On my first day in Peru, I did what I always do on my first day in a new country – I went to a store to buy a sim card for my phone. This allows me to make local calls far, far cheaper than using my Danish sim card and local people can call me at normal rates.
I thought it would be as simple as going to the store, deciding between Claro and Movistar, perhaps showing some kind of ID, and putting the chip in my phone. Nope.
Apparently, when you buy a sim card in Peru you have to register it before it’ll work. This way, if your phone is ever lost or stolen, you can easily report it and get a replacement. You can register it easily via the menu options and you just need to put in your Peruvian ID number.
Foreigners don’t have a Peruvian ID number, obviously. To register yourself is a lengthy process that takes about a week.
The guy at the store was awesome for explaining all this to me. The previous store mentioned nothing about these things and was eager to sell me the chip. The registration issue was not their problem. Luckily, I hadn’t been to an ATM yet so I didn’t have enough money to buy the chip from them at the time.
So what to do?
Most foreigners have a Peruvian friend register the phone in their name. I am lucky to have tons of friends in Peru, but all are in Lima and I won’t be there for a month. I was thinking the owner of the hotel I’m staying at could do it for me, but it’s asking a lot.
Well, as I explained this, the guy called Claro’s customer service to ask if he understood the “foreigner problem” correctly, and they confirmed that yes, it was indeed a pain in the butt to register the phone as a foreigner.
He told me to wait a second while he went in the back.
When he came back, he had a photocopy of an ID in his hand. He looked at me, put his finger up to his lips and said “shhh…” He was registering my phone in some random lady’s name. It only took 30 seconds and my phone was ready to go.
It’s hard to explain. He was not eager for the sale or anything. In the middle I told him I wanted to check and see if the store across the street had any sim cards already registered for sale. He didn’t do anything to convince me to stay and make the sale with him or anything. I left, the other store had none, and I came back.
But it was just a strange experience. Almost never in Latin America have I received such good, patient customer service. The whole process took at least 20-30 minutes. The sim card only cost 15 Soles/$5.62. I’m guessing his commission on the sale was at most $0.50. I put 10 Soles/$3.75 of credit on my account. In the end, he probably made $1 by helping me out. His shop repairs cell phones and I’m guessing that’s where he makes most of his money.
I left him a 10 Soles/$3.75 tip for his time and for his patience. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it though. In the end, he did something “wrong” to help me out by registering the phone in someone else’s name. But he was so friendly, customer-oriented, and knowledgeable. It’s been a long time since I’ve been treated like a customer instead of one more hassle for an employee to deal with.
So, I guess I rewarded the attitude, not the actions. 🙂 Or something like that..