This longest post I have ever written is dedicated to my most consistent facebook commenters Petra and Palko, as they are going to enjoy it the most.
As my passport has been stolen and I had seen Misa’s problems with getting a new document from incompetent embassies, I decided to have my other passport be sent here from home. Yes, anybody can have two passports, if you did not know. I had my done especially for this case as advised by Chip.
As one of my credit cards has been stolen too, I asked for another card to be sent with the passport. As Misa used my emergency antibiotics, I also asked for restocking of these to be sent with the package.
DHL’s quote for passport was about 90 USD. Not too bad considering there was no other option. With the credit card and antibiotics it climbed up to 200 USD. That’s worse, but still better than a new flight Bolivia-Czech Republic and finish my trip here.
The service is supposed to be door-to-door, as I did not have permanent address in Bolivia, I chose to have it send to DHL office at the main square in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It was supposed to take 3 to 4 work days, so I settled into party life in Santa Cruz and waited.
In the evening of 4th work day (actually 5 days later if you consider the time difference) the package arrived to Santa Cruz according to the online tracking tool. But not to the address specified. It said status “clearance delay”. The next morning I went to my selected DHL office to ask what was going on. They said they can not look up the package, they have received no package from Czech Republic and that I should either wait, or go to DHL central office somewhere far in the suburbs. Knowing the Bolivian habit of sending people off for no real reason, I decided to wait a bit.
Meanwhile Czech DHL office called my mother (who had sent the package) and told her I chose different customs agency and that the package is not DHL’s business any more. This is complete lie, I did not chose anything at this point, I was just waiting as I was instructed by Bolivian DHL.
On Wednesday the next week (Tuesday was public holiday) I was already too impatient and went to the office again. Different lady this time told me, the package is at the customs for a reason she can not check. After asking what should I do or where should I go to get it, she said the only possible solution is to call on some number (and no, she can not tell me any address where the package might be). Not that she would call there and inquire about DHL package, but that I should call and inquire. And the lady was chatting on facebook while telling me so. DHL Customer Service at it’s best.
As my Español is obviously not on par with Bolivian bureaucrats, especially over phone, I asked at the hostel if the would make the call. The person at the other end said, I had to go to Bolivian Post Office to ask for the package. Not that the Bolivian Post Office would have anything to do with it (oh, please no), but the customs are there. Never mind that this building is next to the DHL Office where I had been just before, I went there again.
After long explanations at that building, I finally understood, that DHL never processes their packages through the customs at that building. That I should go to different customs somewhere far. And that I should bring with me:
- Passport original :)
- 2 Passport photocopies
- 2 Filled forms 170 (whatever that is)
- 1 Proof of permanent address
- At least 1 Electricity or Water Bill :)
- 1 Yellow Folder (so that they have where to store all the papers :)
Again, knowing the Bolivian habit of sending people away, I decided instead to ask at the hostel to call again. This time the guy was told to call on different number, that the package sure must be there. There he was told to call the airport, that the package has to be there, for sure this time. There they did not answer the phone. The guy really tried to help me in his country, but had to admit, that even in fluent Spanish, it is close to impossible to get to know what my next step should be.
I went to web, got 2 copies of form 170 (here, I must admit I was surprised, that Bolivian government is capable of making at least so-so functional web with forms), 2 copies of copy of stolen passport and yellow folder. And with all of this I decided to demand some customer service from DHL again.
I was lucky enough, or unlucky enough to be served by the gentleman this time, the same that told me on Friday that he could not look it up and I should just wait. I explained that her colleague told me lies and how I went there, called there and there and there and that it is just enough DHL lying to me. That I want to know where my package is exactly and right now. The lady even went to protest, that she did not lie to me, which is just another lie from DHL personnel. Anyway after some time of insisting that they do something, he made a few calls and said the package is for sure at the airport and that I should go there and ask for some person (he gave me one first name). Again knowing the Bolivian custom and imagining how I would search for some person by first name at the airport I insisted on more information like, what should I bring, where do I find the person, does she have a phone number? After I refused to go to airport just to ask somebody what they need, he finally gave me address of a company that is helping DHL to process customs and has office downtown. The address was wrong but by chance I realized that Calle Republicas might mean Calle Republiquetas and against all odds found the office. Now this is where the fun really starts.
They told me that because I came so late, DHL has already abandoned the case and my only chance is to pay them to finish the process. But DHL never notified me, never told me to hurry up and came to this agency. Quite the contrary they told me to wait, go elsewhere and than after a lot of insisting they gave me non-existent address instead.
It gets more funny: I have to go to the Bolivian Post Office and give them the forms 170 and other documents, to be registered as official importer.
And it also gets much worse to: because the package contains medicaments, the process is to get some paper from ministry of health. The trouble is, that this ministry is in La Paz. 16 hours by bus there, probably some bureaucratic battles fighting, supposedly a fee of 300 USD and then 16 hours back by bus. I think, DHL should know this sort of information before promising door-to-door service to Santa Cruz, as such is basically impossible without travelling across the country, paying insane money and travelling back.
Never mind the antibiotics, just give me the passport then!!!
This is not possible. It arrived as one package, it cannot be separated.
Can the medicaments just somehow disappear ;) ???
No, there are cameras everywhere and did you just ask me to steal for you?
No, I asked you to steal FROM me.
We finally settled for conspiracy plan with this DHL subcontracted company, that I pay them 200 USD and they will somehow bribe customs to separate my package into one with documents which they will finally deliver me and another one that will wait forever at the airport for the medical form. The risk was that the customs officers may refuse the bribe the next day. And I still needed to go to the Bolivian Post Office to register myself as an importer, but it was already closed for that day. I was reasonably pleased that after weeks of lies from DHL, things are at least getting to move somehow.
The next day I went to the Post Office to register me as an importer. No luck. They insisted on receiving all the documents. I had my passport copies, forms 170, hostel address. But I did not have the electricity and water bill. I explained very politely, that I am not Bolivian resident (fortunately, I must admit) and therefore there is no possibility I would have a electricity or water bill. And that I don’t plan on renting a house and waiting for a month to please them with their document requirements (this was not so polite). They started shouting, that all Bolivians have to provide this and so it is only fair if the foreigners are required to do the same (somehow it seemed as logical argument to them). So I again very politely asked how should I proceed. They suggested I ask for the electricity bill of the hostel where I am staying. I very politely asked if they do not mind that I may change hostel the first minute after submitting these papers. They said that was fine, because MY FOLDER WOULD BE COMPLETED and therefore they would be satisfied. At this point I not so politely called them incompetent bureaucrats and went to get the papers from my hostel.
After discussion with all the hostel staff and later with the hostel owner it turned out, that I will never get a photocopy of their electricity bill because in Bolivia this equals bianco document to stay at that place forever or do other “bad things” with it.
I went back to the company that DHL is subcontracting with the customs processing. I asked them for their electricity bill, but as expected this did not work. Instead they called “their man” at the airport, explained all the situation and sent me to the airport directly.
This guy, only known to me as Fredy, that works with the company that works with DHL was kind of strange from the beginning. He smuggled me to the protected customs zone, illegally, just to tell me, it will be some gray business, to get my documents out. Then he told me to some how get out of the illegal zone on my own and wait outside.
Then we spend 4 hours going from one office to another (4 offices in total). Every time I was instructed what I should say, what I should not say, how I should lie and most importantly where I should not go myself, where he would “handle” the things. While waiting between the individual offices, he summoned his friend Marco whose sole purposed seemed to be to entertain me while waiting. We even went for lunch together.
While eating Fredy came incredibly pleased, that he managed to negotiate all the bribes and formalities and that I may get my passport at any moment. It will only cost me 400 USD, which I did not have and did not want to pay anyway.
¿Entonces, que hacemos?
No sé, igual si quería darte este dinero, no lo tengo.
Tranquillo, tranqillo. Come tranquillo. Vamos hablar.
Over the lunch we finally settled for this plan: he said I do not have to pay anything to the customs agency (those 200 USD), even though I though he was their employee. He will negotiate the bribes down to 300 USD. Then he will give all my stuff to Marco. I call and pay for the taxi. I and Marco go downtown, I get 300 USD from any ATM and buy from Marco my passport there.
No necesitas regresar aqui amigo! Y el almuerzo esta incluido.
Down town I asked Marco to see my passport first. I was for sure not going to buy a brown paper bag with who knows what inside for 300 USD. But no more surprises in this amigo business. I got my passport finally. And with all 3 illegally obtained antibiotic pills. Seems like each one of them is worth almost 150 USD.
Now, if you want more DHL lies, just click here to see the official tracking site. Against all my expectations it got updated after all of above with final status “Delivered to broker as requested”. That is another DHL lie, as I never “requested” any such thing.
After all of this I submitted an official compliant with DHL with short version of the above and stating especially these points I blame them for:
- They promised a service which cannot be fulfilled and asked extra money for that.
- They have not notified me of any problems.
- They told me to wait, although this got the situation worse.
- Instead of decent customer service, their stuff was telling lies, sending me all over the city and all that while chatting on facebook.
- Meanwhile their Czech office was lying to my mother
- They abandoned the package with the other company.
- They sent me to their subsidiary that sent me to their subsidiary whose business was gray, if not illegal.
- They failed to deliver on any of their promises – not delivered to the address, much late and at the cost of all above.
I filled this on DHL web. To submit the complaint you actually have to fill in also where the package was sent from (Czech Republic), where to (Bolivia), where am I now (Peru at the time). I got a reply two days later:
Dear Mr Synacek
Shipment has not gone through Peru. Please contact DHL Bolivia to see the reason for the delay, the telephone is 591-3-3413232.
PAUL ESPINOZA CRUZ
Customer Service Advisor
DHL EXPRESS PERÚ S.A.C.
I replied I was perfectly aware of that, that only their web form forced me to fill in where I was. Also I said he should forward the request to the right place then. I got no reply since. It has been almost 2 months now.