Sometimes I find myself wondering if the consumer will ever get the chance to have his or her voice heard in Colombia. Sure, my particular gripe at the moment is with the owner of a hardware store who is refusing to refund me for goods not even yet delivered (purchased mid Jan), but, when I think of the collapsed pedestrian bridge in northern Bogota and then the rotten tree which fell in a strong wind in Mompos last night causing some damage, all I see and experience is a certain wringing of hands and an alacrity to place the blame and responsibility to another party.
As soon as the bridge collapsed on the Carrera 11 with Calle 103 the venomous twitter trolls were out and blaming the disaster on Bogota’s embattled mayor Gustavo Petro. In fact, the mayor had nothing to do with this bridge and the contract had been awarded to the Colombian Army. So while everyone blames someone else, the news today is that it will take more than 40 days to have the bridge cleared away. Ironically, by blocking the Cra 11 between the army base and the Universidad Militar this accident has improved traffic along the Calle 100. But, while a division of the army is to blame for a bridge that clearly is not up to standard, the mayor’s responsibility and duty is to get to the scene and make sure that things are moving fast. Not to sit back and apportion the blame here, there and everywhere.
Then, last night one of the huge Saman trees, part of Mompos’ natural heritage was blown over in a high wind. In fact, the whole tree did not go, but a huge bough came crashing down, destroying part of the walkway in front of the Albarrada and a makeshift public toilet used by the patrons of a riverside kiosque. Fortunately for the Casa Amarilla, the bough was facing the riverside and not the side of the colonial hotel. We were protected because a couple of years ago we had petitioned the local environmental agency for permission to have the most dangerous and rotten branches, putting our colonial rooftops at risks, cut down. The uproar in town towards our actions was tantamount to that of bloody murder. Now, people understand that the rotten trees that have not been looked after present a significant health and safety risk. This morning, the new environmental officer was there, surveying the damage and wringing his hands and blaming the last administration. It was agreed that the branches needed to be trimmed back, but as always, there is no money available to do so, not even to fill the municipal chainsaw with gasoline. The Casa Amarilla put forward the cost of the gasoline, a paltry 20,000 pesos. Better this than a serious accident or the cost of a damaged roof.
So, as I filled out a claims form on the website for the Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio to establish that my rights as a consumer have been violated by the hardware store, I find myself wondering if anything will come of it all? After all, I do not have the product in my possession and I have already previously received a refund at this store in the past, which I can prove. Now the owner is saying that it is against company policy. When I asked an online forum how to proceed this was the response received:
“Well Richard, there are two different processes you can do with the SIC, report and sue. What you want to do is to bring a lawsuit against the company that isn’t coming back to you with what you bought or your money. Is an easy online process that you can do following this link (Trámites en Línea). But I honestly don’t think its worth the hassle.”
Telling isn’t it. Surely, we should be demanding more as consumers? Surely, we should naively make these complaints so that things do improve for the consumer in Colombia?
Or am I completely leftfield on this one?