There’s more to living in an “underdeveloped” country than poverty and blatant corruption. Thankfully, the former doesn’t directly affect me and the second is something I’ve had to get used to. My education in cultural differences has me repeating third-grade for the thirteenth year. Financially, it would make no difference if I were a rich gringo or living in reasonable comfort (which means a hell of a lot better than most Salvadorans, but not as well as I lived at almost any time in the U.S.) as I am.
I’ll begin with some recent purchases and how I have been taken in and astounded by doing business with names that are familiar to me. As a young married man, I subscribed to Consumer’s Guide before purchasing tools, appliances small and large, and vehicles. I was familiar with the reputations of manufacturers and the Guide reinforced my confidence in making decisions before looking for the best deal. I had a car. I lived in proximity to the stores from which I would likely purchase. Shopping was rather easy. Guarantees were reasonable and honored. Insurance policies for life, health, and property were generally not needed but comfortable to have. Problems would be addressed and losses recovered in a timely fashion.
In November, we took advantage of Black November sales and purchased a 43″ Samsung Smart TV at our recently opened Walmart. Two names we all know well. Our son-in-law Milton has access to a pickup and a van. It’s about a half-hour drive to Santa Ana. I paid him $10.00 for gas. We also bought a lovely stand with shelves and doors to cubbies for photos and whatever. I paid with my Visa debit card from my pension account recently flushed with COVID-19 cash. We were elated.
But now my education was about to begin. The TV screen was so big that I needed to turn my head left to right to watch a fútbol game. With my Wi-Fi setup, I could go to YouTube and watch my home-made videos enlarged and with much better sound quality than on our laptops or my Samsung Smart Phone. But before I could achieve the sports channel I was seeking, I was plagued with ads that had to be deleted several times. Some offered me more movies. Others pornography. Lots of games for infantile adults popped up. My favorite was the one in Arabic. Hardly choices based on any interests I might have exposed via the Internet.
Samsung’s “Help” chats did nothing to help me get rid of what my investigating the Internet taught me. I learned that Samsung programs malware and that their Ad Blocker doesn’t block them. Samsung also pre-programs Disney, YouTube, Google, Netflix, Amazon, and other pay-to-use programs in which I have no interest. I further learned that Samsung uses a Tizen browser and a Linux operating system (OS). I can’t download Edge, Google, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or any commonly used browser to the TV. I also can’t download Ad Block Plus which protects my laptop and phone, because they have no version for Linux. But Samsung gave me a great run-around over the past two months.
I didn’t like the remote control that came with the TV so on another trip to Walmart, I spent $15.00 on a Universal Remote Control. The booklet that came with it was written in Spanish and in the broken English that comes from Asian countries like South Korea and China. I’m fairly well-educated and used to translating poor Spanish into meaningful text—but not in this case. It took a couple of weeks before Milton and my 16-year old daughter Adriana got the new control to turn on and off the TV and to raise and lower the volume. But like its predecessor, the channel changer did not function. We change the channels with the control our provider gave us when we had our antique TV and switched from Claro Satellite TV to Tigo Cable TV.
In trying to reduce the number of remote control devices, I went over the TV reset process but was stuck where it wanted the model number of the cable connection device. It was a chore deciding from the label beneath the device what the TV wanted. I learned that it was manufactured by Kaon, a South Korean entity. When I punched in Kaon on the TV screen, it displayed a list of model numbers. Mine was not on it. This must be why I can’t completely program the remote control. Tomorrow, Monday, Margarita will contact Tigo to request a visit from the technicians who set up our old TV when we switched from Claro. Hopefully, she will be able to get someone to come and get us down to one fully-functioning remote control. My personal problem will be to memorize the vast array of buttons learning their purposes, and hoping that I won’t mess up something by hitting a wrong, tiny, illegible without my other glasses button.
A week or so later.
Well, Margarita made the call to Tigo. The woman she spoke with tried her best to be helpful. It turned out that Tigo’s cable connection box won’t recognize this Samsung TV model. Samsung makes its products for different regions. El Salvador, as usual, is screwed by receiving devices that are not fully compatible with local communications systems. I don’t even try to watch the TV anymore. It’s too much time wasted and then the stream blacks out so I have to keep clicking on Play or Refresh and that starts the whole process over with more ads for children’s games, movie providers, and the Arabic page.
About two weeks ago, I saw advertised on Office Depot’s shop online page a Dell all-in-one computer. I have shopped before in their store near San Salvador. I paid with my Visa Debit Card. I ordered the item and received a confirmation from their headquarters in Mexico. A few days later, I checked my pension account online and found they had returned my payment. After three chats with three different call center advisors, I was told that they don’t accept debit cards, only credit cards. To me that was stupid. They had my money. Why couldn’t they ship the damned computer? I never noticed on any shop-on-line pages anything more about payment than Visa, Master Card, Pay Pal, and American Express cards. But it seems there is small print asking for credit cards only. So, now I’m in a bind. I need a larger screen computer and one with enough gigabytes to do my work.
About this time, Adriana received notification on the tablet on which she’s been receiving her lessons and taking her tests since the pandemic closed our schools, that the following week she’d have Internet classes according to the schedule and she’ll need her laptop. The one I’m writing this on. I’m doing the best I can frantically to see how I can buy the computer I need. My old one doesn’t have the RAM for my programs (Apps) and several of the keys don’t work so I have to use the On-Screen Keyboard and that’s so slow. So now in her second week of classes, she’s still using her tablet.
I’ve been regularly scouring the Internet looking for someone who will sell and ship to me the computer I am looking for. I’m not having any luck. I’m also looking for a cassette to MP3 converter. I want to transfer my music to the computer to make more videos for my many YouTube channels. They only cost about $20.00 but no one here sells them. If I only had a car and a license to drive! But still being a mere Permanent Resident rather than a Naturalized Citizen, and being unwilling to bribe the local DMV to get a license (and not having the money for a vehicle), I can’t go to the big city to shop.
I keep thinking (ignoring all the negative factors) that if I still lived in Granada Hills, CA, I’d have my 1998 Dodge pickup and the nearby Walmart and Office Depot sites to buy and return what I didn’t like and an Internet provider who would be readily available to either instruct me clearly on how to program a remote control or send someone to the house to do it. Customer service is just a term in El Salvador and not really available. As far as Samsung, I will never buy another of their products and will not recommend them to a friend.