Thursday, May 14, 2009

Credit Cards

I admit that I'm one of those Gringos that hates to needlessly part with my hard-earned cash. Some people might think I'm a tightwad, but I prefer to think of myself as either frugal or thrifty.

One of the things that always irked me was the 3% transaction fee that American credit card companies charge on all purchases outside of the USA. So far, I've only been able to find three credit cards that do not charge this fee: cards issued by Capital One, Charles Schwab, and Discover.

While Discover cards are not widely accepted outside of the USA, they are accepted throughout Central America. So I got one and enjoyed using it during my trips to Honduras. Usually people looked at the card, and would ask what type of card is this? This made it even more fun to use. But no more...Discover started charging a 2% foreign transaction fee effective this month. So I'll retire it to my credit card cemetery in my dresser drawer.

Between Charles Schwab and Capital One, I prefer the Schwab card because in addition to not charging that pesky foreign transaction fee, it also pays me back 2% of total purchases. The Capital One card gives airline points, so I'll keep it for backup.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Low Expectations or Just No Expectations

Although I really love Honduras, and consider myself a 'Catracho' in my heart, there are many little things that just bug me. I've never really made a list of all of these things, but I know it would be pretty long. A couple of recent examples are:

1- My family and I recently went to one of the 'better' Chinese restaurants in Tegucigalpa. The table had been cleaned and we were seated. The place mats, however, were filthy. They had crumbs on them and caked on food and sauce. My wife pointed this out to the waitress. Her reaction?... She picked up a couple of them, slapped them together a couple of times, and put them back on the table. OK, the crumbs did fall off (probably on my wife's lap), but the caked on food was still pretty disgusting, so my wife took the place mats from the table and put them on the floor under a chair. The waitress seemed surprised by this, so my wife told her that we would rather have no place mats rather than dine on dirty ones.

2- For some reason, construction workers consider the street to be a part of their construction site, at least in residential neighborhoods. Construction debris litters the street during the entire construction of a house, which can sometimes be upwards of 1-2 years. There are piles of wood, dirt, and nails strewn everywhere. Usually, there will be a car parked directly opposite of all the debris making it virtually impossible to pass. Oh, did I say anything about getting flat tires from all the nails thrown onto the street? In the USA (and in other countries I'm sure), neighbors, neighborhood associations, and the municipal government would make the contractor's life hell if they did not regularly haul away the debris, but oh no, not in Honduras.

I've thought about all these things, and sometimes wonder if I'm being just a bit too knit-picky. Well, the more I think about it, I realize I'm not being too picky. Shouldn't place mats be clean in a restaurant? Shouldn't a contractor haul away his debris? These things happen in Honduras because the restaurant owner know people will still frequent his restaurant with the dirty place mats and not complain. The contractor knows that if you dare to complain about the debris, he will just say "Oh, I'll take care of that", knowing full well that he has no intention to, and the complainant knows he has no intention to. Things are just going to continue as they are, have always been, and always will be.

Why? Because Hondurans have low expectations or maybe, more precisely, no expectations