Expat Life and Expert Advice on Living in Argentina
As a 5 year veteran of the city of Buenos Aires, having married an Argentine woman, having bought and sold property here, and having started businesses, I feel as though a large community out there may appreciate tips on living and doing business in Buenos Aires, other parts of Argentina.
Getting back onto the subject of expat issues in Argentina is something I strayed away from for a while, but this week, having met a few newcomers to Buenos Aires made me think of how valuable some of this information can be to those who may need it.
Newcomers specific issues usually have to do with the language barrier which can be formidable, especially for those who do not have a strong base in Spanish. This makes everything difficult from the get go: finding an apartment, getting your apartment set up with cable, internet, phone, cleaning service, paying bills, and especially disputing charges.
Just this week a friend of ours asked us to call on her behalf to help her get internet installed. Now, everyone out there has dealt with a nameless, faceless corporation at some point in their life. These corporations like Citibank and United Airlines have their shortcomings in the US because they do not actually care about resolving customer issues since their businesses are highly streamlined toward you spending money and not being able to get it back. But here is the key, these American (I will use this term to indicate persons, places, things, or entities from the U.S.–we can debate the merits of the use of this term in this fashion in another blog) WILL do everything in their power to help you spend money on their goods and sevices. Then comes the not being able to change your flight or the dispute over late charges and suddenly they are all out of answers.
The grand difference is that in Argentina these types of companies do not even lift a finger to help you spend your money in the first place. There are 3 main internet service providers in the city of Buenos Aires: Fibertel, Arnet, and Speedy (there is also Claró but they do a slightly different service). We called the first on behalf of our friend to help her get her internet up and running since her Spanish skills are not up to the task yet. They said simply “no ofrecemos servicio en esa region,” which means they do not offer service in that section of the city. We asked who does. “Ni idea”, was the response.
We called the second. Same interaction.
Then we called the third. They do service this area. We then began to inquire about the different types of services our friend could get. The woman on the phone sounded shocked, “you mean, this is not for you?” She asked. No this is for a friend. “Well I can’t give out private information.” WHAT!!?? What private info? We are asking you for info about your company, what you charge, and what services you provide. This is PUBLIC information we explained. This is how you get our money, we told her.
Still, she refused to even give us an explanation of what services Speedy offers. She said that she had to talk directly to the client. Ok, fine, we said, do you speak English? No. Well, our friend who is interested only speaks English. Do you have a different office we could call where they do speak English? No. Then how, without our help, is this person going to get internet, and make your company richer?
“I need to speak directly with the client”. Did you hear a WORD we said? Did you listen at all? We said she DOESN’T SPEAK SPANISH!! How are you going to talk to her??
“I can’t give out private information.” What!!
We had to hang up the phone and call back. We went through the same interaction with no less than 3 other “customer service agents”.
When we finally did get someone on the phone who actually listened and understood our dilemma, they told us about their service, and suggested we go into one of their offices to sort out the matter. A pathetic alternative, but at least an alternative was offered.
This is typical of service companies in Argentina: no listening, no effort. I wonder what it will take to get people to change their behavior.
Sorry to start off on a sour note, but this is what just happened this week. There will be positive posts to follow, I guarantee, or I wouldn’t be livi