Side Quest: Mobile Banking

This is a follow up to my post earlier today. I’m starting to feel like in a video game since I was sent on a side quest this afternoon!

I need a bank statement to get my refund. Simple, I thought, just print one from my online account.

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I don’t know if all banks here work the same, but there is a very close relationship between HSBC online and mobile banking and there are things you can’t do with online banking if your mobile banking isn’t working.

I tried to set up mobile banking when I opened my account in September and failed. I asked for help at the bank and was told to call for help. I didn’t think I’d be able to sort something that complex out in Spanish over the phone and it wasn’t pressing, so I did without.

But today, I needed a bank statement and for that, I needed mobile banking to work.

I called earlier this afternoon and had no trouble getting through the phone tree and the steps to reset my mobile password. I was waiting for an email with a new activation code and figured I wouldn’t need help beyond that so I thanked the lady and hung up.

The email came in and still I could not get into the app. It said the system was down and to try later. This was absolutely ridiculous — I just want a bank statement. Could I please have one fewer detour (and queue to stand in!) tomorrow?!

Since I got through the first call, I hit redial on my landline phone and called back. I had to wait five minutes in the queue before another lady picked up. She was amazing. She walked me through every single step to getting my bank statement. I bet someone with a Ph.D. in computer science would not have been able to do it. It was a complete labyrinth of various passwords and having to use the desktop and mobile apps in the right order.

Once she actually got me into the app (which involved deleting it from my phone and then reinstalling it at precisely the right moment after doing some steps on the desktop app), after about 10 minutes, she remembered without prompting that I wanted my statement. She then guided me through that all the way to having the PDF opened on my computer and saved to my hard drive. She’s the hero of my day.

So now, I’m all set to go straight back to SAT in the morning. I just hope the coconut ice cream vendor is waiting outside again like he was today. 🙂

Operation: Devolución

Most other Quebecers I speak to who have seen how things are done in other provinces are quick to agree with me when I complain about how overburdensome procedures are, how apathetic is the civil service, and how corrupt the provincial government is in general. When I planned to move to Mexico and people would tell me how “bad” it was here in terms procedures being burdensome and corruption being rampant, I thought that there is no way Mexico could be as bad as Quebec.

Today, I continued to be proven correct on this point.

I was really unhappy at my last visit to INM when I was told I could not get my refund for their error until I got my new card, which is not happening until the end of this month or the beginning of next month. I resolved to go back ASAP to speak to a different person. I didn’t have time until today to do that because, you know, I’ve been working double overtime to compensate for that serious crimp in my cash flow.

Yesterday was a federal holiday so I had a feeling that INM might be very busy today. I decided to arrive around 10AM to let the initial opening throng get through, figuring that things would have slowed down a tad by that point, but still be sufficiently busy to put Operation: Devolución into action.

I was only about fourth in line despite the waiting room being very full — likely folks with appointments. I got to the head of the queue in probably no more than 10 minutes.

My first step was to get through the initial checkpoint, where you say what you want to do and then are funnelled to the correct window. INM wasn’t busy last time I came and I was not able to get by this point. When INM is hopping, this woman has to process a lot of people quickly and doesn’t really want to deal with them so I thought I might be able to slip through on a busy day.

She was busy today — the Cuban in front of me had an odd scenario and her phone would not stop ringing. After asking me three times what I wanted (“To speak with the lady at window 2 about a refund,”) she finally gave me a ticket to put me in line there. Step one was a success!

The lady at window 2 was not the lady I’d spoken to on the day I’d been advised about the steps to get a refund. In fact, not a single person I recognised was working today. I was very worried because I didn’t have a single piece of paper about the refund — everything was taken from me on that second to last visit.

I took a deep breath and recapped the situation for the agent. She said that I was misinformed by the front desk person last time (when I went to get an appointment for the fingerprints) and that I should have been funnelled to her window. *sighs* But better late than never, let’s get the ball rolling. She started to put my ID number into her computer when I had a niggle. “When I was here last time, I had to handwrite a letter asking for the refund, which the lady kept.”

The agent stopped typing, went, “AH!” and jumped out of her seat, returning momentarily with a huge binder marked “Refunds – Window 2.” She went through several bundles of papers in it and could not find my application for refund. My heart was pounding by this point, but as she was putting the papers away, I saw my picture on the last page of one of the packets! I pointed that out and she gave a sigh of relief. She went through the paperwork, checked my passport, and then passed me two pieces of paper to give to SAT, Mexican CRA/IRS, to request my refund.

That was as far as she could advise me. It was now up to me to go to a SAT office to see what they wanted so I could finally get my money back. I thanked her profusely and, clutching my precious documents, I hightailed it to Starbucks for a cold coffee to enjoy while looking up locations of SAT offices in Mérida.

I was delighted to see that there was one just north of home within easy walking distance since I knew I’d likely have to make a couple of visits. So I got on a bus and rode it about 1KM past my normal stop.

There was low-key checkpoint to get into the SAT office — I just had to open my purse for the guard on duty. I then went into a building that felt incredibly chaotic. There was so much activity — hundreds if not thousands of people waiting or being served at dozens of different “modules” and desks. I took a second to orientate myself and found an information desk. The lady there told me I had to register online and to wait for help at module 1, which was a computer lab where people were registering online for tax services and completing various types of returns (from what I could gather based on conversations I was overhearing).

I waited there 10 or 15 minutes and was finally sat down at a computer with no idea what to do. After a further 10 minutes and being told twice by an attendant that he was going to help me, he finally came to check what I wanted and took off for a further 10 minutes with my documents after I told him I don’t have an RFC (Mexican tax ID number).

He finally came back to say that this office isn’t used to dealing with this scenario — foreigner without an RFC needing a refund — but the centro office is. Since my Spanish was good enough for this gentleman to deal with me, his supervisor had given him permission to call the centro office for advice rather than just telling me to go there. I remain incredibly grateful for how kind and helpful just about every Mexican official I’ve dealt with has been.

So finally, the agent had an answer for me. He said I had to come back with a letter for SAT asking for the refund, but he had a template for me that I could reproduce in Word and just fill in the missing info (THANK YOU). I also have to bring my last bank statement (so that they know where to refund the money. They don’t want 50 billion copies, but they do want me to bring all my documents in PDF form on a USB key. And because I don’t have an RFC, I can’t make an appointment to come back on another day — so I have to face the massive queue and funnelling and massive queue again — but I was given the exact phrasing to tell the info desk so that I get funnelled to the correct place next time. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been sent to module 1 and there was nothing for me to do on the computer.

I’m going to work late tonight and will hopefully have time to go back tomorrow first thing. Who knows how long it will take to actually get the money back into my account so I definitely don’t want to leave this to next week.

It’s been a Day, but a good one. I am eventually going to open a business here and so dealing with SAT at some point was an inevitability. It’s nice to have the ice broken in a context like this.

Now, on to work. But first, maybe a nap?!