Takin’ Care of Business – Tico Style

I have to give credit where it’s due. Michael Allen at Doin’ Costa Rica did a video and post on doing business in Costa Rica. I found nothing in his video or blog to disagree with. Go ahead and watch the video first IF you PROMISE, CROSS YOUR HEART to come back and read the rest of this. Or you can visit there later or never as you please. But he did a nice job, without his getting overly negative.

Unlike Michael Allen, I am going to get rather negative. If you haven’t spent a lot of time here in this country, you may not have heard a couple of well-traveled cliches:

  1. If you want to leave Costa Rica with a million dollars, start with two million.
  2. There are two kinds of people who move to Costa Rica: The unwanted and the wanted.

The second refers mostly to a certain type, primarily older males, who are here because they have no substantial ties back home, or because they are running from some legal or financial trouble.

The first item is all too true, in all to many cases. I have plenty of personal knowledge and if I were of such a mind I could name names. In every case, there was one common thread… none of the ‘investors/businessmen’ knew much of anything about the country, its laws and culture. Do I need to mention that they seldom speak much, if any Spanish? This doesn’t seem to phase a lot of gringos because, after all, THEY come from the #1 country in the world! They have all that fabulous American know-how and get up and go! How could they NOT SUCCEED???

Sound stupid? Of COURSE it does. But don’t think that there aren’t an awful lot of gringos who have exactly that attitude. So they come down here with more cash than wisdom and soon find their bank accounts considerably smaller.

I had to chuckle about the latest big Wal-Mart scandal, where they had to pay bribes to get stores open Mexico. I wasn’t laughing at the Waltons or their shareholders or even their execs… no, I was laughing at those who think you can do business in Latin America WITHOUT paying bribes. Costa Rica is no better than Mexico in terms of the culture of corruption. It’s simply the way business is done, and nobody thinks twice about it down here. Once in a while somebody will cross somebody and there will be a little flurry of indignation in the local papers, but probably only rates coverage on a slow news day.

There are many very honest Ticos. On the other hand, taking advantage of stupid gringos is not considered a mortal sin. In many circles it’s something to be proud of. After all, wasn’t that grand master huckster Donald Trump once considered a legitimate contender for the nomination of a major party for the office of President of the United States? How many people lost how much money investing with him? He may never have gone through bankruptcy, but he spread it wherever he went among those who believed in him. His morality is essentially the same as those who run Costa Rica, as well as most countries, I suspect. But I’m not here to talk about Kazakhstan, I’m here to talk about Costa Rica.

Here is some advice you should take to the bank: If you are depending on the legal system here to protect you, you have already lost. There are exceptions, naturally, but as a rule of the thumb, once it goes to court, you’ve lost even if somehow you end up winning (after years and years of delays and struggles).

Here is some other golden advice: Trust gringos who live here even less than you trust Ticos. To get back to my little cliche list up top, there are an AWFUL  lot of scammers and hucksters down here of the gringo variety. They may not even be able to return to the USA for fear of being locked for non payment of child support, for example. They will do pretty much anything short of murder to make a buck, and no matter how friendly and nice they may seem, the ultimate goal is to get their hands on some of your cash.

There is a certain type down here I would call professional middle men. They come in both local and Tico variety. They don’t have anything of their own, but they will ‘help’ you get something done. Need residency? A visa for your fiancee? A beach front lot? Not to worry, Charlie/Carlos knows just how to get it done, and cheap! Just give him X amount and he’ll take care of it.

In my 7 plus years here I’ve seen so many rip offs I don’t even want to try to list them all. But I would be lazy if I didn’t give a few. There is a well known title company, international, that provides title insurance. One of the things your expensive policy does NOT cover is any lawsuits or legal actions you get involved in as a result of buying some property. They checked out the title, you got it registered and you think you’re home free until you find out you can’t do anything with it because somebody is suing somebody else because the somebody else sold the somebody the same property under false conditions. Sound insane? It is happening as we speak, and has been for five years.

Then there was the retired doctor who decided he didn’t want to wait a year to get his residency and had somebody, a lawyer, put him on the fast track. This was over 5 years ago. He still doesn’t have his residency. He did come up with a solution.

He moved to Nicaragua.

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Comments

  1. Jim Lynch says:

    After two years of being viewed as human prey in Costa Rica, my wife Carol and I also fled to Nicaragua in 2010, a decision we do not regret in the slightest. While Granada presents a different cluster of adjustments than did Heredia, most notably the amount of horseshit in the streets, we are convinced that we choose wisely. Always being careful where one steps, we find that walking the streets of this pretty old colonial town is much safer than traversing the gauntlet of three blocks to the local Hipermas store in our old neighborhood, where one was surely to encounter toothless old men exposing themselves, a multitude of yapping chihuahuas, and teenagers armed with the latest Glock creations. There were two final straws, as it were, that settled the issue for good. When the new legislature, elected with current President Dona Laura, sat down for the first time together and decided that the most important issue facing them was a bill to double their salaries, alarms rang like the bells of St. Mary’s. Sadly, in their case, the local folks raised such a fuss that this motion was temporarily tabled, but it gave a clear indication of where their collective heads were. The second involved the Costa Rican National soccer team. Because the local heroes failed to qualify for the World Games in South Africa that year, the decision was made to hire some hotshot coach from South America to the tune of $50,000 a month, or slightly over 100 times the national average for a wage earner — all of this while the infrastucture of the country (roads, bridges, schools, etc.) were deteriorating to a level approaching the stone age. What Costa Rica might have been once, it no longer is now. And don’t even get me started on the corruption of the many police “forces” in this little country that brags about its lack of a standing army where “driving while gringo” is a national crime, punishable by a $20 bribe, or confiscation of your vehicle. We left and have never looked back.

  2. MAURICIO CORLETO says:

    COSTA RICA I S FALLING APART FAST…. I WAS THERE 6 MONTH AROUND LA FORTUNA, AND THE ROADS ARE DEPLORABLE, I WAS THINKING TO RETIRE OVER THERE FROM HOUSTON TX .. AND WE CHANGE OUR MIND….. EVERY THING IS SO EXPENSIVE, BUREAUCRACY STINKS WORSE THAN A SKUNK, HOW CAN THEY BE SO BLIND AND BE PROUD THAT THERE IS NO ARMY ?? IF YOU DON'T PAY FOR THE PLATE REGISTRATION AND INSPECTION , AND YOU KEEP THE CAR IN THE GARAGE WITHOUT DRIVING IT… YOU STILL PAY FOR THE DAMNED THING…. IS SO STUPID … BUT THE "TICOS" SAY "PURA VIDA" THEY ARE LIVING ON A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY 100 YEARS BEHIND, AND THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANY ONE IN CENTRAL AMERICA !!!

  3. millard butler says:

    trump has gone belly up twice, last time just before this primary season.
    left a lot of people holdoing the bag.
    great businessman-as pres borrow heavily and usa goes belly up!

  4. Hey,,,Thanx so much for the shoutOUT, totally appreciate the link and nice comments. I also love how you expanded on what I was saying… I wrestled with this video a LOT because it's hard NOT to go on and on about, 'gringos scamming gringos' and lawyers and the other valid points you were making. I find it hard to stay on a general point without making a 45 minute video. So, my video combined with your points and perspective I think accumulated into some really good INFO on the subject. Thanx again.

  5. hey – this is some serious biznax you’re talking here. All in for this one.