Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rand Paul for President!! Of Mexico?

Enchiladas, tequilas and mariachis we know, but who would have imagined Mexico as a living laboratory of free-market-to-the-max, let-'er-rip economic policies, a place where the heads of corporations and service providers can wheel and deal pretty much unregulated except perhaps for the long shot of an angry consumer coming after them with a gun?

Rand Paul, Paul Ryan and other Ayn Rand devotees take note: You need to spend some time here sipping margaritas, fine tuning your all-government-bad theories and stoking your loathing of anything that even smells of outside regulation.

¡Get this man a sombrero!
An internship at TelCel, part of the corporate mammoth that controls the country's telecommunications sector, would be a good place to start.

When we went to pay our phone bill on Friday, Stew—Mr. Angry Consumer—demanded an explanation for two mysterious but hardly inconsequential charges on our cell phone bill: The equivalent of sixteen U.S. dollars in "third-party outside charges" for something called MIGNT and Club Applanet.

Actually, since Stew so far hasn't been able to translate his consumer fury into any mastery of Spanish it fell on me to do the bitching.

As soon as I mentioned the charges to the young, brown-eyed woman at the counter you could see her body language take on a defensive crouch as if pleading, "please don't hit me I only work here."

Without any other questions she punched a few numbers on her computer and announced that our "membership" on in MIGNT and Applanet had been terminated as of that moment! Clearly, this was not the first time she'd faced angry consumers on this matter.

Would we get our money back? No. Whom do I call for further information? She nervously jotted down two toll-free numbers on our bill. I called both numbers and bingo, both turned up busy for ever and not taking any messages. Internet searches led me to angry pro-consumer bulletin boards but not to any explanation of how or why we were charged for unsolicited services. My favorite board was apestan.com or "theystink.com"

Stew doesn't calm down easily and on the way home continued growling that "if we were in the U.S., we could file a complaint with the feds against the phone company" and there would be class action suit, and blah, blah, blah.

Problem is that we live in Mexico, where weak or nonexistent government regulations and similarly toothless independent consumer organizations relieve corporations and other service providers from any worries about lawsuits for negligence, malpractice, boiling-coffee-on-your-lap and other mishaps.

If the General Motors legal nightmare over faulty ignition switches had unfolded in Mexico, the company would have had little to worry about and GM's CEO Mary Barra would not keep showing at congressional hearings looking as if she hadn't slept a wink for the past six months. In Mexico I doubt she would have had to testify to anyone about anything.

In Mexico liability lawsuits are as unlikely as a mild piquín chile. Class action litigation? No comprende. Shit happens, however you say that in Spanish.

Nowhere is that more noticeable than in the health care sector: There is no practical way for the victim of a botched procedure or adverse drug outcome to come after the hospital, physician or other service provider for financial damages.

If, let's say, a slip of the scalpel turned your vasectomy into an orchidectomy all you're likely to get from the surgical team is a shower of heartfelt ¡Dios mío!  or ¡Santa Virgen de Guadalupe! but not a peso in compensation.

In a case closer to home, Stew's use of his right hand was seriously impaired by a botched surgery in Mexico a few years back and he had no recourse whatever against the multitasking "orthopedic surgeon" who still performs surgeries of the hip, neck, back, hands or pretty much any skeletal nook or cranny, mostly on ex-pats, even though no one's ever been able to ascertain where the doctor trained or his specific specialty.

Such legal or regulatory vacuum, of course, accounts for the much lower costs of medical care in Mexico. There is no malpractice exposure as such, and with it no worry about malpractice lawyers or the added costs of just-to-be-sure, redundant medical tests.

Back in Chicago after his surgical mishap, Stew was referred to a wrist and hand surgery specialist who after a series of expensive MRIs said he didn't want to try to mend Stew's wrist. The doctor was probably worried he might do further damage and decided not take a chance.

Had Stew's surgery been done in Houston or Chicago, it would have involved a panoply of expensive tests, attendants, specialists and so on and the costs would have been ten times higher. Of course, there also would have been a comparably higher chance—not a guarantee, mind you—that today he would have a fully functioning right hand.

Tell you, I used to hate those damn personal liability lawyers. Since coming to Mexico, not so much.

But back to Tel Cel, a part of Tel Mex, owned by the richest or second-richest man in the world, depending on the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Index.

From all I've been able to find on the Internet I must have "unwittingly approved"—the phone company clerk's wording—membership in these services. Is there any proof that I signed for a open-ended monthly charge for a worthless service, wittingly or otherwise?

Sir, you have to call the numbers that I noted on your bill, and which of course led me nowhere. And round and round, a consumer scam by any other name at least condoned by the phone company which agrees to bill its customers for bogus "third party charges."

Welcome to the free market, Mexican style. Rand Paul ought to come here don a sombrero and learn the nuances of deregulation-run-amok. Even if he doesn't change his mind the sombrero would help cover whatever it is he's got on top of his head.

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4 comments:

  1. Welcome to México, señores. The Russia of the Americas.

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  2. And no surprise that your expat friends and followers have no comment to this post.
    Dana Jennings
    Houston Tx

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  3. And it is just my kind of place. It is liking living in the Sovereign State of Steve.

    But the dark clouds are rolling in. AMLO is coming to town this afternoon -- with his own brand of corporatist socialism.

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  4. Have you/Stew considered talking to people at PROFECO, the consumer protection agency? They do carry some clout, and have been effective in disputes with Telmex, CFE, etc., at least sometimes!

    ReplyDelete