Monday, December 21, 2009

The sign says you got to have a membership card to get inside

The other day, I had a vision of how to make more space in my home. This inspired me to make a trip to the local Makro. I guess you could call Makro the Indonesian version of Costco. They sell everything you can imagine and have discounts for buying large quantities. On this particular day, I was after furniture; more specifically a desk and bookshelf. They have a very large and confusing selection of furniture. It takes some serious investigation and pondering to find the right thing at the right price.

After an hour or so of sorting out the prices (items often have the wrong price) and the quality, I had selected the items I wanted to buy and put the boxes on my trolley. I chose a desk for Rp 130 000 which was larger and of better quality than the desk that cost Rp 250 000, go figure. I also bought a small bookshelf for Rp 85 000, a desk chair for Rp 170 000 and a folding table for a whopping Rp 500 000 (around $50).

Confident that I had made the right decisions, I proceeded to the checkout and gave them my Makro card. Despite the 3 or 4 VISA credit card logos that I could see, I decided to be prudent and ask if I could use my VISA card. The cashier apologized and informed me that only electronic items could be paid with VISA. I asked why they had a so many VISA signs posted around the store if they didn't accept it. She replied that they did accept it, only for electronic items. I couldn't resist so I asked (hypothetically) if I were to buy a fan if I could use my VISA? Yes! What if I bought a few light bulbs? NO! What if I bought a $50 table and a bunch of other furniture that was way more expensive than many electronic items? No, only for electronics. I found this shocking since Makro is the kind of place where it is not uncommon to see people with 2 or 3 carts full of items spending hundreds of dollars.

Dejected, I gave up and agreed to pay debit. The computer screen came up with payment options. There was an American Express, VISA, and Master Card option. I asked if American Express could be used for any item in the store? Yes! Master Card? Yes! Visa? Only electronics! The irony of this is that there are probably more American Citizens than American Express cards in Jakarta. VISA is the undisputed champion of credit card popularity in Jakarta.

I was then distracted by a checkout chair fiasco. When I selected the office chair, there were signs with prices but no tags on any of the hundreds of office chairs on the floor. The cashier sent a fellow employee on a quagmire of a mission to find the price of the chair. The guy came back to the register 3 times and not once did he listen to me telling him that NONE of the chairs have tags on them. Finally, the cashier asked me how much it costs. I replied that it was Rp 170 000 and she rang that price in. By this point, I had had enough of Makro and just wanted to go home.

Since I don't have a car, we had to get the items delivered to our house. This is one of those things that can go very smoothly or go very badly. I once had a friend who had to wait 3 weeks to get a refrigerator delivered from Carrefour. The driver was out on another delivery so we had to leave our trolley with the security guard and hope and pray that it would arrive that night. Luckily, the truck showed up at our house a couple of hours later. He brought the items in, thanked us and was on his way.

He didn't check the bill to make sure that all the items were there and it's a good thing that he didn't. I knew pretty much exactly what I had bought anyways. Upon further inspection of the bill after he had left, I realized that they had forgotten to charge me for the $50 table. Guess I got a free table I thought, there was no way I was going back there. I found it odd that they forgot to scan the largest and most expensive item on the trolley, especially after the whole chair incident.

My conscience was telling me that it was not good to get a $50 table for free but there was no way I was dragging the box back to the store. As karma would have it, (or even Steven for you Seinfeld fans) my refrigerator stopped running later that night. It appears that I need a new compressor, which is expensive. So the money I saved on the table went right into fixing my fridge. Luckily, I hadn't bought large quantities of frozen food when I was shopping at Makro.

One last note: I found out that a good sized chunk of ice costs Rp 500 (around 5 cents) so keeping things cold until the fridge gets fixed is not a problem.

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