I WAS deciding what magazines to buy for my 15-hour flight to Dubai from Sao Paulo a few months ago when I was approached by a woman selling magazine subscriptions. Since I was already buying three of the magazines on her list regularly, I happily subscribed to them for two years and handed over my credit card.
She reassured me that they would begin arriving at my Brasilia residence within a few weeks. I flew off to Saudi Arabia for six weeks and when I returned there was still no sign of my magazines. And then a few days later I finally started receiving them. Editora Abril, the publisher of my magazines, and one of the biggest publishers in Brazil, does not use the Brazilian post office to deliver its publications to me. Instead, they are transported to Brasilia and from there a local distributor (i.e. a guy on a motorcycle) comes by and drops off the magazines.
Instead of using our mailbox, the delivery guy has been leaving them on top of one of our front gate posts. Since the magazines are well wrapped in plastic, that is okay, although I do wonder if they don't pose too much of a temptation for passersby to just snatch.
And then this Sunday my weekly copy of the newsmagazine Veja failed to arrive. Veja is well-known for its daring exposes of corrupt politicians in Brasilia, and is surely hated by many in Congress. My latest issue had trumpeted the fact that it had documents proving that the Senate president, Jose Sarney (a former president and now a senator who is constantly involved in accusations of corruption), had a secret overseas bank account that had more than $800,000 in it.
I waited until Monday to see if my Veja would be delivered late. But no sign of the magazine got me to call up their subscription hotline. In a few minutes I was talking to a representative who wanted to know my birth date, my CPF number (a tax payer ID number that everyone in Brazil must have and give out all the time), my address and my subscriber number! You would have thought that I was trying to get them to deliver another shipment of gold, and not a plain magazine, the way they insisted on asking me all of those "security" questions.
In any event, the very polite man on the other end of the phone informed me there had been a delay in the delivery of magazines by their Brasilia distributor and that I should wait until today to see if it got delivered late after all. I waited and still no magazine. So I called them again, and had to go through the whole series of "security" questions again:
Woman: "Sir, can you please give me your subscriber number?"
Me: "Certainly, it's XXXXXXXXXX"
Woman: "Thank you, just a moment as we check our records. I'm sorry sir what's your name again?"
Me: "Rasheed M Abou-Alsamh"
Woman: "That doesn't match our records!"
At this point I was ready to strangle the woman if I could. Thankfully she repeated my subscriber number back to me, and I realized that she had heard me wrong. Once I cleared up that mistake she assured me that I would receive the missing issue in a week. But I thought, why not extend my subscription by a week instead? After all I saw the issue today at the magazine store when I was buying copies of IstoE and Epoca, rival newsmagazines of Veja.
But I was too annoyed to have to have another whacky conversation with the woman so I agreed and thanked her before hanging up. This week's cover story is about dogs, so I don't think I'll mind getting it late since I'm always ready to read something interesting about man's best friend.