx on various occasions in the past. I always had to fill out paperwork and such, but they always sent me the entire set of documents on the first try. Not like DHL sending a couple documents every few days for weeks on end. Also DHL often wasn't clear about what they wanted and when I asked if they were waiting for me to provide more info or more documents, I often didn't get a response as days passed.

Then came the money issue. I had already paid Dell $190 in 'shipping and handling'. Dell's documents and website indicated that I would have to pay 'customs duties' and nothing else. But then DHL demanded that I pay them over $1000 for customs. Only $600 of this was for the real Peruvian customs. $150 was a 'commission' paid to DHL. Another $250 was shipping, storage, paperwork fees, and 'general expenses'. I complained to DHL about it and they didn't have anything to say. I called Dell about the problem and they told me that their computer system was down 'all day' and that I would have to call back later.

I finally paid the outrageous and poorly explained fee. This could only be done in BCP and when I asked about paying by credit card they only replied to me with their bank account # and bank name. With FedEx I was able to just pay by credit card over the phone, simple.

It took another 2 weeks for them to finally get the machine through customs. Then one day DHL called me and said that I needed to pay an additional $800 in expenses beyond what I had paid before. I asked why and they just said that I could read the paperwork when they brought it to the house. They said they would deliver everything in the morning of that same day (call was at 8am). Their driver didn't show up until after 2pm.

Then the paperwork was just a huge mess of multiple documents with different charges and no where to really see it all in one place. So I had to sort through it all, standing outside my house for an hour. Finally after multiple calls to the Arequipa office for explanations and reviewing the documents, I figured everything out. They were charging me ANOTHER $150 'commission' without explanation. They were also charging me more shipping, storage, and 'general expenses'. When asked why, they just said 'more expenses beyond what we charged before' pretty much no explanation at all. I finally just paid the fee just to get things over with and get my damn computer that they had been holding hostage for over a month. The final delivery day was June 22nd, almost a month late.

I had to pay the driver for DHL in the street the last $800. He could barely do the basic math needed to make change (took over 20m). He also could not provide a proper receipt so I had to make due with him signing and dating a piece of paper with a pen.

I contacted Dell Support about these problems and they just said that they didn't know anything about it. They said they would 'take my comments into consideration in the future' but that was it. They didn't offer to help with the problem or remedy it in any way.

So anyhow, I unpack everything and get the computer setup. The monitor and desktop work great. But I'm careful to check the voltage requirements on all parts. This is when I find that the speakers only support 110 V. Why would they send me brand new 110 V speakers to Peru? They should know that Peru only uses 220 V.

So I contact Dell support again. This time they tell me to talk to tech support. So I contact tech support, after a few exchanges they tell me that they cannot do anything and I need to go back to Support. I contact support again (getting upset), and they tell me to just get a converter from 220 V to 110 V. I say that this is their mistake and that they should have to at least pay for my converter, but they reject that. They say that Dell does not carry any 220 V speakers at all, for any country. So I ask them to make a big warning on their website so that this doesn't happen to more people and suggest that they start to find some 220 V speakers as Peru is 220 V only. They say they will 'take my comments into consideration'.

So yet another problem with Dell that they cannot resolve. I know that they just entered into the Peruvian market, but I still expected them to do things correctly and not fuck everything up like a Peruvian company.

I will never again use DHL and certainly will never use Dell International sales again. The whole process was a massive frustration and was full of over $1800 in 'hidden charges'. If it isn't fraudulent, it's about as close as you can get. If anyone has a lawyer who is experienced in Peruvian customs and shipping laws, I am looking for one to investigate DHL's 'hidden charges'.