Tienda Inglesa: from class to trash

Tienda Inglesa: Lo bueno por menos

Classy may be too strong a word, but Tienda Inglesa has been for me the best of the handful of “large” (remember, Uruguay is small) supermarket chains in Uruguay.

Back in 2012, Tienda Inglesa sold LED lights imported by Renovables S.A., a wide-ranging and impressive Uruguayan renewable energy business. The owner, Rolando Ringeltaube, told me how carefully their company monitored quality control in China. And, he told me, LED bulbs should have a life of 20 years. Which, considering the history of incandescent light bulbs, seems an unlikely prediction. Still, they have to last longer than these mercury-laden compact fluorescents that seem to last about a year, no?

So imagine my surprise when an LED light bulb I bought there died after three weeks. They have a “no refund” policy, but thought about it a couple days, and gave me another. Which also died after three weeks. Once again, they reminded me of the “no refund” policy, but gave me a credit after a few minutes. Meanwhile, I walked to the lighting section to examine the packaging. Sure enough, they are now imported from China by Tienda Inglesa. No middle man. No quality control.

LED bulbs are great (10X more efficient than incandescent), but the Tienda Inglesa LED bulbs are now officially trash. Consider yourself warned.

Extremely poor quality LED bulbs sold at Tienda Inglesa in Uruguay

Walmart wisdomcomes to Uruguay.

Update 5 January 2017: the latest Tienda Inglesa garbage LED light, acquired 3 December 2016, has started overheating and malfunctioning today, after 33 days.

A busy 24 hours

Yesterday evening, a Namibian farmer of German descent who relocated here showed me how the thorny branches of the two orange trees salvaged from my failed country growing attempt were in fact suckers, growing from the root stock, and would never contribute anything. I had no idea that orange trees were grafted! So those bits went away first thing this morning.

Then to start the rounds: butcher, vegetable stand, plant some squash plants in the campo, report to the glass people that the window they just installed leaks like a ________, take back to Tienda Inglesa a USD 8 LED light bulb that failed in less than a month, and then to the hardware store.

paint swatch and light bulb
When I buy these “good for 20 years“ bulbs now, I label them with the source and date purchased. 20 years=<1 month? Unh hunh.

On the left, a swatch I made from the lovely color we painted the inside of the casita (little house) so I could consider it for the house in the country. The hardware store (ferretería) people were very helpful in instructing me how to mix one liter of brown paint into 18 of white, and so when the casita nearly exhausted our first batch, I prepared a second. Yes, what you see below on that swatch. Completely different color.

I took photos of the successful paint job in the casita, the mess in wife’s office, and the radical difference in color and coverage. I took a picture of a swatch of the second batch painted over the first.

Quality control, paint, Uruguay: the two results from mixing identical ingredients
Sorry, but they are identical. Honest.

And the paint containers.

paint containers

The reaction of Ferretería Villa de Sol? Never mind different colored labels, never mind different numbers written on top, never mind the radically different results, these are exactly the same product. We don’t know what happened, and we’re really really sorry. Can we offer to help you find a solution? No. Can we contact the distributor or manufacturer? No (are you mad?).

Unfortunately in Uruguay, es loy que hay (it’s what it is). Accept mediocrity, because.

Speaking of which, recall my amusement at the cluelessness of people who obviously (great location!) had firewood, but offered no way to get it. A few years on, apparently a light bulb has illuminated:

Basic marketing. What an amazing concept.

I will add that perhaps before they did wholesale, but: the retail potential of their location should have been obvious long, long ago.

So, what else?

pear tree

Wife pointed out that the fence we installed for dogs in the front yard was based on presence of bushes, not property line. Pear tree we planted is looking bounteous (bleh, crap photo), but it’s as though it’s chemically repelled by those bushes — notice how branches starting to the right reverse direction and grow to the left. With the revelation (what’s this about delayed light bulbs?) that I had an extra half meter to work with, I tore into the bushes. And will do more.

Go, pear tree. go!

Meanwhile, backyard, the butchered hibiscus offers today a couple flowers, for the first time.

Hibiscus blooming

Ready for a glass of wine, dinner, and read a book. My day in Uruguay.


Es lo que hay, ¡Uruguay!

I spent enough years in the USA to be predisposed to a gung-ho, get-it-done attitude, and a respect for quality products and services, so a couple of things here stand out for me.

  1. Tolerance of mediocrity: Chinese electric hand tools with a two-month warranty that cease operating after three, for example. Well, you might say, it’s poor country. And you’d be right. But you won’t find anyone here who disagrees that lo barato sale caro — false economy: cheap things end up being expensive. *Shrug* Es lo que hay. That’s what it is.
  2. Lack of situational awareness: as with people at peak season who pause in the exit door of the supermarket to have a conversation, or bicyclists, motos, or pedestrians who cross streets without looking. And let’s not forget cars.

Here’s a photo that presents a lovely illustration of both.

Es lo que hay, Uruguay.

The lady who apparently owns but doesn’t live at the end of Syd’s block had a hissy fit about the growing brush pile on her corner (but on the town right-of-way). She decided an appropriate response involved tearing the pile apart so that brush blocked both streets. Who did what next remains a mystery, but last week we returned from walking dogs to see two guys loading brush into a truck. Leaving Syd’s 5/6ths of the dog pack inside, we walked down to see if they’d be similarly taking away the 2+ year old brush pile next to Syd’s house. They indicated they would. Excellent!

They added that the current brush pile would require a second trip.

What you’re seeing in the photo is, left side, the remaining half of the brush pile. The blue and white stuff beyond is the non-brush trash that they carefully removed from the brush pile. The blue thing beyond that is (and was) an empty trash container that could have easily accommodated the trash they separated from the brush pile.  But apparently for them when your job is to pick up brush, it doesn’t include leaving the street clean.

The rest of the story, as you might guess, is that they haven’t been back.

I’m guessing they will. Eventually. Meanwhile, es lo que hay.

Sanders: my experience

No, not Bernie.

I’m making another 1-meter hanging shelf for under the kitchen cabinets. I bought a piece of 1″ x 10″ pine, a bit longer than needed (so I can trim the ends square with my table saw, since the good ol’ boys at the aserradero don’t quite grasp the concept of “right angles”). Then, of course, there’s lots of sanding to get rid of various planer marks. Fortunately, I have a hand-held belt sander that makes quick work of such chores. At least until almost finished, when it suddenly stops working.

Well, with not much left to do, I wasn’t bothered at having to use my much-less-competent palm sander. Well, to clarify, much less competent when they both work. Instead, I found it to be equally competent: instead of sanding, it just made noises. Might as well have been dead as the other.

A few days later (today), I decided to tear into them and see what I could.

Disassembled hand sanders

The palm (orbital) sander, to the left of the screwdriver, was hopeless. Something’s jamming the central shaft, and I have not a clue what (nor why it didn’t the last time I used it, a while ago). A path forward wasn’t immediately evident.

On the belt sander, however, I found it is activated by a double-pole switch — basically two switches acting together, one for each incoming live wire (and they’re both live in Uruguay, so I tend not to do “simple repairs” to light fixtures or outlets without first turning off the entire house circuit). Easy diagnostics revealed one switch wasn’t working, so I installed a jumper wire (turquoise “U” at lower right) so that the connection is always on, and — ta da! — it worked, and I replaced twelve screws that hold the two halves together.

Turned it on, finished my sanding job, turned it off — uh, no. Now the switch is jammed “on.” But guess what? I don’t really care! Unplug it to turn it off. It works!

I won’t be tempted to tear it apart again because, being a cheap no-brand tool, the screws that hold it together anchor into the plastic molding of the other half. They were all nice and tight when I undid them, but only a third of them really firmly reconnected. The others just turned and turned.

So it may end up being held together with wire and duct tape. But it works — !

I’m feeling more Uruguayan all the time.

The kitchen lighter


We bought a used gas barbecue grill without a functioning lighter. So I bought one of these for a few bucks. I was amazed how quickly it ran out of gas. Taking it apart, I see that, even though it has room for a regular lighter’s worth of gas, they’ve made the tank smaller. Because they can. Because you can’t see it. What a rip!

So I’m back to turning on the gas and throwing a match through grill. *POOOMP*