Grand Theft Auto in Playas del Coco

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, EX PATS in Costa Rica, Newsletters

Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 124

Grand Theft Auto in Playas del Coco

I was heading to the beach for a sunset cocktail, when my phone rang. It was one of my newest clients, who I have grown to be very good friends with in a short period of time, so I answered it immediately. It was funny because I was literally thinking about her at that exact moment, and was going to call her to see if they wanted to meet me at the bar.

“Heh! I was just getting ready to call you; I am heading to Coco. Do you want to meet me for a drink?”

“Michael. Someone stole my car!”

I could not believe what I just heard. Impossible I thought. Not in our town. I will be right there, I told her, and I stepped on the gas. Not her, I thought. This is one awesome human being. So positive, such good energy, you just want to hug this woman the minute you meet her. You know how you meet some people, and you just know right away, that you will be friends your entire life? This is one of those individuals. For this story, we will call her Dina. She has been here for a few weeks taking possession of her new home and celebrating life in paradise. She has had friends visit from Canada, and they have been all over the country, enjoying the beauty it has to offer. From mud baths, to hot springs; zip lining, to waterfalls; horseback riding to spa days, she has been checking them all off the list. No one, is more jazzed about becoming part of our community, than her, and she just exudes excitement about being here. This person is MADE for Costa Rica, and I was so pumped to have her in our community. This could be devastating. Nothing would ruin your outlook on this amazing country, like having your car stolen., it would leave a really bad taste in your mouth. She had gone to the spa, for a beauty day, and when she came outside, it was gone.

As I pulled up to where she was standing, you could just see the emotion drained from her face. There were half a dozen people from the salon, standing with her outside, and a few of the local parking attendants. My buddy David calls them Watchimons (because they watch your car) and they are everywhere, and actually do a great job. One of the things I love most about Costa Rica, is how hard the people work, and how much pride they have. You almost never see anyone begging, and there is no welfare or unemployment benefits. Everyone works, and there is a real entrepreneurial spirit here, that you see every single day. Instead of asking for money, someone will go down the beach selling Pipas; little Coconuts with a straw in the top; or hustle jewelry or pottery to the tourists sitting in the bar. Then there are the Watchimons who put on a glow in the dark vest, stand in populated parking areas, and guard your car for you while you shop or eat. When you go to leave, they help you back out into the traffic, and expect you to give them a tip. I always tip them well, as I would much rather pay someone to watch my car, than have them begging for change or trying to sell drugs, like you see in the USA and Canada. There is no WILL WORK FOR FOOD signs here, people actually WORK.

Costa Rica FAQ

I have been tipping these guys for years, and they always keep an excellent eye on my truck. Many times, I have customers purses or bags in my vehicle, and have even left my laptop on the front seat of the car, something you never want to do in a more remote area. I can honestly say, I have never had anything stolen from my vehicle, when there is a parking attendant nearby. Once, I had all of my client’s luggage in the back seat, and their computers as well. I pointed this out to the guy, and he actually pulled down the tailgate of my Toyota pickup and sat on it until I got back. He got a double tip that day. Every time I pull up, there is a small clash, as the attendants all race to be the first to claim me as a prize.

My friend climbed in my front seat, and pointed out the spot where her car had been. It was actually partially blocking a driveway and she asked if it could possibly have been towed. That is unlikely, as I have never seen anyone get their car towed in Playas del Coco; and people park in the most horrendous fashions. I have only seen the police give a handful of parking tickets in almost 16 years; it is for lack of a better term; a Free for All when it comes to where and how you park your car. As we were discussing the situation, a small argument started outside my window. One of the parking attendants, who is quite frequently drunk, started screaming at the other two.

“This is all your fault! You didn’t do your job! Stop messing around and PAY ATTENTION NEXT TIME!”

The other two responded violently, and I rolled up my window. I thought a rock might start to fly.

“It wasn’t one of my cars!”

“Not on my watch!”

“They don’t call me Hawk Eyes for nothing!”

After a minute or two, the yelling stopped; they were exhausted and stumbled back to their corners. Everyone had pled their case, and they were all innocent. No one took the blame; no one took the fall. They didn’t see anything.

I had to ask, as it is a stupid question, but “are you sure you didn’t park somewhere else?” She was positive that she had left the car there, and went in for her appointment.

I was completely bewildered. I have lived here since 2003 and there have only been two car thefts here at the beach, in this entire time. The first one, was the son of one of the developers. This was way back in the days of the Wild West of Costa Rica, and he left the keys in the ignition, while he proceeded to get drunk. Some teenagers jumped in and took off, and spent the night burning up the full tank of gas. They must have gone down river beds, and through fields; over boulders and heaving up the emergency brake doing donuts; because when it finally ran out of gas, it was hammered. But he got it back.

I actually leave my truck running all the time, with zero concern for theft. When I have clients in my car, and we go in to see a house, I like to keep the A/C running so it isn’t an oven when we come back out. I don’t even think about it to be honest with you, but then again, I am not doing this in front of a bar, at midnight on a Saturday night either.

The second theft was about 8 years ago. This great couple from Canada, had a very rare 9-seater passenger van; the kind you wish you had when you were a teenager. They came out one morning to find it was gone. The police told them, that these kinds of vehicles are sought after by professional thieves as the parts are very valuable, since they are so hard to find. But even this buggy was located, a couple weeks later, at a chop shop in San Jose. They got it back, with almost no damage.

She had rented the car from a very reputable, world wide company, and still had the keys in her purse. I called the number on the chain, and told them the car was stolen. They said they would immediately send an agent to meet us, and also call the police. The next question, was the most important. “Did you take out full insurance?” She did not. I ALWAYS tell all my clients, to pay the extra couple hundred bucks, and get the full insurance. This way, if something like this happens, or if you are in an accident, you can just hand the keys back to the company, and be on your way. But if you only take the basic minimum insurance, then you could be on the hook for the entire amount of the vehicle or damage, and they will make sure you pay before you leave the country.

I once had a client who got into an accident, and didn’t have the full insurance. He did not have enough limit left on his credit card, to cover all the damages. The insurance company actually called immigration and they refused him access to board the plane. He had to have money wired here from home, to pay off the damages, before they would let him leave the country. They do this if you get a girl pregnant by the way too, fyi. There is a serious amount of money you must deposit into the court, before they will grant you permission to leave. Play with fire, you might get burned.

When the rental agent arrived, he was completely at a loss of words. “This has NEVER happened to our company, EVER, here at the beach.” He really didn’t even know what to do, so he called his boss. As we were standing there waiting for the police to come, her phone started to light up. She has these alerts, that text her phone, whenever a transaction occurs on her credit card. Literally, as we were standing there looking at her phone, the car rental company drilled it for $13,500. I am not kidding. BOOM. They were making sure they got paid, no matter what. She got on the phone with her credit card company, and found out that she has 100% coverage from her Gold Card, fortunately, so in the end, she would not have to pay a cent. What a relief. You might not be so lucky, so take out the full coverage.

Costa Rica Video FAQ

Within about 10 minutes of calling, multiple police cars showed up. There were the local beach cops, the transit cops, which are like the highway patrol, and even the OIJ (which is the FBI of Costa Rica). If it wasn’t such a serious situation, it would have been comical. You would have thought a bank was robbed so many cops were standing around. No one could believe that her car had been stolen. This NEVER happens, is all everyone kept saying over and over while shaking their heads.

Zi-lock Holmes to the rescue.

If you have been to Coco then you know; Zi lounge is rocking! It is one of the best bars in the country, and it always jam-packed to the gills. It is the place to be. Zi was a Delta pilot who came on vacation and never left. Running a bar in paradise, sounded like a lot more fun, than sitting cramped in the cockpit for hours at a time. He has dozens of cameras pointing in every direction, so he can see all the ins and outs of his establishment.

“I have one camera pointing directly down the street in this direction” he proclaimed, as he turned and jogged back to his club.

The crowd gathered in his office, as he backed up the DVR. One silver Toyota came and turned left, but never returned. Odd. She said she parked to the right. “Would someone please run down the street to the left and see if you find this license plate.”

Sure enough, there it was.

Dina’s eyes lit up. “Oh my God. I forgot. I didn’t like the spot by the spa, so I parked down the street next to the church.”

I think you need to buy all of these people dinner, I told her, and another great party at Zi Lounge began.  

Hope to see you soon.

Come on down baby.

Michael Simons

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May 2021
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