Day 2: Chiloe and Lack of Professionalism in Chile

When we arrived in Puerto Montt we had made a reservation for a tour to the island of Chiloe for the next day. So we were ready and waiting at the 9:30am pick up time only to wait for 55 minutes for the van to finally pick us up. We decided we would either get a discount or go on our own and not put up with the lack of professionalness of this tour company. We get in the van and the guy that sold us the tour was going person to person asking for the final payment. We gave him 10USD short of what we owed him for the 4 of us. He asked for the rest and we said no, and that he was basically an hour late and it was unacceptable. I jumped in and asked if he spoke English, he said yes, so I went off and told him this would never happen in the U.S. and if it did, we would receive a discount. He responded by saying Chile isn’t the U.S. and this is how things work in Chile. Okay, great excuse! If only I could speak my mind super quickly in Spanish!!

Pablo continues to refuse to pay him so he asks Pablo his name and then introduces Pablo to the entire van (about 8 other people) and explains how he wants a discount. Pablo wasn’t embarrassed and just waves to everyone. We explain that we either get the discount or get out of the van, no big deal, so he, get this, ASKS IF WE ARE JEWISH? I’m seriously in shock by this point and ask if this is seriously a professional tour company?!?! Pablo says he is Jewish and still refuses to pay. Finally the money collector gets off the van at his office location without his extra 10USD and we continue on the tour. He had to accept that we wouldn’t pay because the driver/tour guide was not even a part of his company and he had already paid him, so whatever money he lost would be his personal loss. “The customer is always right” does not exist in Chile and I guess “try to guilt and embarrass your customer into giving you money you don’t deserve” is the new thing.  (Tip: Don’t book a tour with Franco in Puerto Montt)

This is kind of a cultural point in Chile that really bugs me. Chileans seem to accept things when they are less than promised (Edit: “Promised” is the point here, I’m not saying that Chileans should ask for more, I’m just saying that if a tour says they will pick you up at a certain time, one should complain when it doesn’t happen). An hour late for a tour they paid for? No problem! Bad expensive meal? Please bring more! And the horrible cycle continues and some companies or employees can get away with being mediocre. I think this explains the some of the poor customer service I’ve seen in Chile. If only Chileans knew their rights and spoke up, maybe things would improve and be more efficient, whether it be restaurant food or tours. It is so frustrating!!

The rest of the tour was great. We saw a lot in very little time. Hitting up Ancud, Dalcahue, and Castro and getting back to Puerto Montt around 10pm (on the map, Puerto Montt is a short ferry ride and short drive north east of Ancud)

Here are the pics:

A traditional dish of Chiloe, Curanto. They cook everything underground with smoldering coal for a few hours.

 

A tiny island off the coast.

A super old canon

 

 

 

 

Most of the boats were sitting on land because the tide was down at the time.. pretty crazy.

 

 

 

A fresh fish and ceviche market..

 

There was a wedding going on in the historical church in Castro.. had to snap a shot. And I wasn’t really invading, since I didn’t see any other professional photographer.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 7, 2011 - 2:40 am

Jana - Love the cat. The answer is that you’re not Jewish, but you *are* clients who need to be treated respectfully and receive the service you paid for! But you’re right, people rise to the level of expectations, and if Chileans have low expectations, that is what they will receive.

February 7, 2011 - 4:08 am

Angie - Love the photos. Curanto looks yummy!

February 7, 2011 - 8:06 am

Abby - He asked if you were Jewish??? Woooooow.

On a positive note, I love the pictures, especially the kitty!

February 7, 2011 - 6:00 pm

Jeanenne - When I was in Guatemala doing some underwater cave tour with the most popular company, the head tour guide was telling me that he refuses to work with anyone who’s Jewish or from Israel because they won’t ever pay at the end of the tour.

February 7, 2011 - 9:45 pm

George - Awesome blog post, good web page template, carry on the great work

February 8, 2011 - 12:32 pm

Alessandra - “Bad expensive meal? Please bring more! ” = dining out in Chile in a nutshell.

Love this post/the pics!

February 11, 2011 - 8:33 pm

mashgula - I think the title of the post is too broad. You’re basically calling us all “unprofessional” based on your cultural background as a U.S. citizen. If things don’t work here and we don’t complain maybe that doesn’t bug us that much, don’t you think so? I know it’s hard to forget about what you have experienced and learned in the U.S. I spent a year there and I was constantly shocked by almost everything, but I was there and I tried not to say anything because it wouldn’t have made any sense at all. Why would I want to change the way people are/ live/ work/ provide a service/etc.? I saw it from this point of view: I was a guest at someone else’s home so I wasn’t going to criticize him/her; if I didn’t like something, I just kept it to myself. After all I was the one who had made the decision of going there.
I totally understand you being mad at that man because he was rude (what do Jews have to do with this?? Never heard of such thing) and provided a really bad service, but I think there are many other companies and this was just a bit of bad luck.
Hope you get some good experiences and see that even this is not the U.S., it’s a great place to live. And it’s not better nor worse, it’s just different.
BTW, your pictures are great.

February 11, 2011 - 9:12 pm

Roy - The jewish comment made me laught. But thats my nature because my name sounds ‘jewish’ but i am hispanic and i tell people i am from Norway.

Proffesional is all about culture and where you are at. Some people and countries have it and some don’t. I can feel your exasperation about the whole place bieng complicit in that kind of observation. I would be remiss if i said there is anyone to blame but its a cultural thing and maybe where your at kinda of condition. Dont’ be a hater, be positive and make a good story about it. Like most of what you wrote, a good write and read.

February 11, 2011 - 10:45 pm

Marta - It was utterly out of place of you two to ask for a discount. This is not how things are done in Chile and pretending to have Chileans do what you thought it was right was very self-centered and arrogant besides making a scene in front of other people and probably postponing even more the start of yours and everyone else’s tour. Did it ever occur to you to ask why he was late?
And I resent the fact that you generalize about Chileans after one incident. This is what makes some Americans not well liked in Chile. Besides, what you said that “never would happen in the US” it does happen and you should acknowledge this if you take time to forget for a minute your superiority complex. I am Chilean but also own a home in the US and know that what you said belongs in the realm of fantasy.

February 11, 2011 - 11:03 pm

LanaRenee - Ummm.. it was my Chilean boyfriend and his Chilean friend that demanded the discount.. not me.

And I don’t generalize Chileans after one incident, I made a cultural observation based on living there after 6 months, shopping, going on tours, buying furniture, and eating in restaurants. Maybe it will change after I’ve lived there for 2 years? I don’t think so.

And it did not occur to ask why he was late. Paying clients deserve respect and him not respecting our time or money was what I (and the other Chileans) had an issue with.

I said that it *probably* wouldn’t happen in the US.. and if it DID, it would be handled differently if the company was legit, that is unarguable (unless someone can find an example of a tour company asking if their clients are Jewish in front of the whole tour)

February 11, 2011 - 11:13 pm

LanaRenee - Sorry, I didn’t mean for the title to sound like I was calling all things in Chile unprofessional, I meant it as an intro to the incident I talked about, I’m sure there are super great professional tour services, his was not one of them.

I’m not at all saying it bugs all Chileans, it obviously doesn’t or else things would be different. However, I have noticed it bugs Americans and also Chileans that have lived in the US. Maybe it is a matter of not knowing what you could be getting until you have experienced getting great service somewhere else. Like you don’t know what is bad until you have had the good type thing.

Also, I comment on Chilean culture whether bad or good to have something to write about. As a paying customer, I feel that I should be respected, that is why I spoke up in that one incident. However, concerning slow or poor service in restaurants, stores, etc.. I realize it is more or less common and different from the US and do not say something about it on the spot.

I’ve had good experiences and do have lots of positive things to say about why I live in Chile.. I guess I just get more worked up about having something negative to write.. I’ll soon write a post about why I DO actually live in Chile.

Thanks for your input.. I like to hear from Chileans!

February 11, 2011 - 11:22 pm

Mallory - I went on my honeymoon to Argentina and Chile in1991. We visited , Puerto Montt and Chiloe Island also and I found it to be quite removed and beautiful. As for your experience with the tour guide, I think that expecting people in foreign countries to act like Amercian businesses is self-defeating, at best. I enjoyed seeing your gorgeous photos of locales I visited years ago. The countryside is spectacular and I am happy to see how little it has changed.

February 11, 2011 - 11:31 pm

LanaRenee - I bet it was a lot different back then.. must have been even more untouched.. very cool.

I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was expecting then to act like an American business.. I expected to be respected as a paying customer and for them to keep their word… which, in my experience is a quality that many countries other than the U.S. have. I’m positive many tours in Chile are quite different, even the driver who worked for another company commented that “Franco” had been a crazy case.. better luck next time.

February 12, 2011 - 6:22 am

Mark_BC - My mom just got back yesterday from 3 weeks visiting friends in Chile (incl. Chiloe) and she was telling me all about the dogs. Then I saw your blog on WordPress! What a small world.

Being a photographer you will probably find this hostage taking incident in southern Chile interesting from Thom Hogan

http://www.bythom.com/hostage.htm

What lenses do you like? I am a Nikon guy and I just got a 70-200 VR which is nice.

February 12, 2011 - 6:25 am

LanaRenee - I use a Canon and when I travel (at least for these posts) I only had my 50mm 1.4

And yeah, the protests had tons of people stuck.. dunno if I wold call it hostage taking though..

I hope your mom liked the visit!

February 12, 2011 - 12:35 pm

mashgula - Thanks for the explanation.
I think the service here it’s different, not good or bad as you point it. Things just work in a different way, and saying “Maybe it is a matter of not knowing what you could be getting until you have experienced getting great service somewhere else. Like you don’t know what is bad until you have had the good type thing.” it’s a little chauvinistic. If in the U.S. people do X and here people do Y, I think it’s OK as long as people here and there are not affected by it, and by “affected” I don’t mean people who have been to other places and feel comfortable with what those other places have to offer to them. For instance, I have been to Germany and I loved how everything was so organized and punctual, but I’m certain that I wouldn’t want that here because we’re different and it wouldn’t work. Maybe we’re not punctual but we have other things that Germans missed and that I noticed while being there. In the end it’s like the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Of course this is your opinion and you can say whatever you want, but my point is that you can hurt other people’s feelings (like in a reply you got after mine; I disagree with her but I can see why she got so pissed) if you attack the way they live and compare it to yours emphasizing that your is so much better. This is my opinion, but I think that the fact that we were the “conquered” ones (by Spaniards, mainly) have always made us feel that the northern hemisphere is the best one and we’re so behind them, that everything they do it’s perfect. I hate those who think that way because they do not appreciate what we are and have as a culture. But well, it’s my opinion.
Good luck with your pictures. They’re really good.

February 12, 2011 - 12:43 pm

davidperagallo - Just stopped by chance to this post. Impossible not to read it when the title mention “…lack of professionalism in Chile” and you are a Chilean Professional proud of his job and his country. I have no right to tell how to write, actually I like your post, the pictures are awesome, it is just that I am impressed on how you focus on one negative thing and you don’t get deeper on all the beautiful things around, I would give the title to the “Curanto” and not to “Franco”, guys like him are everywhere and doesn’t even merit to be the protagonist of you histories, specially when you used a powerful tool like this to shot thousands of Chilean Professionals, even when it was not your intention.
Anyways it is always good to read honest posts, that help us to think we have many things to improve yet and we are not as good as we think we are. Keep enjoying your trip. Best regards.

February 12, 2011 - 3:55 pm

LanaRenee - Hey David,

Thanks for your comment. I am glad you appreciate my honesty… and yes, I realize focus more on the negative because they are more shocking.

Actually, after my Chilean boyfriend read all the other comments above, he said that those kind of comments are exactly what the “Chileans” I am talking about would say. Especially the quote “if I didn’t like something, I just kept it to myself”, exactly opposite of what I and many “selfish” American would do. It avoids conflict and hurt feelings but it also, in many cases, supports mediocre service and quality.

I also realize that Chilean’s have a huge sense of nationalism, which was actually an issue at first in my relationship with my boyfriend, since I could care less of borders. So I am sure many Chileans feel offended about this post especially since I am gringa and not Chilean, but I guess a gringa is more apt to speak her mind on the subject.

Having said that, I’m really happy to hear you “admit” that we have many things to improve here in Chile (what country doesnt?).

Also, I live in Santiago.. so it’s not just a trip for me 😉

Thanks so much for your comment

February 12, 2011 - 5:01 pm

markbc - Yes that is an interesting topic and something I have often thought about myself. The different cultures around the world handle criticism differently. Some are more polite, and open criticism like this is not something people react well to, they try to avoid “losing face”. This means that problems can go on unresolved for a while because no one wants to address them. Us westerners tend to shoot from the hip more and say things as they are which makes it easier to make changes and address problems. But sometimes I think we go a little too far (not saying that you are) and need to respect each other a little bit more, but of course I think I may be guilty of going over the line sometimes. And I think there are certain social niceties that hold societies together that tend to get lost in the western free speech-anything-goes attitude to social dialogue. I dunno, I think there may be a happy medium in there somewhere.

February 12, 2011 - 5:20 pm

LanaRenee - Thank you so much for bringing that up. That describes it perfectly. I studied “face” in my antro classes, just never really applied it to this.
It was definitely an issue I had with my Chilean boyfriend at first, but he soon realized just because I brought up negative things or compared things, didn’t mean I hated the first thing, and it is just the way I am.. I say what I think. It is definitely Chilean culture to be polite and not bring up criticism… leaving me out of place here and also frustrating me quite a bit, since I like to hear people’s opinions and better myself from it.

February 13, 2011 - 9:07 pm

spidersworkshop - I must admit when I first read your post I felt like using some pretty strong language. No country is free from poor customer service, and each culture has it’s own way of dealing with it. I grew up in the US, but when I moved to the UK I embarrassed my friends when I complained in restaurants, which wasn’t done. But I as an outsider I wouldn’t have publicly criticized the British.

I see in your comments that you were not making a sweeping statement about Chileans, but your post and general attitude gives the feeling of one observing Chile from some higher position. I think this is why people are reacting the way they are to your post.

“If only Chileans knew their rights and spoke up, maybe things would improve and be more efficient”. I am surprised that no one has mentioned to you that 30 years ago complaining about the system was not the wisest thing to do in Chile. Life under Pinochet changed the way Chileans did everything. If you would like one point of view of life in Chile in the 1970’s watch the movie “Tony Manero”, directed by Pablo Larrain. A country that lived in silence will take time to find its voice.

February 13, 2011 - 10:45 pm

LanaRenee - Thanks for your comment. In fact, I wrote my senior thesis on Pinochet and the state of democracy post Pinochet. So yes, I am aware. However, that doesn’t make my statement any less true. They do have their rights now, so if they used them and did speak up service and quality would improve. It might not be part of their culture, meaning it might never happen, but my statement was an “if” statement. I’m not telling anyone to do it, I’m not asking Chileans to change, I’m merely offering my view on how things are here. Should I only write about positive stuff? Should I not criticize actions that I personally believe are wrong? I would do the same in my country and people do not have to read my blog. I’m not the typical stupid gringa, I’ve traveled the world, lived in Argentina and France, and I’m just comparing things, whether or not they should be compared.

Most Chileans I know completely agree that service, in general, is quite poor in Chile, but of course, they don’t agree with how I said it… Check out my post about Santiago on the NY times.. I have a quote from a Chilean that admits service in Argentina is much better.. and service was not even the topic.

February 14, 2011 - 10:10 am

spidersworkshop - I agree that some customer service in Chile is poor, but it is better than it was 15 years ago. It takes time. But it is how you voice your opinions that made me write. We should be able to share ideas between cultures in a way that doesn’t offend. And you are right, no one has to read your Blog, but people will, and they may form opinions from what you say.

I came across your blog some time ago when I googled Chile, (looking for “lana” – wool). Your “voice” comes over quite strong. It was your post about food in Santiago, and your opinion that the US is the best country in the world for food. I agree, excellent, diverse, cheap food. But don’t you wondered how the US can produce such cheap food? I am sure you have heard of this; http://www.foodincmovie.com/ .

I live in a farming area and I see the hard work, the crap pay, and the pesticides that go to produce cheap vegetables, (which aren’t that cheap after they have changed hands and made it to the supermarket). Good food should be for everyone, but it does not come from thin air. Someone has to work hard to produce it. You should try growing and slaughtering your own food, definitely made me look at hamburgers differently.

February 14, 2011 - 4:06 pm

LanaRenee - Hi! Thanks for your input.

I think it is difficult to not offend Chileans. It is not common in the culture to even bring up negative aspects about something.. even if it is with your own family. And me, being so honest and blatant, mention things the way I see it, be it insensitive on my part. I really don’t mean to offend. I’m not even talking about anyone but Franco, so why would a random Chilean be offended? Just because they are Chilean too? This is hard for me to understand because I see criticism about my country everyday and I am not offended because it is usually true in one way or the other, if I am not that way, then they are not talking about me and I am not offended.

Concerning how food is made in the US. Yes, it is super bad… I have seen many documentaries and activist groups. But we also have plenty of places that cook and serve natural food and whole grocery stores committed to providing “good” food. However, this was not what my post was about. And I would hope my voice would come over strong about it , because I do feel strong about it, exactly what you said “excellent, diverse, and cheap food”.. I’m excited about U.S. food and my attitude showed that. I hope no Chileans are offended by that, especially if they haven’t even been to the U.S. and tried the food.

February 14, 2011 - 4:19 pm

LanaRenee - Hey again! Please check out this post about a graduate Chilean program talking about the same subject. It is written in English by a Chilean that grew up in the US and is now living in Chile and getting her graduate degree::
http://chileangringa.blogspot.com/2010/09/chilean-companies-their-employees.html

February 14, 2011 - 4:20 pm

LanaRenee - Hey again! Please check out this post about a graduate Chilean program talking about the same subject. It is written in English by a Chilean that grew up in the US and is now living in Chile and getting her graduate degree::
http://chileangringa.blogspot.com/2010/09/chilean-companies-their-employees.html
Chileans can also generalize themselves.

February 14, 2011 - 4:23 pm

LanaRenee - Also, please check out this link:: A graduate Chilean program talking about the same subject. It is written in English by a Chilean that grew up in the US and is now living in Chile and getting her graduate degree::

http://chileangringa.blogspot.com/2010/09/chilean-companies-their-employees.html

People don’t have to feel in a higher position to talk about criticism.. Chileans can talk about their faults together..

February 14, 2011 - 5:10 pm

Fran - I am chilean and I don’t feel offended by your post. Everything written is true. I can see that someone can be offended because they hate to admit that they are not the best and you just say it very up front. I would like to know what sentences offended other chileans because I look and only see sentences that are true about chileans in general or they are about Franco only. I like your honesty and can understand your point, you have a right to be frustrated even if most chileans are not, I think I would be frustrated too.

February 14, 2011 - 8:18 pm

spidersworkshop - Thanks for the link. I remember hearing an American make a joke about the British on the TV about the war, went over like a lead balloon. Only the British feel they can do that. There are some things that you have to really be part of country to criticize.

As far as food, I can understand your passion for US food, but is it necessary to say that you can’t find good food in Santiago? When my husband worked in Santiago he went to an Italian restaurant, owned by Italians, with an Italian and had a great meal. I haven’t spent much time in Santiago, and if I want good Mexican food I know I have to cook it myself, but if you want hot, try some of the Peruvian restaurants.

I am not sure there is much more I can say. I am guessing you are young, and different from me, (old, married, and with kids) and you haven’t been in Chile for very long. Maybe I was much like you my first 6 months in Chile, coming straight from my independent life in the US. Sixteen years later, (almost to the day!) and I am a mother, wife, speak 2 languages, and grown a lot.

Good Luck

February 16, 2011 - 12:47 am

Marmo - I´m not going into the USA vs Chile service, I´ll just say, that the way people handle situations like that of the tour is different here.
In Chile, sooner or later, people will speak about how irresponsible or bad is the service from that company, and even faster, no one would recomend it. Here in Chile those contacts and reputation can kill or maintain a company. I know it´s slower, but people prefer that to avoid confrontation or arguments with strangers, in general.
The service was bad, being that late has no excuse, and then asking if you´re Jewish is just plain offensive, so that Franco guy deserved even more that a 10 dollar discount on his fare.

February 17, 2011 - 1:17 pm

Paula - hola Lana!

– no me dí el trabajo de contar, pero creo haber leído varias veces “to be respected as a paying customer” o frases parecidas. Descubrí que en ese punto era donde tus comentarios me despertaban un cierto ardor. Si hubiera sido un tour gratis no hubiera importado que el guía llegara una hora tarde?
Ojalá tuviéramos bloggers que defendieran con esa pasión el respeto, simplemente el RESPETO como valor, sin condiciones: el respeto a los demás, a las diferencias, a las opiniones, a los seres humanos, a su derecho a equivocarse, a los perros, a los defensores de los perros, a las autoridades que deciden que no queda otra opción viable que matar a los perros… con MÁS RESPETO este mundo sería mejor, en cualquier país, para los profesionales y no profesionales, turistas y locales, niños y viejos, clientes y no clientes, con o sin dinero.

– me cae muy bien spidersworkshop!

saludos,
Paula

November 23, 2011 - 11:30 am

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