Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Shipment: Trickery?

Three weeks after our arrival, we learned that our shipment from the States had arrived. We picked up the bill of lading from Jackson Shipping in French Harbor and took it to a broker at the Aduana (duty) office in Plaza Mar. The broker wanted a detailed list of the contents and the cost of the items, which Don had. He looked it over, figured out the duty and called us the next day with the total. Dennis and Merlin loaned us the money so we wouldn't have to go to the bank first, told us to rush down to the Aduana and pay him before noon so the broker would have time to go to the bank and we should be able to get our shipment that same day. We didn't understand that at all, but off we went. We went back to the Aduana office and paid him $1290.42 US which included his commission. He gave us a receipt and left immediately for the bank. He said if he was able to deposit our money before 3 p.m., he would call us and meet us at Jackson Shipping. (More of the fun of banking on Roatan in another blog.)
Around 2 p.m. the customs agent called and said he was on his way to French Harbor and we should meet him at Jackson Shipping. Off we went. Both he and the broker were there. We introduced ourselves and shook hands. The agent gave Don a couple of hard looks, like he was sizing him up. I guess he decided that Don didn't look like a smuggler or a crook because he took out his official seal, stamped our papers, and handed them to us saying "ok, all done".
We called our friend, Dennis, and told him we were finished and ready for Chungo to come with his truck and pick up the shipment. He regularly uses Chungo for pickups and deliveries.
We were called inside to the office and asked if we had pre-paid the shipping. We said yes. She asked for copies of receipts and manifests which we didn't have since we used a moving company to deliver the shipment to Jackson Shipping in Tampa and they were to pre-pay the shipping costs out of the money we had paid them. Besides, we were already on Roatan before the shipment left Tampa. She called the Tampa office, but it was after 4:30 ET and they had closed for the day. We would have to check back the next day. We called Dennis back, asked him to call Chungo and cancel for today.

The next day we called Mitzi at Jackson Shipping and learned that the shipment had NOT been prepaid and that we owed $1072. US. We don't know what happened with Cord Moving. Don will have to contact them. Dennis and Merlin loaned us another $1000. so we wouldn't waste the morning at the bank. Dennis called Chungo to meet us in French Harbor. This is where the story gets really interesting.

We got to Jackson, paid, got a receipt and waited for Chungo. The warehouse guys asked who was picking up the shipment. They shook their heads at the name "Chungo" like they had never heard of him. We said that Dennis Smyth used Chungo all the time for deliveries. They told us that his name wasn't Chungo, it was Nando. Now, we should have been suspicious but we know how Dennis gets names mixed up, so we just accepted this as fact. The guys said Nando's truck was not big enough to hold our shipment. One of them supposedly called him and then went out and got a friend with a bigger truck to come. He just started backing in to the warehouse door. Don stopped him and said NO. We have an agreement with Chungo-Nando. I called Dennis who agreed that they were pulling a fast one. He said Chungo went to the other shipping company by mistake but was on his way. The warehouse guys kept arguing with us (mostly in Spanish, so it was a pretty one-sided argument). When Chungo-Nando showed up in his blue truck, it looked pretty big but wasn't tall enough to just lift the containers up onto the bed. The containers had to be opened, the contents taken out and rearranged to fit the space. All the while, these warehouse guys and the other truck driver are shaking their heads and muttering. The warehouse manager sat in the shade tinkering with a motor, unconcerned with the action.

Even more fun, Chungo-Nando spoke NO English, but, thankfully, one of his helpers did. He kind of took charge, asking us questions, following our wishes. Boy, was that stuff well packed. The crates were incredibly difficult to open. They used a fork lift to move them out to the truck and then crowbars and hammers to pry the containers open. Interestingly, Chungo-Nando didn't seem to know where Dennis lived or where Sandy Bay was, despite having hauled many loads for him and supposedly living not that far away. We tried giving directions, but in the end, they just followed us. The 3 guys quickly unloaded the truck, putting boxes where I pointed. We paid Chungo-Nando double what Dennis had suggested because we felt bad about him making that wasted trip the day before.

Discovered that Chungo is NOT Nando. We don't know what happened to Chungo. Dennis had stopped him on the road from French Harbor and sent him back to Jackson Shipping. The only guy we ever saw show up was Nando. Chungo does speak English, has a white truck, lives down the hill from all of us. Nando was clueless for a good reason: he wasn't Chungo. So what went on? Clearly the warehouse guys were manipulating the situation. Well, the mission was accomplished anyway. Just another example of the perils of not speaking Spanish well enough. We still felt really bad about Chungo and a little bit peeved that we had paid Nando so much. We never have learned what happened to Chungo.

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