Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rules were made to be broken

In the Philippines, there are a lot of (ahem, arbitrary) rules.  Some are straight up nonsense.  Others are fabulous but, alas, never enforced.  And then some rules exist just for certain people - if you're rich or a local Filipino with some stature in the the community, rules don't necessarily apply.  

The most obvious area in which the rules (also loosely referred to as laws) are applied on an irregular basis (if that)?  Traffic enforcement.  It is INSANE what people get away with on the streets yet there are random laws that ARE enforced such as, certain drivers with license plates starting in certain numbers or letters are not allowed to drive on Wednesdays.  Wha?!?  This of course, does NOT apply to diplomats or people in nice cars and even if it is supposed to, I have never seen a traffic enforcement officer chase anyone down.  The most they do is try to wave you over and I gotta be honest, if it were me, I'd just press on the gas too.  

Then there's the VAT and other shopping related er....nightmares for lack of a better word.  Diplomats are VAT (value added tax) exempt here in the Philippines which sounds great but 9 times out of 10, it's not worth the hassle to get the VAT taken off your bill.  I'd have to look it up but I gotta think that the VAT exemption has been around for a loooooong time but I have only been to ONE establishment that seemed to process the exemption on a regular basis.  All others look at me as if I have 4 eyes, 3 boobs, and a big booger on my upper lip when I ask them to take off the VAT.  It's 12% though....TWELVE PERCENT!  Do you know how many shoes I could buy with the 12% I'd save if I made sure the VAT was taken off every bill?  In the Philippines....a lot of damn shoes.  It took us two months to get our VAT exemption card.  You'd think after all that waiting, the clouds would part and everyone would just understand.  You're part of the club....you have "the card".  Hear the angels singing?  Nah, me neither.  They don't sing. 

They tell you to copy and laminate your VAT card and you certainly learn that the hard way if you don't.  Picture this, I am at the ONLY check out counter in a huge store that will let you purchase CDs and movies.  There is one cashier.  When I approach the counter, no one else is getting in line so I think, give the ol' VAT a try.  I completely forgot at this store you have to "register" the first time you use your VAT - they need a copy of it for their records or some such thing.  So I show them my card and they give me the ubiquitous, "wait for a while" ma'am.  Fifteen minutes later, a woman appears with what I can only describe as the jackpot of archaeology.  Honestly, it looked like a thousand year old bible and when she opened it, there it was.  EVERY person who had registered at this store for the VAT exemption well....ever.  Handwritten of course.  "Do you have a copy of your card ma'am?" Um....no.  "Do you have a copier," I said.  At this point, she tries to take my VAT card and the ONLY ID I have with me.  I may not be an intellectual but I know better than to let a stranger run off with my IDs in the middle of the most confusing department store I've ever encountered.  

This is where I (stupidly) assume they have a copier in the store and that is why she wants to take my cards.  I tell her she can't have them but I will go with her to make copies.  She turns to stone as if she is somehow glued in place....the 4 eyes, 3 boobs, big booger look comes out but I know not why.  At this point, there are about 12 people in line behind me because, don't forget, this is the ONLY counter you can purchase the movies and CDs at (though there are about a thousand other cashier areas throughout the store).  So now I am starting to feel bad.  Like the spoiled expat who wants her tax free items.  But in my defense, I had already asked the cashier three times if she could void my transaction and help the other people.  That said, I was starting to sweat with irritation and guilt.  

They tend to wait you out here and I don't know if it is some sort of ploy to see if they can wear you down or if they truly desperately want you to have what you asked for.  In either case, they told me they couldn't void the damn transaction but after the VAT looked like a lost cause, miraculously, the void button started working.  
So here's the long story short part.  You need a copy of your VAT and your ID at the store NO MATTER WHAT.  I didn't have that.  Nothing would have changed if I'd given her my cards because they have NO DAMN COPIER.  So if there was no way that I was going to get the VAT exemption, why my dears, didn't she just effing say so!?!?!  

And just so you know, I did not get my 12% off that day - - but I did age about 5 years in that 40 minute window.

Sadly, I'm sure this is just installment one in the "Rules were made to be broken" report.  TO BE CONT....

3 comments:

Pulisha said...

Oh, Lindsey, welcome to the Philippines! ;) We have learned to only ask for VAT off when it really matters (big purchases) or at places where they are used to it (Starbucks, Rustans, Santis, etc.). Otherwise the pain and heartache are just.not.worth.it. Another good tip: shop with your ipod - that way when sales people try to help you in every single aisle you can just point at the ear buds and shrug rather than having to constantly brush them off. For all the shopping to be done here, it is not much fun :(

Pulisha said...

Oh, Lindsey, welcome to the Philippines! ;) We have learned to only ask for VAT off when it really matters (big purchases) or at places where they are used to it (Starbucks, Rustans, Santis, etc.). Otherwise the pain and heartache are just.not.worth.it. Another good tip: shop with your ipod - that way when sales people try to help you in every single aisle you can just point at the ear buds and shrug rather than having to constantly brush them off. For all the shopping to be done here, it is not much fun :(

Lindsey said...

Ha - good call on the ipod. I've done that once through the mall(s) and it definitely works. Live and learn 'round here for sure.