The Cultural Experience of Paying a Mexican Electric Bill

I don’t remember exactly which day I received my electric bill, but it was probably early the 2nd week of September. I stashed the electric bill on the shelf in my kitchen, and made a mental note to pay it soon; next time I went by an Oxxo. (Oxxo is a convenience store chain popular in Mexico, and there you can pay your electric bill, water bill or cell phone bill; all while grabbing a magazine and half liter of Coke).

Friday, September 10 I arrived home about 1pm, after being at class all morning, to find my electricity had been turned off. Grr! I pulled out the electric bill, which had been sitting there all of 3 or 4 days at most, and noticed the due date: August 21. !@#$!?!?!?

Because the bill was late, the clerk at Oxxo told me I had to go to the actual electric company office to pay the bill. It took me about an hour to find that office (that’s pretty good time for finding something new in Guadalajara!), and paid the bill. The clerk told me the power would be restored Monday.

Monday came. Monday went. Still no power. Tuesday, one of the teachers at my school school called the electric company (because he spoke better Spanish than me) and determined that my power was not turned back on because I had not paid an $80 peso (~US$6.20) reconnection fee. When we asked why they didn’t charge me that fee on Friday, they said the office where I paid didn’t have the disconnect order, so they didn’t know to ask for the fee. HELLO! I asked her when it would be reconnected, so she knew it was disconnected. Grr!

So that afternoon my teacher drove me around northwest Guadalajara for about 2 hours finding the “central” office, and then paying the reconnect fee. The clerk then assured me it would be turned on again “tomorrow.” “Tomorrow” by then was Sept 15, which is a holiday for most Mexican government offices (the real holiday was Sept 16, but many businesses took 2 days off, either the 15th & 16th, or the 16th & 17th; perhaps some all three days). In Mexico, everyone gets their electricity from a Federal-government-run utility company.

I wasn’t terribly surprised when the power was not turned on Wednesday… or Friday.

Today, Monday (11 days after power was cut) I had another Mexican friend call the power company, and we were told “We see no record that you’ve paid the reconnection fee. You need to go to the main office to pay it again.” Frustration builds.

We got to the main office, and were told “The power was restored on Sept 17th. You probably just blew a fuse or something.” We had to insist multiple times that the electric meter was *physically disconnected* from the side of the building before the clerk decided that *maybe* it hadn’t actually been turned on. (To disconnect your power in Mexico, it is common, it seems, for them to remove the face of the electric meter, turn int counterclockwise about 45 degrees, then reattach it to the wall. Maybe this is common in the U.S., too, and I’ve just never seen it because I’ve never had such a frustrating run-in with my electric company in the states.)

She went into the back of the office, and about 15 minutes later she emerged from her office cave and told us that someone would be turning on the power by 2:30 today. Or, if we happened to see an electric utility vehicle in the neighborhood, we could flag them down and ask them to turn it on for us. The backup plan didn’t do a lot to instill confidence.

Fortunately, the power was finally restored today about 1:45pm–allowing me to write this blog entry.

If nothing else, I learned to not allow my electric bill to go unpaid! I’ll be paying my bills the day they arrive from now on.

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