Friday, February 22, 2013

A guarantee is maybe a guarantee

GE Profile refrigerator #3 

The brass bell on our front gate clanked against the aluminum cladding – tink, tink, tink.  I opened the gate to two men standing by a truck, a third man the driver-owner stayed inside the truck.  The two delivery men carefully slide a new side-by-side refrigerator off of a pile of lumber and bricks, onto our sidewalk.

Our third new refrigerator had finally arrived.

A gringa friend of our recently quipped that she could make a bundle by setting up an appliance store next to our house – just to supply us with refrigerators!  True. When we moved into this house five years ago we had a lovely new stainless steel side-by-side GE Profile ice-making refrigerator.  

Through a series of power bumps, and power brownouts it suffered electronic brain troubles that wiped out the ice-maker.  Not the end of the world, unless you happen to have a spouse that needs ice.  Not just likes ice, or enjoys ice, but really needs ice for his sodas or the occasional glass of single malt whiskey.

Fixing the wiring - again - for ice-maker on GE Profile #1
We contacted the Cancun Sears service department for repairs, but discovered that the service technician was more interested in working off the books than fixing the problem.  Eventually he brought over a new mother-board for the water dispenser and ice-maker, and popped it in.  Simple.  Plug and play.  

The next time the mother-board frizzed out Lawrie took the offending part into Sears and asked for a replacement piece.  They said that unless their qualified technician installed the mother-board, they could not guarantee it.  Oh well, buying the part was a cheaper fix than using the Sears technicians.  But of course, the part they sold us didn’t fit the refrigerator, and when we took it back to Sears the service department staff responded, “Sorry, it’s not returnable.” 

Lawrie - fixing the ice-maker once again

Eventually Lawrie figured out how to baby the mother-board back to life for another year or two.  We finally gave up on refrigerator number one in March of 2012.  We bought the same make and model a GE Profile through the local Chedraui Super Store.  It fits the space in our kitchen and has the same plumbed in ice-maker.  

When they arrived to deliver refrigerator number two we discovered our custom-built front door was two inches too narrow to accommodate either the old fridge, or the new one.  It took four strong guys to man-handle the refrigerator around the side of the house and into our kitchen area.  

Chedraui deliving GE #2 March 2012
Great!  We are all set for another five years.  Sparkling new, no rust or corroded electronics to fight with, and we splurged on a reasonably expensive surge protector in hopes of keeping this refrigerator alive longer.   Good to go.  Almost.  

Around the middle of November we noticed that frozen things weren’t staying frozen.  This refrigerator was only seven months old.  I confidently took my receipt to the customer service desk at Chedraui.  No luck.  As both the manager and the electronic manager explained to us the Chedraui guarantee is only good for two weeks; anything longer than that we must deal with the authorized GE service centre in Cancun.  

They called ServiPlus in Cancun to schedule a repair appointment for us – for November 29th.  We waited, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and after my eighth phone call to ServiPlus in Cancun the technician arrived on Monday.  The diagnosis; we need a new compressor.  He will be back on Saturday.  And yes the parts and service call will be covered by the guarantee. 

We forgot to ask which Saturday? What month? And as it turns out, what year?

Eleven weeks without a fridge - Serviplus sent a new one
Guarantees in Mexico are not necessarily guarantees.  It’s a game of Survivor.  Outlast your opponent - with persistence.   We have several friends who have had their own frustrating experiences; returning a new but-broken coffee pot to Wal-Mart.  The customer finally pointing at the overhead sign: Wal-Mart makes everything right with our customers. 

Or another friend had a new dryer delivered, non-functioning, from Sam’s Club with lint in the lint-trap and someone else’s socks still inside the drum.  It would seem that another customer returned the broken appliance.  It was then boxed up and place back on the floor - available for purchase.  This same friend was the recipient of a new washing machine delivered broken.  Her handyman husband fixed it rather than face the inevitable delays for the warranty service.  

Lawrie unwrapping GE Profile  #3
I continued to telephone ServiPlus in Cancun three times a week.  I can be very persistent.  Tomorrow, next week, soon were the consistent answers.  We even went into Cancun to see if we could locate their service department.  Nope!  They had moved with no forwarding address.  

After twenty stumbling Spanglish telephone conversations I enlisted the help of our friend Freddy Medina.  He made another twenty or more telephone calls to the company we were now snidely referring to as ServiMinus.

Freddy said, “You just have to keep calling until they give in.  This is Mexico.”  

Eventually a miracle happens, que milagro.  We recently received a telephone call from ServiPlus in Mexico City.  The young woman spoke perfect English and said we would be receiving a brand new GE Profile refrigerator on Thursday February 7th 2013 – eleven weeks since our refrigerator quit working.  Wow!  I was ecstatic.  A new refrigerator, I’d have been happy with just a new compressor. 

Foolish me.  Never, ever, tempt the gods. 

Delivery guys man-handling #2 along the side of house

No refrigerator on Thursday morning, or Thursday afternoon.  By Friday afternoon I had finally reached the end of my patience.  I didn’t have the telephone number of the person in Mexico City so I called the Cancun office and vented my frustration on the staff there.  

Going to car ferry with fridge on hand truck
I demanded a return call within ten minutes giving me the exact date for the delivery of the new refrigerator.  And again: que milagro.  The woman from Mexico City called back within eleven minutes – the GE Profile would be delivered on Monday morning, February 11th.  It was! 

The two delivery guys man-handled the new refrigerator around the house and into the kitchen, and removed the old refrigerator using the same route.  They then loaded the broken one onto a two-wheeled hand-truck and proceeded to trundle two miles to the car ferry for the return trip to Cancun.  

Would we purchase another GE Profile, GE Cafe, Mabe, or Easy appliance?  Probably not because we would end up dealing with the frustrating, stonewalling tactics of ServiPlus.  

But in the end, what does it really matter?  We are lucky enough to be able to afford a stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator.  

Others are happy that their children are well, they have food on the table, a roof overhead, and the sun is shining.  

Maybe that’s the best guarantee.

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, February 15, 2013

It’s a wrap!

I hear y’all were at a disco ..."

“I hear y’all were at a disco dance before comin’ here.” She said in her husky Georgian drawl.  Her grinning smile and the tone of her voice implying: a disco dance?  Really?

Well, yes, most of the crowd assembled to listen to E.G. Kight’s rich voice belt out southern-fried blues had been at a disco party thirty minutes before.

E.G.’s second performance at Jax Bar & Grill was the final event in a week-long string of festivities – all aimed at raising funds for two well-known island charities.

Enjoying E.G. Kight's southern blues

The majority of the events were focused on raising money for the very significant Help a Special Child Inc. (The Little Yellow School House) while this second concert by E.G. Kight was solely to benefit the Isla Animals society. 

Hair of the Dog - starting point at Jax

Another event the Hair of the Dog Poker Run organized by Paul Ricker and Brook Prinsen was also a very successful first time event for the Isla Animals society.  

A group of fifty-two participants all clad in vivid green t-shirts met at Jax Bar & Grill on Saturday morning, and set off on their adventure as a group.  

Get Down Tonight!  Ashley, Lawrie, and Betty
The bar-hopping revelry yielded over $1000.00 to help with spay and neuter clinics, or vaccinations for the many dogs and puppies being sheltered and fed by the organization.  

The final fundraising event for Help a Special Child Inc. (The Little Yellow School House) was the disco dance hosted by Brisas Restaurante.  

The proprietors Karina and Wbeymar Maldonado contributed fifty percent of the beverage revenue to the host charity.  

DJ Rosa Sirenas
It was a fun way for the volunteers who helped with the fishing tournament, the music festival, and the t-shirt sales to unwind, relax, have a few laughs.  

Special guest DJ Rosa Sirenas kept everyone grooving to the music until it was time to boogie on down the road to Jax, and the final E.G. Kight concert.

And just to keep everything interesting the national Mexican carnival celebrations started on Friday, so at times the two boisterous events overlapped each other with raucous music, booming sound systems, dance troops, noisemakers and whistles competing with speeches and awards ceremonies.  

One of the colourful Carnival entries
At one point during the disco dance we had two separate sound systems on the street booming out salsa music for the carnival dancers, and our DJ blasting disco tunes. 

How do you dance to that?  

Is it salsa-disco, or rock-and-roll salsa?  It was all good fun.

But now it’s over, wrapped up for another year; two amazing back-to-back events; the six-day long Island Time Fishing Festival intersecting the five-day Mexican carnival celebrations.  

Great Carnival band - beating on the drums  

Whew!  It’s nice to get back to a quieter routine. 

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie


Friday, February 8, 2013

It’s all for a good cause

Wake up!  Time to go fishin'

I slowly pried my eyes open. The clock shows 5:15 - in the morning!  Sighing, I quietly fumbled my way out of bed in the pre-dawn darkness, trying not to disturb my spouse, who was still slumbering.  Dressed, but with no time to wait for the coffee maker to do its thing I snuck out the door and hailed a taxi.  “Marina Villa Vera por favor.” 

Songwriter and ITFF Director Jeff Outlaw sound checks
It’s opening day for the 2013 Island Time Fishing Festival and I promised to take photos of the boats as they head out for day number one of fishing. The things we agree to do when sharing a bottle of wine with friends…   All of the proceeds from this multi-day event go to support the island-based non-profit organization Help a Special Child Inc., (The Little Yellow School House), so yes this is all for a very good cause.
Nick Norman, Lewis Brice and Jon Stone at Soggy Peso

This year the entertainment line-up was as interesting and as talented as previous years.  Nightly concerts featured different entertainers upstairs at Jax Bar & Grill; Rivers Rutherford, or Wynn Varble and David Lee, or Craig Wiseman and Rodney Clawson.  

On Wednesday night E.G. Kight, a good friend of Jackie Walker and Michael LeFiles, presented a fabulous dinner concert.  She had so much fun she has offered to do a second concert on Sunday evening – admission by donation, to assist the Isla Animals Society.  Whew!  Such a lot of really talented and really generous people who are donating their time and talents.
How much am I bid for Nick's sweaty shirt?

We unfortunately missed the E.G. Kight concert due to the after-effects of the annual Margarita Madness Wednesday at the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill.

Returning favourites Nick Norman and Jon Stone, with the addition this year of Lewis Brice, rocked the Soggy Peso with their original compositions, and old favourites.  

Margarita Madness at the Soggy Peso
The party rolled on from two until five in the afternoon culminating with the auction of Nick Norman’s t-shirt; reportedly fetching a whopping amount of money.  This great group of guys will also wind up the Island Time Fishing Festival on Saturday night at the Awards Presentation.  It’s a sold out concert, but occasionally the fishermen are too worn out by a week of fun to attend.  So, if you are really, really lucky you might be able to snap up a spare ticket late Saturday afternoon.  Check with the staff at Jax.

Carnivore and Relax - heading out fishin'
And this year there are even more events to keep fishermen, their friends, and locals entertained.  The Hair of the Dog Poker Run, organized by the Isla Animals Society happens on Saturday afternoon.  

Then there is a wind-up Disco Party hosted by Brisas Restaurante and the Disco Queen herself Deb C, from four until seven on Sunday afternoon.   The disco dancers can then disco right on down the street to the E.G. Kight benefit concert at Jax Bar & Grill starting at seven-thirty in the evening.  

As the Island Time Fishing Festival website says: The Fishing is Legendary, and the Party Never Ends.

John & Betty Raimondo and friends
In between the entertainment, and the great dinners, and the many cold beers the competitors always find time to go fishin’.  This is a catch and release tournament – for trophies, and bragging rights.  Trophies are given to boats, anglers, and junior anglers with the most releases.  

And since it is a fishing tournament, in the middle of a music festival, our Texan friends cajoled me into taking photos of the sport fishing boats as they departed at dawn.

As I got in the taxi at 5:45 in the morning, I realized I was wearing one green sock and one blue sock with my sneakers.  That’s what dressing in the dark does for my personal fashion sense. 

But, it’s all for a good cause, a really good cause; Help a Special Child Inc., 
(The Little Yellow School House).

Relax - LED underwater lights on transom


Friday, February 1, 2013

Changing neighbourhoods

Shopping with Aida at Cañotal Market
A few years ago, Aida, an island friend took me shopping in her neighbourhood at the Cañotal Market.  

I was impressed by the selection of produce, fresh meats, and other services such as shoe repairs available in the open-air market. 
While out walking recently I was surprised to discover a newer structure had been built around the outside of the old building, blocking off the natural light for the original arcade.  

The new building seemed to offer brighter stalls with tiled walls, a sink with running water, and better lighting.  And they were empty!  Every last one.

New and empty building at Cañotal Market
Marcy, my walking partner, remembers when she and Chuck first discovered Isla Mujeres twenty years ago the Cañotal Market was a bustling place.  Curious, we poked our heads into the darker older section to see which stores still remained.  

A number of the fruit and vegetable kiosks are closed, no longer in business.  One butcher store, a leather repair stall and a shoe store appeared to still be operating. 

Carlos - with a sample of his sandals

At the shoe store we stopped to admire a selection of stilettos shoes, much too tall and precarious for our untrained feet, but beautifully made in a variety of colours.  The store proprietor introduced himself as Carlos, and told us a little about his products.  He said he had worked for four years in Boston Massachusetts in the Birkenstock factory, learning how to construct well-made shoes.  Eventually he decided to return to Mexico to be closer to family and friends. 

He now has a shoe factory in the small city of Ticul near Merida.  The city is well-known for a variety of shoe factories making excellent quality footwear.  He showed us how durable his sandals were, asking me to pull strongly against his weight, trying to rip the toe piece away from the sandal sole.  No luck.  

He also mentioned that his shoes sold for considerably higher prices in stores in the hotel zone of Cancun.  Carlos was very proud of his products, but sadly admitted that footwear made in Mexico is losing market-share to shoes made in other countries such as China or India.

Cañotal Market in better times
Carlos’s English is quite good, so I asked more questions: “Why is the new building empty?”  He said the three bigger grocery stores, two Super X-Press stores and Chedraui Super Store, made the small kiosks unprofitable.  People have changed their buying habits, preferring to do more shopping in one location, rather than visit individual stalls for various items.  He said the government money had already been committed to the project by the time the grocery stores made their plans to build on Isla public.  So, the project went ahead as planned. 

Asking other islanders the same question I was given two more possible reasons the new building is empty; the monthly rental on the new stalls is apparently prohibitively expensive, and there seems to be problems with the electrical service to the new building. 

Whatever the problems it is sad to see a new building empty and graffiti covered.  It’s a forlorn sight.  

Fortunately I have a few photos of when it was a busy, thriving enterprise used by many islanders for their daily shopping.