Saturday, May 16, 2009


I'm afraid I'm guilty of wandering off track to inform you of Politics in Panama and my battle with the freight forwarding company. Today we get back to basics. Electronic publication of novels and short stories. The contemporary western, "Partners" is available --FREE. It's a manuscript in PDF format. Also a short story entitled, HUNTING BEAVER. It is also FREE for the asking. If you desire either of these works, just send an e-mail to I'll send either or both out as an attachment.
Bob hatting

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Transition of Power in Panama

Today, May 10th, seven days after winning the election, Panama's President Elect Ricardo Martinelli, formally presented his choices for cabinet posts. The short announcement was made with Martinelli front and center, surrounded by his ministers of choice. Frankly, I am impressed. His new administration has to hit the ground running on July 1st. He is not wasting time with posturing and pandering. His laid back and informal attire (open collar shirt with slacks) contradicts his presence. His choices have to perform to meet his campaign promises. I suspect he will not accept excuses or delays. He only has five years in office to accomplish his agenda. Since he can't run again, I expect him to devote the entire time governing and not campaigning. Those cabinet members that were fomally presented this morning were a mix of men and women with varying ages. I have not seen their resume's but one has to assume they were chosen and veted long before the election was final. I wish them well.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bob vs Airbox -- round 2

This letter was sent to Airbox Express this morning. If I receive an indication of resolution, all is well. If, however, I'm ignored, I will go public again. The clock is ticking...

May, 08, 2009
To: Jorge Zelaya, GM Airbox Express
From Bob Hatting PTY#5950
This is the second time that I'm aware of that your company has received a package from another carrier and even though the weight is marked on the package, your people over-weigh the parcel.
On January 29 of this year I paid for a package that you people said weighed 16 pounds. UPS had recorded the weight on the outside of the package as 12 pounds. I checked with the carrier in the US and confirmed that the package weighed 12 pounds. I asked your agent to weigh the was 12 1/2 pounds. (obviously your scale weighs heavy) I complained to your agent in David, Natalia. It was a week or so later I received a credit of only $3.37. Using your posted rate charts the credit should have been $11.77 for the four pound over-weigh.
Yesterday, I picked up a small package and paid $12.88 for 1 1/2 pounds. FedEx had the weight listed as 1 pound. So, again I paid for $4.06 too much. 50% was added to the bill. In the January scenario it was 33%. This is a very transparent shake-down.
We gringos are accustomed to what we refer to as a "skin tax". That is: Charged more than a Panamanian for the same goods and services. We understand the thinking. When we go to a store or even a street vendor and ask the price we have the option of walking out, laughing, or just shaking our head to acknowledge -- nice try! However you people have a lock on us. We pay to join your service, we notify or banks, Social Security office and our lawyers of the mail forwarding address. When we receive a letter or package, it has the declared value and the description of the contents. Usually it’s important and you people know this…that’s why you overcharge. A simple shakedown that works because we customers want our items. This is not a coincidence. It is obviously part of your business plan.
Using your advertised rates --According to my math, (allowing for that piddly 3.37 credit) you owe me $25.77. I want that as a refund...not credit. I paid cash, I want cash back.
Another matter...what happened to a package sent to me many weeks ago. Another one pound package tracking number 0625007036732.??? Have you lost it?
I expect some resolve to these matters and a cash refund. A timely resolve!
Bob Hatting, David

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's twenty bucks, now shut the hell up!!

This morning, I received three e-mails. One from the General Manager of Airbox Express and two from the David agent, Natalia. I also received a phone call from Natalia. They are giving me a $20 credit. Why? Oh, yeah, the GM read the post on "Gringos in David" that mentioned the $26. overcharge on my one pound package and of course the directions to read the details on this blog.
As much as I appreciate the credit and will use it up ASAP, it is too bad that one has to threaten and coerce to get fair service for ones money. Resorting to bad press to obtain justice is usually the last resort. I didn't relish doing it. In fact I wrote Don Winner and forewarned him that I was going to "go ballistic" with his customer unless I was contacted by the jefe, "the guy that signs the checks". Some people thrive on adversity...not me. I live a very simple life and desire things to smooth out as I get older and wiser. But, like most people, I refuse to be cheated or mistreated.

Will I continue to use Airbox express? I don't know at this writing. I WILL say they would have been better served to offer me a refund instead of credit.

Cardboard Election

The election of yesterday (May 2, 2009) was impressive. Unlike times past, there were no major disturbances to mar the overall outcome. A few minor scuffles but overall it was a well organized and somber event. The polls, (mostly schools) opened at seven in the morning and closed at four in the afternoon. Although they used paper ballots, the Electoral Tribune announced that Ricardo Martinelli was the new president elect at six thirty in the evening with a bit over forty percent of the ballots counted. That is impressive! Of course it was not a tight race. Balbina Herrerra only garnered thirty six percent of the vote as opposed to Martinelli's sixty one percent. Still, to have over forty percent of the votes tallied in two and a half hours speaks very highly of the Electoral Tribune.

I headlined this as "the cardboard election" because the entire voting set-up was made of cardboard. The signs outside, directing the voters, were mostly cardboard with a few written on butcher paper. Same with the signs inside the voting room. The voting booths were three sided cardboard boxes and the three ballot boxes were cardboard boxes put together with masking tape. One of the major tasks of the election officials was to burn the excess ballots to avoid any chicanery. This was done as the personnel who ran the voting rooms cast their ballots. The voting process I witnessed, a few blocks from my home, was very orderly. Old people and the handicapped were helped by the election staff and anyone else nearby. Patients in hospitals were helped to vote, inmates in prison were allowed to vote and of course, even the police and sitting authorities exercised their rights.

There were many international observers in Panama to monitor this election. In addition there was internal monitoring force (I believe it is part of the Electoral Tribune). There may be a few cries of "Foul" but so far, none have surfaced.

Panama, so far, has escaped the swine flu epidemic. Since there are no reported cases in the country, there was no restriction on public gatherings. This helped immensely. Panama experienced a large voter turn out; almost twice the percentage of a US national election.

Congratulations to was a great to observe democracy at work.

As a footnote, I applaud TVN-2. Their coverage was supurb!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

They did this with a straight face!!

Below is the invoice data for a small package that weighs only a pound. If you want to skip all the itemized charges, the bottom line is $26.61. The price of the item from eBay was $42.98. So customs charged $4.47.
Airbox Express is the culprit. They are charging over $15.00. for a one pound item no larger than a mans fist.
These people -- this company have successfully screwed me since signed up for their service almost a year ago. The most blatant (next to this) was in Feb. of this year. I had an old laptop shipped from Tucson. It arrived at Airbox Express on December 24, 2008. It finally arrived in David in Feb, 2009. The original shipper used UPS. The weight was recorded on the box -- 12 pounds. When Airbox got their hands on it ---MAGIC! It weighs 16 pounds! When I went to pick it up, I noticed the weight difference. I asked the attendant to weigh the package. She did -- on a bathroom scale! It weighed 12 1/2 pounds. I paid the entire amount because I needed the laptop. A promise was made for a credit to my account or refund. Two weeks later after reminding her, she issued a credit for less than four dollars. So I can do math...four pounds is four dollars, yet one pound is fifteen?
Folks this is the true story of Airbox Express and Bob Hatting.

Tracking Information for: PTY - 5950
Main Info

Aerotracking 00000054795
Creation Date (dd/mm/yyyy) 30-04-2009 11:53 AM

Courier Name Interworld Freig
AWB 07172008

Courier Tracking Sn
Declared value (US$) 42.98

Description Video Camara
Insured No

Sender Ehong Hongbo
Weight 0.454 kg / 0.999 lbs

Gateway PTY
Bag Number

Account 005950
Master Tracking 00000054795

Consignee Hatting Robert Wayme
Number of Pieces 1

Service Type Air
Inspected By

Custom Ticket 00000054795

P.O. #
Invoice #

Status (dd/mm/yyyy) Ready at Counter

02-05-2009 12:33 PM

Total related charges (USD):26.61 Total related charges (Local Currency):26.61

Charges BreakdownDescription Charge Type Amount(USD) Amount(Local) Invoice Num Date(dd/mm/yyyy)
Custom's Duties Debit $ 4.47 B 4.47 043539 30-04-2009 04:38 PM
Consolidation Charge Debit $ 1.00 B 1.00 043539 30-04-2009 04:38 PM
Sales Tax-Customs Serv. Debit $ 0.25 B 0.25 043539 30-04-2009 04:38 PM
Customs Broker Debit $ 5.00 B 5.00 043539 30-04-2009 04:38 PM
Freight Debit $ 15.13 B 15.13 043539 30-04-2009 04:39 PM
Sales Tax-Transport Debit $ 0.76 B 0.76 043539 30-04-2009 04:39 PM

Friday, May 1, 2009


On the last post I promised to get this blog fixed. I'm still promising but have to wait until the election is over here in Panama. My "Computer Guy" is taking this upcoming election he should. He's either out campaigning or running some regional election staff. My Spanish is not good enough to understand his position.

Panama has always had elections but they were never very democratic. Usually there was a "mild revolution" to shuffle the deck and put whomever into power. Since the war with the US and the ousting of Noriega, the citizens of Panama have come to appreciate their democratic rights. Not until 1990 did they have a true Republic. After having many quasi dictators, citizens are enthusiastic about their politics and their right to vote. Their rallies, caravans and other special events are part of this colorful culture. As a foreign resident, it is illegal for me to contribute or participate in the election process. However, it's interesting to observe.
I'll post the results after the election on May 3rd.