San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

Gringos moving to Costa Rica have to forget they ever heard the motto, “The customer is always right.” And Nordstrom department store’s no-questions-asked return policy? Forget it. If you buy, say, a coffeemaker, find it useless when first plugged in and try to exchange it, you will likely find yourself with two coffeemakers, the useless one and the one you have to buy when the store refuses to take back the first.

That’s why Costa Ricans are usually very careful to test their purchases before leaving the store. The supermarket Palí even has an empty light socket on the wall so you can try out a light bulb before you pay for it.

The very good ceramics store Cerámica Fiesta in Cañas carried this to a new extreme recently. Descending to Cañas because Cerámica Fiesta has a much bigger selection at lower prices than what’s available in Tilarán, a lake resident recently bought a large order of tile and five bags of grout. Leaving half the tile and two of the bags of grout to be picked up on another trip, she labored back up the hills in her gutless pickup. Her tile installer later told her that three bags of grout were adequate, so, on the second trip, she asked the salesman to credit her for the two bags never taken from the store. No way. They don’t take back what’s sold, even if it never left the premises.

The many beach and volcano hotels that have recruited bilingual young people from all over the country have now apparently laid off quite a few. Several furloughed receptionists and guides from Tilarán recently occupied a weekend with a self-guided tour to volcano resorts where friends who still had jobs could get them in for free. At Los Lagos, the group, rather reckless after enjoying good times at The Springs, among other luxury spots, climbed the long distance to the top of the very long, curving waterslide and, after a while, decided to augment the thrills by going down backwards, not realizing that on the curves a backward slider’s head would bounce from one side to the other of the concrete course.

The slide was too long for those who reached the bottom to warn those still at the top. Later, the group was to be found on the underwater stools at the swim-up bar, each with a bag of ice to his or her head.

–Alex Murray


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