What are marchamos, you ask? They are the little tags for all vehicles proving you have paid your road fees and government (hear that Rush Limbaugh?), I repeat, government-run car insurance. They are renewed once a year. In December. Every licensed vehicle must get their tags by the end of the month (December) or face the traffic cops who are looking for… well, let’s just say they might be short of money after the holidays. Which means, if you are late getting yours, you risk standing in long lines reading things like Harry Potter or watching endless brutal nature shows on the ubiquitous TVs mounted near the ceiling of every agency and bank in the country.
Years ago we had to drive to the capital and go to the central INS office to pay for our tags. So did everyone else so the lines were odious. Slowly, there came to be satellite offices where you could stand in endless lines. Then came the Internet. My bank, Banco de Costa Rica, has a special icon that shows up when it’s time to pay each year. So, I went online and tried to order mine and have it mailed to my APTO. It wouldn’t work. I called the telephone number on the failed attempt notice and got a very nice girl who informed me I must now go through INS, the national insurance company. “They aren’t letting us do it this year,” she said. One wonders why they don’t take the icon off the website, but, hey, I pick my battles.
I went to the INS website and was directed through the steps and, lo, I have a receipt. I have no idea if the tag will actually arrive as planned, but I do have a receipt. A couple of years ago ours failed to come and it cost us a ten thousand Colone note to an upwardly mobile transit officer who pulled us over. When I showed him the receipt he claimed it had to be notarized. It was cheaper to pay him.
Once I got the marchamos taken care of, I moved on to bigger things, like renewing our health insurance (also a government-run health insurance company, Rush). I can do it through our insurance agency, depositing the money into an INS bank account, but I wondered if I could pay with a credit card. I went to their website and there, I swear to god, was a live INS Web Chat. I signed in and had the conversation below:
INS WEB CHAT
Solicitando asistencia a un especialista…
Instituto Nacional de seguros, muy buenos días en que le podemos servir?
Usted: buenos dias. es posible a pagar mi cuenta de seguros en linea. mi cuenta es INS H.A.—#XXXX
Usted: y por favor disculp mi Español. 😉
Ins en Línea: Buenas tardes
Ins en Línea: Gracias por escribir al Instituto Nacional de Seguros
Ins en Línea: El seguro de que seria
Usted: seguro medical en el nombre de AGH -cuenta #XXXX con Proseguros SA
Usted: pero, es posible a pagar por internet
Ins en Línea: Ins medical no se puede pagar por ins linea
Usted: okay. muy bien. Gracias y tiene un bien diá
La sesión de chat ha terminado.
Now this might not be a big deal for you who live in the USA, but to find a live chat here was like finding gold in my backyard. I wasn’t able to pay with a credit card online; I’ll have to do it the old way and deposit the money in their bank account, but in two hours flat I completed both jobs. Jobs that would have taken me a week not five years ago.
We have arrived. Modernity has officially come to Costa Rica.