The Hard Sell

fulu really must invest in sellotape…for the mouth. It would avert a multitude of problems.

Yesterday I saw a mention of a Chinese car newly imported to Costa Rica. It was small, it was economical on petrol – and it was, for Costa Rica, cheap.

Cars here are expensive…ruinously so…. given the import tax. We always had Audis in Europe….to afford one here we would need to have been politicians in the previous government, so we have a dust covered Japanese tin box called by someone with an inscrutable sense of humour a Galloper.
It has four wheels, four wheel drive for the hills and it starts. That is all I require…except for the small matter of it passing the Riteve – the M.O.T. – in August, which is advancing at a rate significently faster than that of the car itself.

The Men do not wish to know this. The Men are happy building the new house, organising planning permission to build another house on the boundary for Danilo’s sister, fencing off the cafetal for the bullocks and generally putting the world to rights.

When I wondered idly whether the small wooden wedge which keeps the automatic window opening device in working order would give the Riteve inspector the habdabs I was told not to worry about it.
So I haven’t.
I noted that the Cuban – car electrician extraordinaire – is on holiday….but apparently I was not to worry about that either.
So I didn’t.

Come August they’d better be right…..

However, I was not interested in the cheap new car for myself. I thought it would be just the thing for Danilo’s daughter, a nurse who is currently working the stand by shifts and finds herself travelling all over the area wherever clinics are short of staff.
Her husband gives her a lift on the motorbike when possible, her brothers do likewise, but she spends a lot of time either walking or waiting for buses in all weathers and has been saving for a small car, but even second, third fourth hand cars are expensive if they have all their wheels and an engine.

There were two models of the Chinese car….one tiny, the other the size of a mini, but the only technical information revealed was that one had one cylinder while the other had two.
This being at about the limit of my knowledge on cars I passed on the information to The Men at lunchtime.

Conversation changed gear rapidly…where was the dealer….what was the car like….how big was the engine?
I was shooed back to the computer to investigate further.

I found the original mention.
From that I discovered where the showroom was. On one of the busiest, most congested roads in Costa Rica.
Then I found the site put up by the events organisers who had ‘done’ the opening. There were two small and unflattering pics of the cars followed by any number of pics of predatory looking women in little black dresses being eyed by men whose gleam in the said eye would end them in hot water should their wives ever consider finding out about small economical Chinese cars.
Finally I discovered the name of the agency importing the cars. It did not have a website, only a Facebook page.
This showed artists’ impressions of the cars – the artists clearly being in their Mister Men period – and announced that the cars were economical, had air bags and could be paid for on tick.

The Men were off on the hunt. Did I want to come?
The showroom was on a road which is lined by various stores I am banned from visiting because of the traffic congestion, so the temptation was there, but on reflection I turned down the offer.
Either I would be hurried in and out by The Men on a mission or else they would drop me with promises to return and then get lost.

They departed and I took the chance to have a quiet siesta.

I had fed the sheep and cattle and chased most of the ducks into captivity by the time they returned and settled themselves on the balcony for coffee and cake.

How did it go?


The directions could not have been more clear…..on a straight – if busy – road. Opposite a commercial centre called Via Lindora.
Except that Via Lindora has no sign saying what it is….and The Men, when on this road which leads to the airport, pay no attention to their surroundings, intent as they are on reaching their destination so were unaware that it houses a number of chain restaurants and is lavishly adorned by their publicity signs.

Accordingly, The Men had stopped at the veterinary hospital to ask for directions. This took some time as the receptionist remembered them from the Alsatian’s visit last year and enquiries as to his well being had to be made and the vet who treated him called through to hear that he was fine.

They continued, and emerged at the airport end of the road.
They returned to the beginning and this time asked directions of the security guard at the builders’ merchant.

They emerged again at the airport end of the road…..

After a few more attempts they did the sensible thing and asked the man who sells football shirts by the roadside. He asked them why on earth they wanted to go to Via Lindora and they told him what they were actually looking for.
Oh…that! They’ve got a tent in front of the Porsche dealer….

They were by now on the right side of the road and after only one mishap they found the tent – a sort of arabian pavilion bearing no signs.

Not only were there no signs….there were no sales staff. The cars were in place…the small one which looked like a snail and the larger one which looked quite swish…in colours of dove grey, neon red and a blue such as was never seen on land or sea….but there was no one in sight.

This was an invitation to The Men. The doors were unlocked so they could test the seats…the bonnet was unlocked, so thay could see the engine……

Might be a bit underpowered, thought Danilo.

Couldn’t be worse than the Citroen Ami, replied Leo. And I drove from England to Spain in that over the Pyrenees…

Then a man appeared, dapper in a sober suit.
Could he help them?

Indeed he could….they asked about engine power, fuel consumption and whatnot and he gave the information they required.
The price…did it include all the taxes?
Certainly…then, confidentially, in a lowered tone, there was a special price on these cars…

A promotion?

Not exactly…they need the money to pay the taxes to get the rest of the shipment out of the customs area at the port…

Could they take a test drive?

No…the cars don’t have batteries. Otherwise they might be stolen, what with nobody being around…

But you’re around.

Oh, I don’t have anything to do with the cars….the salesman had to go off somewhere and asked me to keep an eye out.
I’m the waiter from the Inka Grill next door…

47 thoughts on “The Hard Sell”

    1. Filming the activities of those taking their cars into Riteve would make superb television…bald tyres? Hire them from the chap with a vanload of them in the forecourt and give them back afterwards…
      Black smoke from the exhaust? There’s a man by ther entrance selling something called Kampfing which makes your exhaust papabile in no time…

  1. The more you tell me about CR the more I like the sound of it.
    Laid back? Feet up? Right up my street.

    A car dealer’s forecourt in the UK is a very different place – no doubt you know – although I wouldn’t swear to the veracity of anything he says.

    I hope there is a second instalment to the story?

  2. This made me laugh, remembering all manner of “beater” cars I encountered as a young person…Good Luck to you.

    1. Oh yes…cars with windscreen wipers which would mysteriously come to life…cars where things had fallen off and not been replaced….
      I hope all’s well with you.

  3. Fabulous, Helen!! How right you were not to go with ‘the men’. Reminds me a bit of France and the poor signage to places. But your ‘men’ sound a bit more normal in that they were actually willing to stop and ask for directions! Maybe that’s your feminine influence…!

  4. Men are men the world over. I laughed at their reluctance to ask for directions. I don’t know very much about cars, but do find myself wondering if a pedal bicycle might be faster than a one cylinder car. 🙂

    1. Apparently they both thought it quite a natty car….and after driving an Ami Leo thinks anything which will go uphill with one person inside is quite impressive….but I remain toi be convinced!

  5. I’m very happy to ask for directions. It’s my wife who carries on driving, quite sure she knows where’s she’s going….

    I think such an anarchic way of finding a new car would drive me crazy. I’m glad our car dealers can be trusted to provide a car that’s affordable and decent quality.

    1. There are plenty of regular dealers in new and secondhand cars but this was a new venture from a firm that already imports motorcycle parts from China and I suppose that they wanted it to have the high visibility of being on that stretch of road…pity they forgot to put up signs……..

  6. I was going to ask if you have witnessed complete meltdowns from Americans trying to survive as expats in Costa Rica, but you answer that a bit in your reply to a comment. Everything seems a bit of an ordeal…at least until one figures out the modus operandi….assuming they ever do. I hope the hardworking nurse gets more reliable transportation in future and that August comes with no fiascos getting the “Galloper” through inspections.

    1. The daughter had spent her car savings on buying posts to have electricity connected to her house…..but Leo and Danilo have made an appointment to see and try the car tomorrow and – if it is O.K. – will buy it between them and she can pay them back as she can afford it.
      Two things worry me….the first is that Leo may become enthusiastic and buy one too and the second is that they will find themselves being greeted by the waiter….
      Meltdowns…oh yes! On the grand scale! Wagnerian ones!
      I find it relaxing after the control freakery of France….and appreciate having good internet out in the country, good public transport everywhere and a super health service.

        1. Have a look at French Leave on Blogger by Fly in the Web….roll past the later stuff when I was moving and try somer of the earlier bits.
          Well my fingers are crossed that Leo doesn’t have a rush of blood to the head and buy one….

  7. Not at all like the sale room in Rayne where as I stopped the bike to jealously watch cars the man almost pulled me over the wall to give his spiel! Quite how I got away without buying an almost new Ford Mondeo I am not sure. Possibly he was distracted by a passerby!

    At least the lamb was fed even if the men were wandering the streets.

    er, what happened to all the black skirted females……?

  8. Well BtoB beat me to it with her comment. I think I could settle quite well in CR, having had enough practise here!

  9. I’m looking for a little cheap runaround…I’ll keep my eye open for an Arabian looking tent around here. We must keep each other informed!! Axxx

  10. These cars sound like the Chinese equivalent of the tin y mini-van which was my very first car back in the early 70s. Mine did at least have a battery – completely exposed, just behind the driver’s seat which it once almost set on fire! I hope if the nurse gets one it proves reliable.

    1. They went to look….but it was too underpowered to get up the hills in our area at anything more than a crawl…..but her brother has a line on a little pick up which he can soup up for her, so fingers crossed! Poor girl, she is running from pillar to post with her current job.

      I had an Austin A30…or was it 40…I forget which…the previous owner had souped it up so it would roar away from the lights to the disgust of vehicles with more pretensions…at least it didn’t set light to itself!

  11. In the old days on Guam there was a vehicle inspection process that sounds similar to the Riteve except it was much more straightforward. On inspection day one simply left a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey on the back seat when turning the car in for inspection. Ten minutes later one had a current sticker and the back seat was miraculously empty. I kind of liked the process.

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