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Cuenca’s Rebate Culture
One day I went to see a lawyer who had been recommended to me by a repeat customer of mine. He had never met this lawyer himself but had been referred to her by somebody else. I went to see her based on the hope that she knew what she was doing. Part of my reasoning was that since she did not speak any English yet was still being referred by ex-pats so she must have been really good.

She must have asked me at least five times who referred me to her. All I could tell her was that the person who referred me to her had never met her and that I could not remember how he told me he had heard about her. It seemed very important to her to find out how I heard about her and I was about to find out why.

When I asked about the cost for a specific service she gave me two different numbers that were $100 apart. A little later on when she found out that I work mostly with foreigners she got exited and started telling me about how she would pay me $100 for every person that I sent her way for a visa. I explained to her that I was hesitant to refer people to lawyers for visa stuff anymore since there has been so many problems and that my only concern is her ability to produce the result. I told her that the referrals or lack of referrals would be entirely based on the result. She did not want me to refer anybody without getting the kickback and insisted that I should get the money because by referring people to her I would have “earned it”. It was an awkward conversation to say the least as neither could really understand the other’s point of view. In the end I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and I don’t know if I will ever hire her even though she seemed competent. After leaving the office and thinking about it for a while I could understand how some retired ex-pat could be tempted to make a couple hundred extra bucks a month just by posting some lawyers contact info on their blog.

Only a minority of people in Ecuador will outright offer to bribe you to bring them customers, the majority are open to that kind of canada goose shearling hat for sale it’s just that few are bold enough to bring it up. Kickbacks are often offered to bilingual personal helpers who help ex-pats buy furniture and appliances. The kickbacks may be in the form of cash, discounts, or free stuff. I cannot express in words how strange it is to be trying to help people get the best prices possible on their furniture while the store owner is trying to convince me to come back later and pick up a free desk. It is amazing what Ecuadorians say in front of people when they know you cannot understand Spanish. Although it is rare for these personal helpers to propose such canada goose shearling hat for sale it is also rare for them to reject them once offered.

In a city where the yellow pages section of the Phone Book is a tenth the size of what it should be and most of the adult population is not yet online there is a genuine need for people who can gather information together and then disseminate it. One problem comes about when the balance of referrers and producers gets out of whack. It is probably obvious to you, considering this is Ecuador, that there is a shortage of people who provide real value yet a surplus of people wanting to get their palm greased for a mere introduction to a service provider.

Kickbacks can cause people to refer you to people of questionable character; people who they would never send you to if there were not a financial motive involved. Another problem with all this palm greasing is that it gets much easier to ignore problems and explain away signs of unethical behavior even when the evidence becomes undeniable.

In my opinion paid referrals are sometimes a necessary evil since you cannot expect somebody to run a referral network for free. On the other hand I do find it disturbing that there are so many people who want to be the Gringo Boss and do everything possible to get a part of every single dollar you spend in Ecuador.

“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;
But he that hateth bribes shall live. ” -Proverbs 15: 27

For reasons unknown to me often ex-pats who try to control every dollar you spend are demonized by ex-pats more than those Ecuadorians who try to do the very same thing. Most lawyer-founded Visa / Real Estate / Shipping / Ex-pat services “companies” would be considered outright frauds if they were operating in any first world country. They prey on Gringos who are ignorant of the darker aspects of the South American culture. When an ex-pat gets mad about the low quality work, delays, and extra fees then he or she is told that they have to calm down and respect the local culture. Sometimes when ex-pats get really screwed they don’t expose the person or company due to fear of Ecuador’s laws on defamation of character.

What we really need here in Ecuador are more dedicated professionals. We already have an overabundance of short-term thinking opportunistic F#@&s trying to make a quick buck at other peoples’ expense.

Some people assume that the best way to avoid scams and Gringo prices is to find companies to do business with that are not owned or operated by ex-pats. Unfortunately they have a tendency to be overly trusting of local companies which often have lower standards than you do.


There are good locally owned companies but the chances of you finding them are so low that it is not even worth trying to calculate.

For one canada goose shearling hat for sale they probably do not have a website at all, nor are they likely to have an ad in the Phone Book.

Secondly you probably don’t know enough about the culture and how things really work here to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most Ecuadorians can perform at a first world level but just don’t want to. They will often do a great job the first time they work for an ex-pat to prove that they can do good. Unfortunately they often soon revert back to their own internal standards. Soon the ex-pats promoting the person or company are inundated with bad reports and after a while they eventually stop referring them. By then they have already moved on to the next ex-pat who is wowed by their capability but knows nothing of their lack of consistency. They get referred again and the cycle repeats and repeats and repeats.

The third reason that you are unlikely to be able to find a good local company is that you are probably more concerned with the prices that are being charged rather than whether or not you may have to spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours to fix their mistakes. On the other hand you may go to a company who charges more thinking they will do a better job but that’s just is not how things work in Ecuador.

Fourthly you are more likely to value their language skills over their competence in their profession and you will likely mistake language skills for professional competence when in reality one rarely has anything to do with the other.

And lastly you will probably be diverted to somebody else in the same industry by a bad recommendation from another ex-pat before you end up finding somebody who performs consistently.

Considering the difficulty of finding good help, it is a good idea to rely in part on recommendations from other ex-pats so long as you know how to sort through which recommendations to pay attention to and which to dismiss. One challenge to you as a buyer is to figure out which are legitimate recommendations based on someone’s interest in your wellbeing. One question to always remember to ask your self is:

Am I being referred to this person/company because of referral fees that an economic refugee is counting on receiving to supplement their income? or am I being referred to this person/company due to their professional competence in consistently delivering the result?

Hardly a month goes by where I don’t run into somebody who wants me to share half of our income with them just for sending a buyer our way. These propositions most often come from fellow ex-pats. They must think that our website is automatically loaded from an MLS feed, that all paperwork is handled automatically by lawyers and title companies, and that I spend most of my time sitting in the office drinking coffee and reading the newspaper while waiting for a buyer to knock on the door.

Now let me ask you a question. If you were working at a job and were told that you had to work with a customer of the company for an entire week but that your pay for that week would be cut in half, how good of a job would you do? Would your commitment to that customer be the same as the one who you worked with last week at full pay? or would it be lower?

Other than the modest referral fees that we are currently paying to the Cuenca Condos rental and property management agency we have no other such arrangements with anybody. In almost all cases the good things you hear about me and Cuenca’s Best Properties are from people who have no financial motivation for recommending us.

Before going through a referral agency to contact a Real Estate agent consider how much lower quality of service you may be about to receive. Service is an overused word these days and has lost a lot of its meaning since too many promises are made but not kept. Service, like most other things, is more valuable the scarcer it is. It is particularly valuable to you when you don’t understand the local systems or culture, are unable to communicate fluently in Spanish, and live in a place where nothing happens automatically.

There are four primary reasons why people recommend people to you for Real Estate in Cuenca. One reason is kickbacks which we have already addressed ad.

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