“We’re gonna boogie back to Texas, eight beats to the mile” – from the song, Boogie Back to Texas, by Ray Benson & Asleep At The Wheel- - - -
NOTE: This was written some months ago, but since nothing has ever been forthcoming from either ICE or the Tico Times, all of it still holds true.
- - - - - - -
Regarding the January bill for electricity, a breakdown of the bill showed a total of 1,489 Kwh used, from 01/01 to 02/01, with meter readings of 013514 – before, to 015003 – after, and included taxes of ₡10, 994.80. To be fair, I had discovered a problem during January with the electric water heater that I repaired towards the end of the month. (I had to replace the pressure relief valve, because it was stuck in an open position, causing the heater to be constantly heating). I had hoped that this problem would have proven to be the cause for such a sudden jump in one month’s usage. I no longer see that as even close to possible. As an update, our bill for the month of February (paid on April 1) was only ₡12,000.00, so we thought whatever problem had occurred had now been fixed, and that the huge amount was simply a reader error. Wrong! Checking online in late April, the new bill, for the month of March, had jumped back up to ₡205,000.00 again! We went back to ICE, and then had to wait for any further action from them, until after Holy Week, and ultimately, even longer. That was because the administrator of the local ICE office took an extra two weeks of vacation, so we ended up waiting until the week of May 9. This is because no one in this God-forsaken backwater is willing to ever accept any responsibility for any damn thing! That means, that when the boss is out, there is no one to step up in his place. And, of course, even he, upon his return, is not willing or able to do anything that doesn’t strictly follow whatever interpretation of the rules that he understands.
So, putting this unfortunate mess together with all the other problems we have been having here in paradise, this question has arisen: Anybody want to buy a beautiful view?
As of 05/23/2011: I had been walking up to the light meter once a day for the previous 40 days, noting the reading, and then putting it down on a list that I have created on the PC. I have also totaled up all of our bills from the first month we moved into this house, and compiled monthly usage, in KwH, and amount paid out for those twenty months. We have been charged for using an average of 773.1 KwH per month, or 25.77 KwH per day. Over the 40 days of my direct monitoring, our use is averaging only 16.3 KwH per day, which would be a total of only 489 KwH in thirty days, well below what we have been paying all along. We are doing nothing different over these last 40 days than we had done over the previous twenty months, in terms of electrical usage here in the house. Granted, there have been times when we ran the air conditioner (a wall unit) for short periods, but we are not currently using that, and haven’t for some time. Other than that, the fridge is plugged in all day and all night, we use the washer and the dryer as needed, we use various ceiling fans, and so on……..oh, we are now turning off the water heater for all but about one hour a day.
When ICE’s meter reader reported his monthly reading, as of May 02, his total usage for the month of April came in at 591, also well under the average we have been paying all this time. Since my daily recording did not begin until April 14, I also believe that this in and of itself is pretty conclusive proof that consumption prior to my securing of the meter box and prior to my now daily meter reading was indeed above our current average. Not to mention, that I have to conclude that our real consumption was always below the amount that was being billed to us.
Now, to further clarify matters (or, maybe muddy the waters; I don’t know), you should know how our electricity gets to our house. When we paid our contractor to run electric, water and phone to our property, back in late 2008, it was with the understanding that the lines would run underground, and for lights and phone, they would come from our neighbor’s property. To affect the electric hook up, our contractor had to place our meter on a pole on our neighbor’s property. This means that what we paid for, and were presented with, was one metal box (paid for by us) with two meters in it. Our line runs from our meter, straight underground. The metal box has two doors that meet in the middle. What we realized in April is that those doors had been open for months, as long as we could remember. We never opened those doors, and it never occurred to me to place any particular significance on the fact that those doors were wide open, and had been that way since I don’t know when.
So, I am facing one logical (to me) conclusion here: somehow we have been over billed by at least $100.00 per month, give or take, for the last twenty months (yeah, that’s about two grand). I have no idea of whether that is because somehow our electricity has just disappeared into thin air, somewhere between the neighbor’s property, and our house, or someone has been ‘borrowing’ our electricity (our meter does sit on someone else’s land, out of sight of our house, so the ‘borrower’ could easily hook on right at the meter), or maybe ICE’s meter reader has a way to affect the output of our meter.???? I don’t know………have no clue……….
We have met several times with the ‘coordinator’ of the local office, and other than trying to pin the blame on something in our house that is using too much juice, his only concern is how are we going to pay this outrageous bill. We have talked to him until we are blue in the face, trying to get across that it is not possible that we have used this much juice, trying to get across that it is simply unconscionable for him to expect us to pay for electricity we never used, and that the amount is simply too much for folks on a pension. I suppose that what is most frustrating about his response is that he appears to be agreeable to our face, stating that he understands what we are saying, but ultimately, he has made absolutely no effort to accommodate us, or to appease us, or to help us.
We even went to see the main guy in nearby Tilaran, at the suggestion of our Priest. That guy only referred us to the controloria (not sure what the English language/gringo version of this would be, but it’s for complaints and resolution of same) of ICE, who - he says - will give us satisfaction. So, we called them on May 9 or 10, and tried to give them the whole story. They said that they would investigate and have a response for us within ten days……………………
The morning after our visit to Tilaran, the ‘coordinator’ of the local office showed up at our house, before we even finished breakfast, along with a tech (who waited for him in the official company truck; he was obviously serving as driver, as per my earlier impressions of this fine organization – see my Blog entry of Wednesday, January 5, 2011, titled: The Spy Who Came For Dinner (and never left), or The Men From I. C. E). He told us that he couldn’t sleep the night before for worrying about our situation, and he offered us all sorts of verbal reassurances that he would try to help to resolve our situation. He wanted to see the water heater, and tried – as do they all – to focus our attention on something within the house being some sort of energy hog. We both pretty much gave it to him with both barrels, but ultimately had no idea what he thought he was going to do. He did say that he looked at the meter (I doubt it) and found it to be just fine, with no signs of any sort of tampering. He tried to say that maybe there is some sort of ‘artifact’ that is intermittently using up too much energy. I, of course, countered by showing him my printout of the daily meter readings, with their new and much lower average daily use as compared to all the many months since we moved in here. I offered my opinion that there are probably not even any businesses around here that consume as much energy as we have been billed for over these months.
As of May 23, we received a visit early in the morning from a technician from ICE, who wanted to deliver a letter from Mario, that coordinator at the local ICE office. We refused delivery, although I did manage to make a copy of the letter. Essentially, he repeats again that the meter is OK, is well secured (my bad; I was the one who secured the damn thing, back on April 14, remember? And, incidentally, he knows that fact, because we told him. As a matter of fact, I asked him repeatedly both in his office, and at our house, why had his meter reader never reported that the meter was not secured, and/or why his meter reader had not secured the meter, but he never once answered me). His letter also noted that we have a lot of appliances and devices in our house that (obviously) use a lot of electricity. Apparently, taking a twist on the famous Latin quote (OK, I think it was originally expressed in French by DesCarte as "Je pense, donc ju suis), “cogito, ergo sum,” he has concluded that these things exist, therefore we must be using them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Again, all he wanted is for us to pay the frickin’ bill. So, we did, borrowing the money from a friend.
I have contacted the Tico Times, hoping that they might be interested in doing an article about this situation, and one of their staff writers is apparently gathering information, but so far…….nada………no response has been received from the Controloria; the letter from Mario is dated May 16, by the way, even though he didn’t try to get it delivered until May 23. As of August 7, today, there has still been nothing from The Tico Times.
So, here we are. No longer waiting on tenterhooks for something over which we have absolutely no control; we did wait for ICE to do something, but obviously they have another cash cow here (new math in Costa Rica: Gringo = $$$). We find ourselves becoming more and more suspicious of everybody, every day. We feel that we are no longer able to trust anyone around us – not our neighbors, not our supposed Tico friends, definitely not anyone in any ‘official’ position with ICE. Our dream of the Pura Vida is pretty much gone, and we will indeed gladly sell out and go back to Texas, if we can just find someone who is better able to cope with all this than we have proven to be.