Friday, January 30, 2015

Who Needs Electricity Anyways? #Mexico #Travel

Live Without Electricity Mexico TravelOver the past 10 years of living in Mexico*, I would consider my day to be a success if I had a shower or managed to sweep the floor. Yes, that’s what success looks like in Mexico.

So, you can imagine my surprise when we got four, make that FOUR things! done yesterday. The truly incredible thing is that they were all of critical importance; Taking Uncle Kevin and Liz to the airport following their 5-day visit, paying our Electricity bill, paying property taxes and getting Mexican pesos.

Of course, being Mexico, all of these tasks require a blog post within themselves. And they will each receive one in due time. I’ve decided to start with our Electricity problem because it has me the hottest under the collar and isn’t yet solved. Let me start at the beginning.

Over the years, before we leave Mexico for Canada, we ensure that our electricity account has a significant credit. We do this for two reasons. One: To avoid cancellation and reconnection fees. It turns out that the costs of paying the minimum and said fees are a wash which brings me to the second reason. Two: So that when we arrive at Midnight, we have electricity and don’t have to wait (who knows how long) for them to reconnect it. We had a great system going. And then this year happened.

Comission Federal de Electricidad (CFE)** decided to change all of their meters from a bi-monthly to monthly system with a 10-day grace period before your power gets cut off. It was and is a totally elective system. You don’t have to change your meter over. If you do, they require your permission. Unless your neighbour gives them permission and/or you’re out of the country. Okay, not really but they changed ours over anyways. Did I mention that the whole process used temporary workers that got paid based on total number of meters converted?

Needless to say, when we arrived they had changed our meter,
Cut off our electricity,
Created a new account and kept our $600MXN balance.

Fortunately, for the first time in 17 trips, we took an extra day and had arrived at 2pm and not at Midnight. The added bonus was that it was a weekday and not a weekend. So, Ed headed down to the office and got us all figured out. That was December 20. And that should have been that until January 20 or around that time. But, nothing here goes according to plan

On December 31 at 5pm, we lost power. We checked our meter and sure enough, they had suspended our service. Turns out that our account date ends on December 31 (obviously) and we have up until 10 days before that date to pay. That would be December 21.

So, even though the meter was activated and paid in full on December 20, we had to “check our balance” (more on that in a minute) and pay within the 10 day period. In case math isn’t your strongest subject, we had to do that again from December 21 to 30.

Here it was, December 31, a Friday and the office was closed. For the long weekend. And we had no power. Happy New Years.

We found out from another disgruntled customer that you could pay via any Ahorro Pharmacy or at CFE’s 24 hour automatic kiosks, 20 minutes outside of the city. Ed tried a Pharmacy first but their computers were down so we all loaded in the car (something we try not to do) and headed out of town.

When we got there, all the kiosks were broken. Happy New Years (did I already mention that?).

So, we headed to another Pharmacy which successfully took our payment.

As far as we were concerned, we had paid up to December 31 and were good to go for a month. I’m sure by now, you know where this is heading.

Allow me to educate you on the process of checking your balance and updating your account.

They give you a chipped card and tell you DO NOT LOSE IT (more on this in a minute). You place the card above your reader, it reads your balance and in the process turns off (and on shortly thereafter) your power. Oblivious to the process, you run around and reset all the clocks and computers. You take said card down to their office, a 15 minute walk and pay whatever balance the kiosk tells you to. You then walk back home and once again, place the card above the meter and, you guessed it, it turns the power off and on. You keep your fingers crossed that you have power for another 30 days.

And then January 28 arrives. You have two days to pay your bill or be cut off and you can’t find your card. Anywhere. You head on down to the office, wait an hour, pay a fee and receive a new card. You then head back to your house and reactivate the card (turning off the power in the process), read the card (turning off the power again) and then head back downtown to pay your bill and then return to once again turn off your power.

You’d think that all was well and done, we’re now educated in the system that is called “Electricidad” here in Mexico. But it’s not all done. At all.

Ed has to write one letter requesting that they reinstall our old meter and write another letter begging requesting a refund of our credit. I’m not holding my breath on either one.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we checked out our latest bill and they didn’t give us credit for our payment made on December 31. So, we ended up paying that amount twice.

Who needs electricity anyways?

Ever Live Without Electricity?

UPDATE: On January 30, we received an ebill for our old account (and old meter). It appears that they’re charging us for two accounts. The saga continues…

* We first set eyes on San Cristobal de las Casas in 2003, however, didn’t start spending any significant time here until 2005.
** CFE stands for “Comission Federal de Electricidad” and is the National Electricity Regulator.

Note that San Cristobal de las Casas also generates it’s electricity via Hydro.

22 thoughts on “Who Needs Electricity Anyways? #Mexico #Travel

  1. Elizabeth Matthiesen

    sounds very much like mental torture to me! I think I’d be tearing out my hair. Hope it all gets sorted out soon and this horrendous problem is solved once and for all.

  2. Freda Mans

    I would be furious, as I’m sure you are, but essentially what can you do?!
    I’m hoping you get it all sorted and it stays on, at least for as expected to. I can’t believe how bad they are ripping you guys off.
    Freda Mans recently posted…The Friday 56My Profile

  3. Jo-Anne Pfoh

    omg I would be lying if i said I was not rolling with laughter but I really was lol. I would have inserted purchase a bottle of wine by the second paragraph followed by drank said wine by the start of the 3rd paragraph lol.

    Reading your Mexico adventures makes me appreciate my crappy post fire probably never going to get finished house so very much. Thanks 🙂

  4. AlwaysARedhead

    When we are camping, not having electricity is not a big deal. At home, I have a gas stove, and a barbecue so we could manage for a few days, but what you guys are going through would drive me crazy.

  5. M Thompson

    Why would you want to visit/stay in Mexico if this is the way things are done? But the way things are going in Ontario, this may be the system here soon…. no service, no power.

    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear M.,

      For everything “challenging” post that I blog about, there are 10 things that make Mexico special. Unfortunately, these kinds of posts make for better blog fodder. Having said that, you’re not the first person that has questioned what draws us to Mexico (the positives) so I’ll have to get a post together.

      I hope that Ontario doesn’t go this route because when we’re not in Mexico, we live in Ontario and I can’t handle this all.year.long!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      Besos Sarah
      Sarah recently posted…Why We Sold Everything We Owned and Moved to Mexico #travelMy Profile


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