See the big pile of bags? This is what we lugged all the way back to Curaçao. We have been living out of the two backpacks while in the USA . The rest of the pile, the three large duffle bags, are parts for Cream Puff. We took full advantage of being in the USA and shopping for boat parts. Did you notice the rise in the Amazon stock price? The Amazon board of directors had to adjust their quarterly earnings because Mark and Cindy were back in town.
I started to write this post about getting spoiled in the USA. There is no question the USA offers a comfortable lifestyle for those who are willing to work hard. During our 7 week stent there I was reminded about this. Cruising down the islands, we have become accustomed to the island ways. Such as not getting everything on the list at the grocery store, not being able to find the right boat part and eating at restaurants with mediocre food and service. But, then I changed my mind about what to write because two really stupid things happened and I thought you might find them amusing.
It occurred to me writing about how Americans have it good and how some just complain or don’t seem to appreciate the high standard of living might miff a few people. So instead, I thought it best to keep things light and share the two stupid things. The two things I felt I just had to share with the rest of the world involve corporate stupidity. Somehow corporate stupidity never ceases to amaze me. So, here we go.
Stupid Thing Number One
The first stupid thing was with Avis. We needed to travel from Atlanta to Miami for our return flight to Curaçao. Flying was going to be stupid expensive since we needed to travel with six bags. I hate flying and will always opt to drive if possible. I do not know of any other business where people pay exorbitant sums of money only to be smushed up in an uncomfortable seat and treated like crap from the time they arrive at the airport until the time they reach their destination and leave the airport. A one-way flight to Miami from Atlanta was about $100 each on a real airline (I don’t consider Spirit or Frontier real airlines). Ha you say, not too bad. But we have to check 3 bags. At $50 each that’s an extra $150 added to the ticket price it is a grand total of $350 for about 45 minutes of joy in the sky. No thanks! We decided to drive. It’s a 10 hour drive and we have time, we don’t have jobs. A one-way rental from AVIS was quoted at $116. Even with the two tanks of gas, we are way ahead. Or, so we thought.
We picked up our car at about 8 am in Atlanta and drove down to Miami. We dropped all of our stuff in a hotel close to the airport since we had a really, really, really early start to Aruba the next day. I decided to run the car over the rental car return center at the airport so we didn’t have to mess with it the in the wee hours of the morning. The hotel offered a free shuttle service to and from the airport. AVIS scanned the window sticker on the car and printed me out a receipt right there in the parking garage. It is a darn good thing I looked at it closely: $221. What? What happened to $116? I went to the AVIS counter and informed the very nice young lady I had been overcharged. She immediately said she would adjust the bill but pointed out I had returned the car early. I asked why I would be charged more if I returned the car early. Returning the car late I could understand an extra fee, but early? It seemed to me they should be happy I returned it early as they could rent it again faster while keeping my money. This is the way normal people think. She tried to explain how AVIS works the rate. This was like listening to someone who is high on pot try to explain how a nuclear power plant works. Even though I was quoted $116 for a 24 hour rental, some idiot at AVIS thinks it is okay to charge an extra $105 for less time. The very nice young lady at the counter gave me a new bill. It read $97. I explained this wasn’t correct either. I told her I owed $116. She explained she couldn’t generate a bill for $116 unless I decided to bring the car back again in the morning. I thanked her and took the $97 receipt.
Stupid Thing Number Two
Aruba Airlines scored big time for stupid thing number two. Our flight back to Curaçao meant a change of planes in Aruba. This was not a big deal since bags are checked all the way from Miami to Curaçao meaning we didn’t have to mess with customs and immigration on the beautiful island of Aruba. We were allowed one checked bag each as part of our discount fare, one carry-on each and a personal item carry-on such as a purse each. Our experience with international travel told us to ensure our bags were under the weight limit. Airlines can get fussy about bag weights.
We checked Aruba Airlines’ website and found we were allowed 23 kgs (about 50 lbs) for the checked bag and 8 kgs for the carry-on. We also knew we had to pay an extra $50 for an additional checked bag. We were fine with this charge since shipping all the boat parts in these duffle bags from the USA to Curaçao would have cost us ten times this amount. $50 was a deal. We checked in for our flight at 5:30 am after a 4:30 am wake-up call. By the way, God isn’t even up yet at 4:30 am.
After checking our bags and getting our boarding passes, we walked the less than 15 yards from the ticket counter to the TSA check point. This is where stupid thing number two happened. Aruba air had two non-English speaking agents weighing people’s carry-on bags. I knew Cindy’s was underweight but mine was a little heavy (because I can carry more than her). Cindy went first. They weighed her backpack and she was told to move ahead. They weighed my backpack. You would think it was a crisis of the nth degree and alarm bells sounded all the way to Mississippi. My backpacked weighed 9.2 kgs. After explaining I didn’t understand Spanish, I was told by the TSA agent the very rude Aruba Air Agent was telling me I needed to return to ticketing and check the bag. Not wanting to make a scene with TSA standing right there, I called Cindy back in my rather loud authoritative tone that seemed to get the attention of all the passengers within a 2 mile radius.
Cindy came back to the Aruba Air weigh-in trap. I told her my backpack was too heavy and the rather nasty Aruba Air agent is insisting I check the backpack. We looked over at the now very long line at the ticket counter and started to wonder about the contents of my backpack. Were the contents so important we couldn’t just dump it on the spot and continue on? It was mostly clothes and my PC. I don’t spend a lot on cloths so there is no doubt in my mind the bag had less than $50 of clothes. I would come out ahead by tossing everything except the PC on the floor. There was no way we were going back to the ever growing line at the check-in counter. We had a better idea. In front of the Aruba Air and TSA agents, I took my lap top out of my backpack and put it in my personal tote bag (my personal carry on item or man purse). How much does my backpack weigh now, I asked the nasty lady of Aruba Air as I handed her my backpack. She answered 8 kgs, you can go ahead. We both went ahead. The TSA agent looked quite amused and tried not to laugh. The Aruba Air Agent didn’t even realize how stupid the whole thing was and continued to weigh the carry-on bags of the person behind me who was shaking their head in disbelief.
The icing on the cake to this stupidity is the personal carry-on on bag I had (top of the pile in the top pic). Nobody questioned this bag. It was about the size of a large women’s purse and therefore, being a personal item, wasn’t subject to the weight restriction. I’m pretty sure once I added the computer to it the weight was well over 8 kgs. Darn good job they didn’t weight that one.
The rest of our flight was not nearly as amusing. Our plane change went smoothly. We arrived in Curaçao where a confused immigration agent had a hard time when she realized we had arrived on a return ticket and we didn’t live there. We explained we were leaving in a few days by private boat. We had a nice conversation with her supervisor and all went well. Next came the part we were really worried about: Customs.
Cream Puff is considered a “Yacht in Transit” and is therefore duty-free. This YIT status varies from country to country. In some places imports are free of charges, other places not so much. We had a very hard time getting information on the Governmental Customs policies of Curaçao. This worried us. Any import tax was going to be costly.
Although we were pretty sure we owed no duty, we were still sweating it a little bit. We had all of our paperwork for the boat, immigration showing we arrived by boat the first time and receipts of our imports. We arrived in customs and entered the green line – nothing to declare. Three agents greeted us with that infectious smile only island people seem to have. They ask us where we had come from. We told them we had come from the USA via Aruba and planned to leave Curaçao by private boat in a few days. They waived us on with no further questions. Yippee! When we got out of site we did a little happy dance. No import fees! Then off we went to the rental car counter – which was not AVIS.
It’s good to be home!