Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stupid Twins of Chile

Note: If you're offended by foul language, you might as well close this tab now. Really. There's a lot of ranting and raving here. Ah well, you've been warned...

Corporations should never open up offices in far-flung places and only have one staff manning the office. This leads to the staff having a superior complex, and thinking they are the rulers and masters of their own domain.

Sure, it's great that people take ownership in their jobs, but sometimes they just don't. And when they don't, your customer service records goes down the drain and nestles amongst the sewage where it belongs.

Perplexed yet? Well, let me now start the story from the beginning.

Through her research (she researches, I either play games or do laundry), the wife found that only 2 bus companies travel from San Pedro de Atacama to our next destination, Salta in Argentina. One was Pullman Bus, and the other was Gemini. And these buses travel only 3 times a week - a far cry to the many-times-a-day departures that we have been used to in South America.

So, on the day before the wife's mega-fantastic birthday celebration, we walked into the Gemini office and made a booking to travel from San Pedro de Atacama the following Tuesday to Salta. Maybe it is a demand-and-supply thing, but this bus ride was horribly expensive at USD 54 per person for a 12 hour ride. Up till now, we have already grown accustomed to an approximate rate of USD 1-2 per hour spent on a bus, but ah well... no choice, right?

So, bus departs at 10.30am on Tuesday. We would have been back from the 4D3N Salar de Uyuni tour on Monday. That gives us a day to rest up and do laundry (not a problem in the driest place in the world), so it's a fairly comfortable schedule.

A beautiful day welcomed us at San Pedro

So, on Monday, we were back from the super grimy and exhausting 4-Day tour and rushing to get our laundry done. Our mood and disposition was also improved by finally finding that all-important, symbolic cake to celebrate the wife's birthday! Yay!

Then, on Tuesday, our day was totally spoilt by the Bitch de Gemini de San Pedro de Atacama.

We arrived at the Gemini office at 9.45am on Tuesday, all hyped up about finally visiting Argentina. No one was around, and the office was closed. No worries - the bus leaves at 10.30, and to be frank, we were told to come only at 10am. So, we settled down to wait.

10am came and went.
10.15am came and went.

We got a little concerned. Office was still not opened, and no other passengers for the bus? I guarded the bags while Yi Lin walked a little distance up to the nearby Tourist Information Office to confirm that we were at the right place.

10.30am - The Bitch de Gemini de San Pedro de Atacama strolled up to the office with a kid in the pram. We went in with her and asked her what happened to the bus. She told us we were late and the bus had already left.

What??! We were early!

After much confusion, it turned out that due to Daylight Savings, the clocks were adjusted ahead an hour just the Saturday before! So, we had actually come to her office at 10.45am and waited till 11.30am!

In her defence, the Bitch de Gemini de San Pedro de Atacama said that when the clocks were adjusted on Saturday, she had put up a big sign warning all travelers of the change in time on Sunday. And when did she take the sign down? Sunday. Stupid, right? When you have people walking in all the time to buy tickets?

Other customers came in. We patiently allowed her to serve them first, because our case would probably take some time to sort out.

We asked (rather nicely still) if she could change the tickets for us, so that we can take the next bus to Salta on Friday. She said no. We got a little irritated. Why not? At this point, she started jabbering like a mad monkey with a sugar high in high-speed Espanol. We could not understand a thing. We were fortunate that another customer had just come in, and was able to translate for us.

No, she will not change our tickets. We have to buy new ones. It is not her fault. She had put up a sign advising everyone of the change in time. It is written as a contract clause on the ticket that passengers have to be on time. If we were not happy, feel free to call the police.

What? Where did that last bit come from?

Still, USD 54 per person is a huge amount to lose, for people in our financial position. We tried pressing for reason - We were on a 4 day tour and only returned yesterday, so did not see her sign. No one told us about the clocks being adjusted forward. We understand it is our responsibility to be on time for the bus, and we would have been on time if Daylight Savings did not kick in. Is there someone else we can speak to, who can make authorise a waiver for us?

More mad monkey in speed jabbering. The Samaritan who was translating for us was getting obviously uncomfortable to be translating between 2 parties who were getting more and more pissed with each passing moment. It was not a good situation. He quickly finished his business with the ticket counter and got out.

Mad monkey Bitch de Gemini de San Pedro de Atacama told us to call another office if we wanted to speak to someone else. She just works here. Our problem is not hers. "Well," I asked, "Can you call for us then?"

She stalked to the phone, called a number, then spoke to someone, laughing and giggling all the while. Then told us, "No refunds."

Frustration. The wife was beginning to tear. I was seeing red.

Incoherent yelling on both sides. I was yelling in English. She was yelling in Spanish. Neither one of us really understood the other, though I could make out that she was basically challenging us to call the police again.

She wrote another telephone number on a piece of paper. I threw the paper back at her. It was useless without knowing what the number was for, and who to ask for.

More yelling.

A local stepped in off the streets. He spoke English. Told us that the number the Mad Monkey Bitch gave us was for her main office, and advised us to call ourselves. In fact, he offered to speak to the person on our behalf, since our Espanol was in no way adequate enough for this conversation. We agreed, and left the Gemini office to go to a nearby locutorio, which is something like an internet cafe, but with telephones. After a lengthy conversation, he turned to us.

"The person I have spoken to have said that you should travel one hour to the next town called Calama, and speak to the lady in the Gemini office there. Her name is Alice."

Finally! Seemed like we were getting somewhere. I dashed off to another bus office to book the next available tickets to Calama, while the wife stayed with the helpful local, while he wrote our story in Spanish on a piece of paper, just in case "Alice" did not understand us.

Within 20 minutes, we were on board the bus to Calama, where fingers crossed, we could ask for either our tickets to be changed, or at least a discount on our new tickets if we really had to purchase them. Or a refund.

Apparently, we didn't cross enough fingers. The world doesn't have enough fingers to cross!

"Alice" turned out to be a Mad Monkey Bitch de Gemini de Calama! With the helpful translation of yet another local, we got the same answers yet again.

So, by working together, the twin Bitches have managed to get us to travel to another city only to be faced with the local worker at the counter. They have managed to frustrate us completely, waste our time and money, and put us in another place where we had no idea where to stay, and very possibly, not enough money to last us till the next Citibank ATM.



Adeline said...

Hi !

It's great to follow you during all these adventures ! For us our futurs holidays are in february, we will visit Istanbul but just for 5 days . I just want to say you that we 're waiting to see your imagination for your pictures in the salar desert !

So, bonne fin de voyage, à bientôt ! !

Adeline & Nicolas ( from ecuador, or france !)

心魔 said...

Aiya. Why didn't you opt for Pullman in the beginning? Were their rates more expensive?

Zen said...

Sheesh! Tough luck guys... =6

Hope things get better!

Dannie said...

Adeline: Wow! Istanbul! Very nice! Have a good trip!

心魔: We couldn't find the Pullman office in the beginning. It was only later that we realised that Pullman was sold through travel agents in San Pedro. That being said, when in Calama, we insisted on taking Pullman, which turned out great!

Zen: Things are better now. Thanks! :)

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