Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A big dumpster of time

Before I left US soil, I was already feeling the painful bite of Brazilian bureaucracy. I won’t bother you with the story of my visa problems, but I had them. My travel agent told me Brazil, becuase of the unorganization and bureaucracy, was harder to get into than any country in Europe (she also told me my bags would be checked to Recife, and if I’d listened to her they’d have been left in São Paulo). To buy a SIM card for my cell phone in the mall here I had to first wait in line and speak with an associate who determined the nature of my visit. I then received a number and waited for a salesman. The salesman got me lined up, and gave me a receipt and directed me to another line. In this line I paid and got a cool “pago” stamp on my receipt. Then I went to another line, and upon presentation of my receipt, received the SIM card for a phone that won’t work in Brazil because it’s too old. To quote Dr. William Spooner in a fit of rage, the systems in Brazil are “like a well oiled bicycle” (yeah, you’re going to have to look that one up. I remembered the name from a book I used to read on the shitter in 7th grade. My apologies).

I don’t mind walking slow, or waiting in line. I do hate gross and blatant inefficiency. Something in my head pops when I wait at a bus stop 30 minutes and then two busses from the line I need round the corner at the same time. The first bus is full, the second is empty. It would only take two or three dispatchers and some UHF radios to eliminate a lot of waste from the public transportation here. It’s not like it really matters, the culture here is similar to what I hear about most of Latin America. You can’t really be late, you either show or you don’t. Time is a very liquid concept.

Does this aspect of culture create the inefficiency? I don’t think so. It allows it, but I would not put the blame there. So what causes all this loss of time? After all, time is money. Wrong! In Brazil you can hire a maid to cook and clean for you 5 days a week for $200 (R$400) per month. My theory is that labor is so cheap it’s just more profitable not to upgrade or reorganize. If one computer costs 6 months wages for a good employee, by the time reorganization or upgrade pays itself off, the program, or goods accommodated are now obsolete or changed. This would explain why Pizza Hut (which is better down here) uses software that I think is UNIX based. If you don’t know what that means exactly, its bad… like 5 inch floppy bad. It’s just more profitable to use an old method than to upgrade and fire half your staff.

On one hand, customers have to wait more than is necessary. On the other hand, this culture creates a lot of jobs. I mean a lot. Since the jobs are limited in scope and require little or no qualifications, the people are pretty good at them. It takes me longer, but service is good. While the wealth is distributed poorly here, at least the lower class is eating and working… instead of using food stamps to buy steak before they drive home in their truck and yell at me to get my bike off the road. Perhaps, this is an argument in favor on minimum wage increases. Increasing the minimum wage makes efficiency more profitable (Is that confirmation bias?)

While I highlight the negative aspects here… this is great when you’re at a restaurant or on the beach, you have dozens of low level employees just waiting to serve you. Tips are not expected, the employees receive (collectively) 10% of the bill. They work hard because they want the job.

*If you still don’t get the spooner thing. I was saying the systems are like a well-boiled icicle, which isn’t much good to anyone. Ole Bill Spooner may have said a well-oiled bicycle on accident. I cannot apologize enough for this hairable tumor. Sigh...


Blogger Drew Beckham said...

I remember that john-book about ol' Bill Spooner. It was a pretty good read, although I don't recall ever reading it.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Cassy said...

If time is liquid...just drink it, man. Whoa. Man. Whoa.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Brady said...

cassy... off the drugs.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

I was just talking to Karli, and she reminded me of the time at Lindsey Wilson when you said you know exactly how long your colon is.

P.S. When you get back, I will pay you back for the countless times I got shit faced at your house on your alcohol. Living off campus is going to rock.

10:36 AM  

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