Recently, I was in my native Panama on a personal trip. Being raining season, the best way to get around is to get a 4x4, so I rented a 2008 Land Cruiser. Driving on the rain forest of Chiriqui made me realized that this 4x4 was the right choice.
Everything was dandy and fine, 'till Tuesday. That day I came to find out that there is a whole new industry that has exploded in the past 10yrs: Trading of Car logos.!
Yes. Those precious logos we don't even pay attention in the US, are the striving goods in Panama. This is how the story unfolds. I parked in front of a well lit, populated commercial area. It is 2:30pm and I am talking to a veterinarian inside the clinic. Next thing I know, some guy walks in and tells me that he saw this other guy stealing my car logo. WTF?
As I walked outside, I see 2 guys running about a block away and turning into this open market. So I decided against chasing them into the public market. With a regular screwdriver, they have popped the front logo of my brand new rented car while walking by.
So what's one to do? call the policy of course.!! I waited for about 1.5hrs for the policy to arrive. They checked my US passport and they told me that this is quite common and that there is nothing they can do. If I had caught the guys that have stolen the logo, then they could arrest them and file charges. (hummm... am I missing the point?, I thought that was their job.!!
They wont even give me a police report for the insurance company. I have to go to the local county office and filed a complaint. So here I go to this building that everybody goes to. They *investigate* robberies, assaults, murders, stolen goods, etc. It was awesome to see some of the stuff that they have recovered: (check out the portion of fence against the wall...)
Yes, those are toilet seats that were stolen, and have been recovered.!! [...honey, let's save some money and buy a used toilet seat. ;)
Well, after my grievance was officially filed, I call the insurance company and they told me that this kind of things do happen regularly. However, they do NOT cover partial thefts... WTF? Yeap, if the car have been stolen completely, then I did not have to pay anything. However, now I am responsible to pay $85.00 that the manufacturer charges to replace the logo.!!
Talking to some guy walking by, he suggested that I checked the local Chinese Autopart that sell replicas for about $8-$10. However, the car being rented and all, I decided against it.
The very next day, talking to a customer of the Vet, she mentioned that she knows someone that knows someone that could get me an original logo for cheaper that I could pay the dealer. hummm. She goes and give me her cell phone and tell me to give her a call the next day at 9am.
This is getting very interesting. Of course I call the next day, I talk to her, and yes she said that she was able to get me an original Land Cruiser 2008 logo for $40.00.
After some haggling over the phone, we settle for $25.00. She was to drop off the logo at the vet clinic with the secretary there where I am supposed to leave the money (cash only of course.!) and that will complete the transaction. Funny, this sounds so fishy. I get my logo stolen in front of the vet clinic, and then 3 days later, I am paying $25.00 to a completely stranger for an original logo... ;) But, under the circumstances, I rather pay that $25.00 that trying to explain and haggle with the rental agency, which I know will make me pay for the replacement.
Then I start noticing on the other cars, that their logos have either been stolen or that they have paid someone to make sure no one steals their logo:
I have also heard that some transportation buses pay $3-$4 per logo, no questions asked. I was not able to get a picture of these buses, but they told me that they use the logos as decorations, just like trophies, and they display them all over inside the main cab.
No, I did not place the logo back on the car. One hour before I drop off the car at the airport, I pop the logo back onto the car and drove straight and returned the car.
Supply and demand at its best.!