Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Saga Of B's Stolen Car - CHAPTER 2 Sept 2010

My friend B had her car stolen in Guadalajara,
this is her follow-up.
Excellent information and tips for everyone who drives
a car in Mexico.

In her own words:

Me again.

Even if you don't want to read the rest of this saga, please see the part near the end about NAMES on car documents vs. personal I.D. I'm sure it applies to foreign cars as well as Mexican-plated and could save you a lot of grief.
After waiting for a few days (plus mega-puente), and checking by phone first (as instructed  by the Procuradia de Justicia office on Independencia) to see that my file had arrived, off to the P de J in the zona industriál. The friend who drove me elected to wait in the car (covered parking).

Had been told to get there around 1:00, but on the phone was advised 2:00 is enough. Arrived at 2:03 and was directed to the correct area of the building by receptionist who was handing out "visitor" tags to a lot of people but did not offer me one. Lucky I could read the sign that indicated "if you are not nearby when your name is called from the list, you miss your turn" -- so I knew there was a list! Find list in strangely vacant office dedicated solely to stolen cars. Am number eleven. Many people in the hall, 95% Mexican men who look a little askance at this out-of-place female with no male "protector". Not nearly enough seating, but am offered a chair.

Time drags by, more people arrive and sign in, and crowd gets restless. At 3:15 some staff members straggle along and enter the office. (Turns out we have been waiting for the "afternoon shift" -- 3 - 10 pm.) Around 3:25 a man calls our names in order, a few at a time, and we line up so a staff person can transcribe our name, claim number, and brand of vehicle into a registry log. Go back into the hall and wait. In a while  the first on the list are called. Worried about my friend (now waiting in her car over 1 1/2 hours) and ask if I can leave to advise her of what's happening. Am assured I have time. Exit building from the side into a large parking lot. Walk the entire lot but can't find her car! Ask at the gate (police-type guard with very large gun). No, this is Staff Parking. Public parking is next door. Find her next door and she elects to come in with me.

Start to enter same gate I just left. Guard steps across, gun at the ready. Where are you going? (Like, you can't remember an older foreign lady with bright colored outfit from 3 minutes ago?) Show him my claim sheet and say we're just going back in to wait. Where is your Visitors badge? They didn't give me one at the desk. (very politely, with  big smile)  Big scowl. How can this be?? But evidently he decides a couple of skinny old gringa ladies can't be much threat, so allows us to pass!

No chairs again (by now there are more than 40 names on the list) so we lean on the wall until father and son offer us their seats. Since I have had nothing to eat or drink since 8:00 a.m. (overlong wait for doctor appt. before this one) but have been afraid to seek out anything for fear of losing my place, I gratefully accept. Young man walks by selling greasy-looking donuts. Buy one. It's awful, but better than nothing. Five desks are serving people,  but it seems to take a very long time per person.

4:45 p.m. It's my turn!!  (Remember -- I'm no. 11. At least 30 people are going to be after me.) Am directed to a desk occupied  by a very short young man who turns out to be pleasant, co-operative, and nice. A while into the conversation he asks if I would rather speak English? Yes, at this point, you bet! All seems to be going well, as we once again enter many details into the computer (different report than the last time), verify carefully each number in the serial and engine numbers, and add more personal details than the other day. Then disaster strikes.

Oh, Señora, I think we have a problem. The name on your original factura (title) and the name on your identification do not match. I will have to check with the manager. Manager is not a nice man. He is harried, and has either been passed over for promotion or simply hates his job. He is very unsympathetic, bordering on rude, as he stridently informs me that it is obvious I might not be the person on the title. In fact I could be anyone OTHER than the person on the title. Eyes flash, voice gets louder, and I know when to retreat. I don't let the jefe see I'm on the verge of a little sniffle, but turn to the young man and ask in English OK. How do we fix this?

Apparently it's the law that the factura (and I presume car registration for foreign-plated vehicles) and your ID must match perfectly. In our case, the factura has first names, middle initials, and last name. (Car is owned jointly) ID has first, middle ,and last names complete. So now I'm instructed that I'll have to go to the dealership (near Zapopan cathedral) where we bought the car, taking original factura plus ID for each of us, and get a "Fe de Erratas" -- a stamp of some nature plus a seal on the front body of the factura, with our names as they should be. Then I'll have to return to P de J and we can start the dance over again! (For a while they were going to make me do the same thing with the tenencia certificate -- different gov't office, more red tape -- but finally decided it was not necessary.)

Immediately (but with class) go into my "older woman, no car, have to find friends to bring me back to town, do I have to be here another 3 hours..." mode, and the results are that he sympathetically offers (and does) to complete all the work he needs to do in the computer and put it on hold until I can return next week. After all, I'm probably older than his abuela! Then, if I get there a little after 3:00  and make sure (1) my name is on the list and (2) he sees that I am there, he'll call me in right away, finish up what he needs to do, and give me the copia certificada right then and there so I don't have to come back again. For now I have to trust him, hope he shows up for work that day,and plan to wear exactly the same clothes I wore today as a memory jogger for him.

Next day, just to be sure, call the car dealership. Get a very suspicious young lady in customer service who has hard time understanding the problem. Finally says I will have to FAX  a copy of factura, and both ID.s Then they will decide if and when I can come in! Do cover letter (in Spanish) hoping to explain better and send  fax. Since I'm doing it at 3 p.m. there is nobody manning the fax machine because they are closed for comida break, so call  later and ask for English-speaker to be sure we all understand each other. After some time we establish that all is well, both persons are not required (but both ID's are) and I can go next Wednesday (except for comida break).  Works for me, as I need to be on the "list" again that day (other end of town) by 3:00 at the latest.......

Apart from being exhausted by 5:15 when we finally headed back to my friend's car, it was yet another experience to drop into the Mexican Adventure file. I'm sure hoping next Wednesday goes as planned...........and still have the "baja de placas" to look forward to, but at least that's in Chapala.

Wish me luck!

Good luck B!!!


  1. Unfortunately this reads like a bunch of senseless red tape used as a reason to NOT help - it doesn't surprise me. Organizations seem to be bent on using technicalities to avoid help and a resposible response.

    An example: we have a defective monitor that I bought at Sam's in the U.S. Contacted the Sam's here in Xalapa who sent us to the manuf. warranty station - it is well within the warranty period- we have some paperwork, but the receipt is in the U.S. On the back of the monitor the date of manufacture stamped in the unit is well within the warranty - meaning why would we need proof of when we purchased it to verify if it is covered under warranty WHEN the thing is not older than the warranty - now try and give that rational to these hombres at the service center - their eyes glaze over and can ONLY service it with that receipt (again to prove it was purchased within the warranty period - Totally frustrating. Also we are looking into getting a scooter down here from the U.S. and have been told the same story about the name on the title needing to match the name on the passport and Mexican visa - Put a badge on a pig and you still have a pig I am afraid.

  2. I know tons of people do it, but why drive in a cramped car to a pollution choked metropolis, when you can comfortably take the bus then a taxi? This I will never understand. We retirees no longer need to drive to work, take the kids to school or drive to the Mall of America.

    But no one gives a rip about global climate change, an issue waaay bigger than someone getting their car ripped off. (However, the cationary tale is another reason to be greener and ditch your carbon dioxide emission machine.)

  3. I think of this kind of tale often when I hear gringos gush about how they just loooove the Mexican culture.