Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Paying bills

Posted by urufish on September 15, 2007

 Espanola clinic

Today, I could have stormed into Espanola, grabbed someone by the throat and threatened to blow up the building.. but I didn’t. 

Delia has been really sick the past week.  We are members of Espanola.  The medical care she has received has been very good.  No complaints there.  It’s their billing system that is driving me crazy.

Last month, I received the invoices a day before they were due.  Where I come from, Toronto, in my entire life, (bar postal strikes) I never received a bill more than a day or two past the normal date it should arrive.  I cant recall any bills that were less than 30 days net, with the excetion of those that were due upon receipt, which, practically speaking, meant 15-30 days. 

Here, bills can be due on as little as 5 days notice…  That’s not so bad, as long as the bills actually arrive 5 days before they’re due.  Most bills do come on time.  But consistancy is something you cant depend on here.  I dont know how it happens, but every once in a while a bill either doesn’t show up at all, or it shows up the day it’s due. 

In the case of Espanola, we receive bills around the first of the month.  We’ve been receiving them consistantly on time until last month.  Last month, they arrived a couple of days before they were due.  By the time I got to the Abitab, it was past due.  They wouldn’t let me pay the bill when it’s past due.  They told me I had to go to Espanola.

That was OK because with Delia being sick, I was going to be there anyway.  I didn’t care much there would be a fine, but I am getting the distinct feeling that companies in Uruguay actually plan out sending bills late – or not sending them at all, to make a few bucks on the side.  Keep in mind that most late payments here have a built in 10% ‘surcharge’ if you’re late.   Of course, there’s the interest on top of that.  If you billed a few million a month and you saw to it that 10% of your bills were a little late, you could increase your bottom line significantly.  I know this sounds a little paranoid but I’m the kind of person who manages by measurement and my measurements lead me to believe this is a lot more than just coincidence. 

Anyway, when I went to the Espanola with my wife, I left her sitting in the waiting room and went to pay the bill at the cashier.  The cashier said they dont take monthly invoices there.  They told me to go somewhere else. Espanola is a big place, so I walked about a block and stopped at what I thought was the right cashier.  Nope.  They dont take them there either.  So I went to the main cashier facility.  They’ve got about 10 cashiers there.  Turns out they dont take the bills there either.  You have to go to the administration building somewhere else a couple of blocks away.  I figured I’d had enough.  I was going to pay the 10% surcharge anyway (UYP450) so I might as well wait until next month’s bill shows up. 

Well, here it is, next month… according to my spreadsheets, my bills are due on the 20th…   The invoices should have arrived on the 5th.  Have they arrived?? Nope.  Can I go on line and print them (like most other bills here)?  Nope?  Am I pissed?  You betcha….  Not enough to throttle someone, but there’s more to this than just a fine.

If you dont pay your bill for 2 months, (which is 5 days away), you dont get service.  With my wife being sick and me being a Type A when it comes to protecting/providing for my family, I see an ugly incident coming…  even with my crappy Spanglish. 

On Monday, I’m going to find the place that accepts payments, march in there, find the manager and scream at him.  I also emailed ABN to find out if I can put Espanola on autobill, either through them or Mastercard.   This kind of situation is the primary reason I chose to put as many of my bills on autobill as possible.  To avoid the 10% multas (fines). 

If I was Uruguayan born, I wouldn’t be so upset about this.  My friends just smile at me when I rant about things like this.  They figure I’m a spoiled North American.  A real Uruguayan would have never got into this predicament.  He would have been waiting for the invoice on the 5th and when it didn’t show, he would have simply gone to administration over the next few days and paid the bill, probably finding someone he knew or went to school with and socialized for a few minutes. 

Update Sept 19, 2007

Went to the Espanola administration offices yesterday.  Walked in the door and got number 47.  They were serving 27 and 34…   Dont ask me to explain that.  Maybe someone who’s been a member for a long time can explain that one. 

The number was to see an agent.. to try to put my accounts on autodebit.  After I got the number, I walked down to the cashier area.  I guess my spanish got in the way because I intended to pay my August and September invoices but the girl who (this is a 2 part process), asks you what invoices you want to pay only punched buttons for August.  Then I walked to the next window to pay and the girl took August invoices from the printer.  I saw that and said I want to pay September too.  So she ripped those up and told me to go back to the other girl.  I told her that I wanted to pay both months, since September was due in 2 days…  This time I walked over to the other girl and 6 invoices were printing..3 for August and 3 for September.   There are 3 members of our family (dog is on his own medical insurance program–Uruguay loves medical RMR) so each one of us gets an invoice per month.  Paid the bill in cash and took a seat to wait for my number to be called.

Espanola is fast (as are most numbered offices in Uruguay).  I was served within 20 minutes.  I told the girl I wanted to pay all the invoices by autodebit.  She asked me which method I preferred to use.  I said Mastercard.  She did all the forms.  While I was there, I decided to take a risk and ask them to change my address.  Since my invoices weren’t getting to me anyway, I had little to lose.  She did that too.  Smiled and thanked me for coming. 

While I was there, I heard several people complaining about the same problem I had.  Their invoices either came a day or 2 before they were due or they hadn’t come at all.  Maybe this is Espanola’s plan to get more people to go on autodebit.  In North America, we give people inducements, the ‘carrot’…  Maybe here, they give you the stick.   

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9 Responses to “Paying bills”

  1. roberto said

    If you have a Visa you can do it all by internet. Just go to http://www.visanet.com.uy and set up your automatic debit.

  2. Daniel said

    My dear friend, I was born in Uruguay and I still get upset. Maybe because I’ve been living outside the country too long…
    Do as I do. I take care of these bills (Espanola, Secom) for my parents with my visa card. One trip to their offices, voila!! no problems anymore…Now, do not try to change the card on file over the telephone as you can do here. It takes an Act of Congress to do that ( and I mean the Iraqui Congress…)
    Welcome to my “paisito”
    All the best!!

  3. urufish said

    I have VISA cards from up north. When I came to Uruguay, I chose Mastercard – for a change. If Mastercard doesn’t have autodebit for Espanola, I’ll switch to VISA.
    BTW, anyone know if Mastercard UY has a website that provides the same level of self service for autodebit that Visanet does?

  4. urufish said

    Daniel, my wife says the same thing. Living all those years in Canada spoiled her. That’s why she didn’t want to move back here permanently. Our plan was always to live here half the year… That’s as long as she felt she could take it 🙂 But she’s doing just fine now that she’s been here going on 2 years. Like me, she will for weeks, somemtimes a couple of months, before we run into one of those unbelievable situations.
    The one that’s highest on my list now is opening a bank account for my freezone company. It’s been 2 months and we still dont have an account. BROU wont have a decision for us for another 2 weeks. This is a one or two day process up North. Down here it’s 2 or 3 months. That could be because we started with the wrong bank, but up North, the bank would tell you that the minute you asked about setting up the account. Not a month or 6 weeks later.

  5. urufish said

    Hey Roberto.. I found the Mastercard equiv site….www.masterconsultas.com.uy
    Went through the whole process… 4 times today…
    still dies at the end… says the site is being maintained..

    I suspect that’s another SA thing.
    Istead of posting the ‘maintenance’ notice when you get to the website… they post it at the end of the process….
    Hey.. maybe it was A Phishing site…. ??!!??

  6. gaberoo said

    If it was a “Phishing” site, then they’ve just caught a “Fish”!
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  7. JP said

    The ones that I know that send you a bill on line (for you to pay at Abitab) or you can pay by credit card/ bank autobill are Britanico (British Hospital), SUMMUN, and MP which are total private insurance. All mutualistas (private but many owned by Unions or Fraternities) I know like Española or CASMU (the two big ones) send invoices to your postal address. So the only way to put the monthly payment on the autobill is via OCA Card. Remember that it is The “Targeta de los Uruguayos”. Private insurance like the ones I mentioned will rarely accept to use OCA as autobill but Visa/MasterCard -No American Express or Discover card will be considered-

  8. Anonymous said

    Why don’t you set automatic debt from your credit card. I do it for la Española, ANTEL, UTE, ANCEL, city taxes, etc.

  9. urufish said

    When I first moved to Uruguay, I set up all autodebit with my bank. They told me they couldn’t put Espanola on autodebit for me. It wasnt until after I went through this experience that a friend told me it can be paid via autodebit from my credit card. Turns out I took the bank literally. If my language skills were better at the time, I could have figured out they were just answering my poorly worded question.
    Everything else you mention above was and is on autodebit. There are a few exceptions, like my GC’s which are with an administration that doesn’t support autodebit.

    Having said all of this, it’s unfortunate that the system of mailing bills here is so screwed up. I really get the impression it’s done on purpose, designed to push people to autodebit. Either that or increase revenue by making it more difficult for non autodebit customers to pay on time. With late penalties of 10%, that’s very lucrative for the vendor.

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