Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The season of giving - São Paulo

Happy Holidays from the garbage collectors!

It is December 3 today and I know that the holidays have truly arrived, not because of the holiday decorations which are dripping from every flowering tree (still weird for me to have Christmas in full summer) but because of the little cards that show up in my mail box. The little cards that wish me happiness and prosperity and all that stuff...and that clue me to the fact that the card-giver will be back within a week to ask for a "caixinha" ("tip") in person. 

"Caixinha" is a code for cash. Do not attempt to give these folks a panettone or some homemade cookies. Or a tie. They want whatever you have hanging around in your cash drawer, which sadly is often nothing in my case. I will have to make the obligatory trip to the bank to get some "caixinha" provisions. 

So, let me tell you who has already given me their cute Christmas cards: the electric meter reader was first, then the security patrol and I just got the garbage truck's card this morning. I am not a fan, by the way, of the garbage truck card's graphics which just makes me think that these are criminals carrying sacks of stolen goods from the house behind them.

At the moment, I cannot find the card from the electric meter reader. This is the one that I find most "sem vergonha" (shameless). What exactly is the service we have gotten from this guy? He shows up once a month, wearing his ipod headsets, yells "Eletropaulo" into the intercom, steps in, opens the electric box, writes down some number mostly having to do with his imagination (we have been overcharged regularly) and slams out the door again. Why do I have to give him a tip? It's easy: I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't. I do not need my electric bill to double. 

Here is the security patrol's "card" which this year is a xeroxed paper:

It's a nice message. They are wishing me peace. Of course, if we had peace, they would not have a job, but that's a technicality. I can either call over to the base and get one dude named "Aurindo" to pick up the money or I can bring it to the base. 

Next up: the street sweepers. Here is their card:

And it reads "During the whole year, in sun or rain, we wish everyone on this street a merry Xmas, etc etc." It is signed by my favorite street sweeper who really does take some care on the street, particularly at this time of year. He also helped me identify the owner of a lost labrador (not mine). And at the bottom of the card it is written "Be careful with fake sweepers." Errr, what?

Yes, this is also the time of year when "fake" service providers show up and ask for tips. They'll dress in a jumpsuit and go door to door saying they are the sweepers and asking for the tips. Too bad for them that I know every single service person that comes to this house or outside it. 

Finally, let's go back to the garbage truck card which is by far my favorite. Here is the inside of the folded card:

After wishing me happy holidays, the card goes on to tell me that "With effort and dedication, we work so that our city becomes each day cleaner. We garbage men wish you ....yayayaya." Then below the fold it says that you should only tip the guys who are with the truck and wearing black pants.  Issues with false garbage men...hmmmm. And then it gives me the names of the driver and all the collectors of night time garbage. Because of course, I also will receive a request/card from the daytime collectors of recycling. 

I am still waiting for the cards of the following service providers: mailman, water reader, gas delivery guys, recycling collectors and who knows? Maybe the dog food delivery guy. I am just printing out my own card to give to my neighbors to try for a caixinha for being a good neighbor all year.  Also for being a reading mum at school. It could work.

Happy Holidays!


  1. Sadly, we are the country of scams. Even the "caixinha" people here try to steal.

    What I find most interesting is the fact that lot's of people who provide customers with terrible services don't feel ashamed of asking for tips this time of the year. And we always get afraid of consequences of not giving.

    As I live in an apartment, only the workers from my building reach me with this kind of demand.

    1. I completely agree with you on the tipping even for bad service. It's become obligatory whether or not they deserve it. It doesn't make sense.