I’M back from a very expensive week in the United Arab Emirates, where I sold my car back to my Honda dealer at a huge loss.
When I bought my brand-new Honda CRV last year, with a sunroof and cream-colored leather seats, I never thought that I would be leaving the UAE for good before the end of my five-year bank loan that I took out to buy the car.
But as fate would have it, my father became seriously ill and I had to leave my job in Abu Dhabi at The National to move back to Brazil. All of my belongings are still in storage in Abu Dhabi in the warehouse of my moving company. I am in legal limbo as I await my permanent Brazil visa, as people on tourist visas are not allowed to import personal belongings into Brazil.
When I first approached the Honda dealer last November about buying my hardly used car, I was offered only Dh88,000 for it. I didn’t have the money then to pay the difference between the amount left on my loan and the amount offered to me by the dealer. I therefore left my car with two friends and asked them to take care of it while I was away.
Coming back six months later to the same car dealer, I was offered a measly Dh66,000! I still had Dh109,000 left on my car loan to be paid back, so you do the math to figure out how much I had to pay to close out my loan.
Reluctantly I went to my bank and withdrew the required amount and proceeded to my car loan bank. After talking to a customer representative, I was informed by the bank manager that they did not accept partial settlement of car loans. The problem was that the Honda dealer would only have the Dh66,000 ready in two days time.
“I’m not walking around with this large amount of cash,” I told the manager. “Can’t you accept it? I’m going back to Saudi this week.”
The kind manager finally relented and agreed to accept my payment, even though he said it was against his bank’s policy.
The next day the Honda dealer called me with shocking news.
“Please meet our PRO at the traffic police at 7 pm to transfer your car’s registration to us. And by the way, did you know that you have Dh3,100 in traffic fines on your car?”
“No!” I replied in shock.
“Yes, and you will have to pay them before the transfer. Please bring the money with you.”
I immediately called a friend and moaned about the fines.
“Go online and check and see when you got them,” she suggested with rational calm.
I quickly found out that of the six tickets linked to my car, only one was mine from last September. The other five were from this year, and thus incurred by my friends as I had been in Brazil until I returned to Abu Dhabi on May 17.
“I actually drove through a red light once by mistake,” one of my friends confessed to me when I phoned her to complain about the fines.
“Thanks for giving me advance warning,” I thought to myself.
The final straw came at the traffic police when the Honda PRO asked me if I was going to pay the _de_registration fee of Dh360.
“_De_registration fee?! I’ve never heard of such a thing! I refuse to pay it,” I said.
The man looked taken aback at my anger and backed off. He realized I wasn’t going to take my wallet out and shell out even more money for a deal in which I was getting royally screwed.
“These banks are very greedy!” I growled.
Before I left Abu Dhabi on Saturday I passed by my car loan bank just to double check that my loan had been fully paid back.
“Yes, your loan is closed now,” said the bank clerk.
The only consolation I had was that unlike some laid-off expatriates in Dubai, who recently left unpaid for cars at the airport with the keys in the ignition and notes saying they were sorry for skipping the country before settling their debts, I was leaving the UAE with my car loan fully paid off.
But then, I was lucky…
"It's the suits", my country friend told me. When I asked "What??" he said "Think about the last time you talked to someone in a suit- did you go away happy?" I guess it's mostly formal; robes in Dubai.