(Warning – this post is pretty long! Much like our experience….)
1 year. 1 entire year. To get Mexican license plates on the trailer we brought down from Canada …. it took 1 full year. I am happy to report that we now have the Nayarit plates – 2-ND-7586 – but it was a crazy ride that you won’t believe. Unless you’ve tried it.
At the Border
The story started after we had gone through a sketchy 2 days at the border to get the trailer and the tools it contained across the border. That was scary enough. I am still not entirely clear exactly what went down there but we made it here to Bucerias and were certain the worst was behind us. As we often are, we were wrong.
The week after we arrived, we headed to the DMV office to get our plates – passport, registration, and importation papers in hand. We weren’t foolish enough to think it would be easy – but we did think it could be done that week. Bahahahaha.
First hurdle – apparently we didn’t own the trailer. WHAT? The lady who would become our ‘new best friend’ showed us the importation paper that had someone else’s name on it. Did we have a bill of sale – a pedimento -from that company? Ah no – because it’s our trailer. And I’ve never heard of that company. We called our broker guy in Tucson and I could see him hitting his own forehead over the phone – that’s the import company and I forgot to send you a bill of sale to get it back in your name. You’ll have to come back to the border to get it. WHAT? We are definitely not going back to the border. He made a few phone calls, talked to some people and a few days later, “I’ll courier it right out overnight.”
A number of days later it arrived, along with his invoice to cover the cost of the courier – even though it was his fault that we didn’t get it at the border. Fine. Whatever. We headed back to the office. We have all the correct papers. “Okay, but these papers have to be stamped in Tepic and you have to pay the fees there.” WHAT? Tepic is 2 ½ hours away – through the craziest mountain road and WE JUST CAME FROM THERE with this trailer. We do not want to go back. There must be another way? “Well for $1000 pesos, I can send it there for you?” Yes please. Of course. And then the copying, shuffling, stacking, reshuffling, stapling, unstapling, reshuffling began. “Wait, you have given me a copy of your telephone bill to prove your address. I need the original.” You’re kidding right? It’s just a phone bill. “No, I need the original”. We drove home and got the original. The addition of that 1 piece of paper meant she had to start over unstapling, reshuffling, recopying, more shuffling, more stapling. Some more fees. And finally the papers were on their way to Tepic. “Come back in 2 weeks for your plates.”
Okay, that’s not so bad really. We returned in October to get the plates and met the same lady. She pulled our file, shuffled through the papers and then told us “No, you will have to come back in 3 months.” WHAT? Why 3 months? “Blah blah blah Spanish Spanish blah blah 3 months.” Apparently, the government had run out of plates and there would be no new ones until January.
In February, we returned to the office. We had given them a couple of extra weeks – surely our plates would be ready for pickup. Nope not yet. We waited another month. “Yes, everything looks good, but you will need to take the trailer for inspection now”. WHAT? We had the trailer thoroughly inspected at the border. Why another inspection?
There are simply no common-sense answers to that question WHY and I have no idea why I keep asking it. We took the giant pile of stapled papers, went to the storage compound, loaded up the trailer and headed for the final (?) inspection.
The young inspector came out. Looked at the serial number on the trailer and headed back inside to fill out more papers. Until he didn’t. “I’m sorry. The serial number on these papers doesn’t match the sticker on the trailer.” WHAT? That’s impossible. It was checked and double checked at the border. “Sorry they don’t match. There’s nothing I can do”. Now since this conversation was happening in Spanish, we were not 100% sure we understood, so he told us to come back the next day when his English-speaking boss would be there. The next day we returned, and hearing the pronouncement in English did not help at all. The numbers don’t match – you’ll have to take the trailer back to the border. WHAT? There is no $#**x.@@**!!!! way we are taking the trailer back to the border. “Well then you’ll have to go to Tepic to talk to my boss”. Nope. We’re not doing that either. Give us something else. “Okay well my boss comes to work out of the Bucerias office sometimes. You can meet with him there”.
Of course, first we had to figure out what had gone wrong – why didn’t everything match? As we looked closely at the paperwork and the stickers on the trailer, we found a perfect storm of problems. Our trailer had been manufactured in 2005 and a serial number sticker affixed. Then it was shipped to a dealer who wanted to sell it as a 2006 so another sticker was put on top of the older one. Apparently not all Canadian businesses are honest either. The top sticker had faded and you could see the original sticker through – which made the numbers really tricky to read. Bottom line was that our Border customs guy had simply written the number down wrong at the border. A 5 that looked like an 8 was transcribed wrong. It was obvious when you looked closely at the label on the trailer. Surely this little mistake could not shut down this entire transaction which had already cost us many thousands of dollars. This couldn’t be the end of the road could it? We tried calling and emailing our customs guy hoping he could get the papers reissued with the correct number. He never did return our call.
A few days later we headed over to the office in Bucerias to meet with the boss, el jefe. Every day for a week we went there. “He’ll be here in an hour”. We heard it over and over. He was never there in an hour. Eventually they gave us his cell phone number and we decided we needed translation help from a friend. Francisco phoned El Jefe and finally we had an appointment – and this time Francisco came along.
El Jefe – the boss – was friendly and he listened. He unstapled the papers, reshuffled them and restapled. Francisco laid it on thick – my Canadian friends are good people, they work at an orphanage, they are going to build houses and employ people, they are good for our community. There must be something you can do to help them. Even I was impressed. “I would like to help them but the numbers don’t match. I don’t know what I can do. They need to go to the border to get new papers to match the serial number on the trailer. Or they can find a local welder who will write a letter saying he built it in Mexico and they could give it another number”. WHAT? Then Grant spoke up. What if we can get a new serial number plate to put on the trailer to match the papers. Instead of changing the papers, let’s change the trailer. Then it will match what the Mexican government has put in the system? ‘Yes that could work. If you get that, I’ll just sign off on it all and you can get your plates.” Okay we had a plan. We had no idea if it was possible, but it was a plan worth pursuing.
The next few weeks were full of telephone calls and emails to Canada to the trailer manufacturer and the dealer who had sold it to us. We pushed hard. You guys sold us a 2005 trailer and passed it off as a 2006 by hiding the original serial number label. We thought we were buying a 2006. You left 2 stickers on the trailer which has caused all these problems. You need to help us. “Sure, we can make you a new sticker with the new number – it will only cost you $500”. What choice did we have? We waited a few more weeks and finally the manufacturer told us he had mailed the new sticker. WHAT? You just don’t mail things to Mexico – it will never get here. We had specifically asked him to courier it. As expected, it never did arrive in our mailbox. A few weeks passed. “Okay, I will courier it overnight – today.” By which he meant 5 days from now. Another week passed until we got the new sticker. And then we opened it and immediately saw the new sticker said 2006. And we needed it to say 2005 to match the Mexican paperwork. Which we had said in our emails. Ahhhhhh. More phone calls, more emails, more overnight courier packages that weren’t overnight. But eventually we got a new sticker to match the Mexican paperwork. Surely, we were close.
By this time, we were into August. We took the stack of papers and the new sticker and we headed to El Jefe’s office hoping to get his signature on the whole mess. First problem – it had been so long he had forgotten our story. Second problem – he doesn’t speak any English. But eventually he remembered and looked it all over and nodded and eventually said, “Okay now you need to take it for an inspection.” WHAT? I thought you were going to sign off on it? “No …. Inspection”. Which is how we found ourselves back at the inspection building almost a full year after we had started the process. The same inspector looked at the trailer yet again and this time he admired our ladders on top of the trailer. “I could really use a new ladder – how much are these worth?” We ignored the bait and we headed inside. He looked at the new sticker, shuffled and reshuffled the papers, punched away on the computer and finally said “Sorry – this number doesn’t seem to be in the computer database. There’s nothing I can do. You’ll have to go back to the border”. WHAT? Okay I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. We are not taking the trailer to the border. You can see the serial number matches the papers now. “Well then you’ll have to see my boss in Tepic”. We already saw your boss – in his office in Bucerias. “That’s not my boss. That guy has nothing to do with this. You need to go to Tepic”. I really wish I had taken a selfie right then – my face had to be in complete shock. What was going on? So I did what I should have done 11 months earlier. I sat down in a chair in front of his desk and said, “We are not going anywhere – you have to do something.” And then I sat there. For 90 minutes. A standoff of silence. I was not leaving until the inspection forms were stamped and stapled to the other papers. Just. Not. Leaving. He phoned a few people. Told me over and over he couldn’t do anything and I just sat there. After about 90 minutes I said “Look, just fill out the form and give us the plates.” And you know what he said? He said “Okay”, and he pulled out his inspection pad and filled it out in triplicate and handed me the green copy to take back to the DMV office. We were getting plates – and just to be sure, one small ladder stayed behind.
When we arrived back at the Transito office we lined up at the cashier – one last step. But nope. Back to our friendly lady in the office. I am not even exaggerating. She unstapled our stack of papers, made new copies, reshuffled, and restapled. Then she sent us back to the cashier. After another ½ hour or so the cashier went to talk to the woman in the office and they both came to us, “This telephone bill you gave us to prove your address – it is dated September 2016. That’s a year old. We can’t use it- we need a current one.” WELL NO KIDDING IT’S A YEAR OLD – CAUSE THAT IS HOW LONG THIS THING HAS TAKEN. ONE YEAR. Luckily we had just paid our phone bill that morning and it was in our car and we handed it over. Surely that is it right? “No we are missing the original registration to prove it was registered in Canada.” Oh my gosh – you are seriously kidding me. How can you need more papers? You have every paper I have ever owned. It is all stapled in that stack with 1 million staple holes. I don’t have anything else to give you! And then she pulled an email out of the file folder I was carrying. It was the email Grant had sent to the manufacturer asking for another Serial number sticker. “Okay, this is good enough”. WHAT? That paper had nothing to do with the registration – in fact it was evidence we had changed the serial number on the trailer. But it was in English and she had no idea what it said and she was happy to have one more piece of paper. Whatever. Back to the cashier. We paid the fees. And then the cashier handed us all our papers back, divided into 2 piles and told us to go back to the office and get 2 copies of this pile and 3 copies of the other one. WHAT? We were just in that office. She made lots of copies. How can you need more copies? Back to the office. More copies. More fees to pay for the copies. Back to the cashier who stamped every copy, reshuffled the piles, restapled them all.
And then they handed us the plates. One year to get plates for a trailer that sits in a storage compound. Thousands of dollars. 1 ladder. I have never experienced anything like it. I still am not really sure what happened – why numbers didn’t match and weren’t in the database and who was really the boss. I can’t imagine where all those stacks of papers are tonight. Have they not heard of scanners? Of computers? Of the paperless society? But it is done. 2-ND-7586. Transaction completed. It would be kind of funny if we didn’t have one more trailer to register and plate. Stay tuned…..