Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Claro: The Break-Up

If you've followed the Cell Phone Saga (Part One, Part Two), you know I've been counting down and simultaneously dreading the day I would have to face the Claro folks one last time in their big, air-conditioned office for the break-up. Today was the day.
I went to the Santiago office, since they "prefer" that you close accounts in the same place that you open them (and I wasn't about to mess with any alternatives). Right there my journey to Santiago, an 80 minute one-way trip by crowded bus has me traveling and spending more money than the US version of canceling an account: logging in online and making a few clicks from your home or office computer. Josh has been out of town, so keep in mind that I'm also traveling with both kiddos everywhere I want to go.
From our winter school trip. This is often what traveling by bus with the chitlins looks like.
Thank goodness Josh kept them frequently out & about last year, so they are excellent travelers by bus, by concho or even on foot. He made the chore easy for me with the intense amount of training he did last year (which included almost weekly trips by foot, concho and shady, bumpy mountain bus--a 1.5 hour journey outside the city--to A Mother's Wish Foundation). Shout out to awesome dads.
We made our way inside the massive building about 15 minutes after they opened for business. Our early arrival was planned to avoid lines. It worked! I did notice that the ropes they use to direct people into a line had been shoved so close together that the kids and I were forced to stand one in front of the other. This is good, I thought. That should definitely minimize people cutting in front of you.

"Hello, Rebecca. My name is Indhira. How can I help you?" said a representative I've never seen before. In that moment, I decided to squelch all of the negative feelings I have surrounding this contract and play real nice. I almost did just that.
"Hi, Indhira. I would like to end my Flota contract today," I forced a smile.
"Okay, may I see your identification please?"
I pulled out my passport card, immediately realizing that I should have brought the blessed passport book instead, remembering my bank-identification-fiasco.
She turned it over in her hands and looked puzzled.
"Its a passport card," I said.
"Yes," she responded pointing at her screen, "do you have the ID that matches this passport number?"
Oh! I thought, that actually sounds somewhat legitimate, even though my picture is clearly me.
"I don't, but passport numbers do change each time you get a new one. They aren't entirely comparable to the cedula. The cedula equivalent in the US would be our social security number, since those are the same our entire lives. Passport numbers, however, change with each new passport. But as you can clearly see, that is me," I realize that was a mouthful, but I was desperately trying to be friendly and at the same time avoid rejection.
"Well," she looked a bit worried, "do you have a copy of your passport?"
I shook my head, no.
"Hmmm... Let me go talk to my supervisor," and she walked over to the important-looking lady on her perch.
Geez. We haven't even gotten past step one and she's already going to the supervisor. Breathe, Rebecca, breathe. I did some deep breathing and told the kids to go sit down. Although I hadn't brought my passport book, I had brought children's books. Max started reading to Zora.
Indhira returned.
"While we wait on that," she waved her hand in the air, "let's get the next step going."
I like how this woman works. That smells like efficiency to me, if I remember it correctly. She did a few more things with her computer and then handed me a slip with the final amount to pay on it. I went to another part of the building and paid, then returned with a receipt.
"Okay," she looked up from her keyboard, "Why are you ending your Flota contract?"
I couldn't help it, "Oh, I have a long list of reasons." I smiled. Then kicked myself inside and started over. "No, let's just say that the others we opened the account with left the country a year ago and I've been waiting for the contract to expire. We only need two phones."
"So, you'd like to cancel the other phones and continue the contract with just two?"
An audible laugh escaped me, "No, I want to keep the two phone numbers on a pre-paid basis and cancel the contract all together."
She nodded.
"That is such a beautiful necklace you're wearing. What bright, happy colors," I said, slightly desperate and willing to try anything.
She typed some more, left twice and eventually came back with my passport card and a few slips of paper.
"Alright, you will have to come back in 1-2 days with a copy of your passport that matches this number. For now, take this form to the next building over to the representative named Katherine. Is there anything else I can do for you?" she smiled.
"Thank you very much," I picked up my things, gathered the behaved children (a small miracle considering our very early morning) and left, unsure if I'd just had a victory.
We walked out into the blazing sun and down the path to the other building. I immediately did not like the feeling in that building. The air conditioning was not the only thing giving me chills. We checked in and waited, though this time significantly longer even though one could clearly see that only five Claro employees and the three of us were there.
Eventually, CheckIn Lady called me, "Katherine won't be able to help you today, you can go to that young person there."
We gathered up our things and lo and behold, that other young person was someone I had spoken to quite frequently at the beginning of our contract time.
"Hi! How have you been?" I was overly cheerful.
"Good, good," he smiled in a kind of dreadful recognition.
"Well," I launched right in," its finally that time. Those long 18 months are over!"
He chuckled politely and I handed him the papers I'd been given.
"Do you have your passport book?" was his first question.
I shook my head, "But as you can see, it's me!" I laughed, attempting to make light of the situation.
"Yes," he pointed at his screen, "It says right here that you don't have it today."
I just knew they had a file on me, tracking every one of my Claro sins.
"So," I tried the compliment route with him too, "Is this a new position for you? Your own office seems like a move up. You got a promotion, eh?"
He nodded.
"Wow! Congratulations!" I shot him a cheesy grin.
"Thank you."
He continued typing. He used the phone. He shuffled some papers. He walked out. He came back. He had me sign a paper. He called another person.
"Okay," he looked at me for the first time in 20 minutes, "Your contract has been terminated. To move to pre-paid status, however, it will take 24-48 hours before your profile is ready. You need to bring in a copy of your passport book so they can complete your profile."
"Wow. Thank you. So, as of this moment I don't have any phone service and won't have any phone options for 24-48 hours?" I have taken to summarizing what I've understood since some things I either find too odd/incredible/nonsensical and there is always a chance that I just wasn't able to hurdle a language barrier.
"Correct."
"And, do I have to bring that copy into this office, or can I do that in San Francisco de Macoris where I live?" I had hope in my voice.
"Well," he sucked air through his teeth, "do they have a main office there?"
"Yes."
"You can do it there then."

We shall see. It felt odd to walk out of the office without any paperwork. No confirmations other than the lack of phone service. I'm genuinely curious if a bill will show up next month.
So here I am, a Claro divorcee. Finally. I really thought the process would be significantly more painful than that, but upon further reflection it makes absolute sense that the part they are the best at is the break-up. Thanks for the good times, Claro. Peace.


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