Our Legal Battle in Chile

We didn’t want to publish this.

We aren’t a publicity-welding family intent on badmouthing anyone. But the time has come to reveal a problem that has plagued us for the past year and still has come to no resolution.

When relocating to Chile to travel and explore, eat and write about it, we never imagined we would have to deal with such duplicitous people and such corrupt business practices. And yet, here we are, on the verge of telling everything about our unfortunate legal battle.

Sit back, send us your luck, and prepare to be outraged.

Here are the facts:

1. Because our project required us to be on the road for months at a time, we wanted to purchase a trailer to serve as our home away from home. After weeks of research, we purchased a camper trailer from a Chilean business, called Empresas Redsite.

We inspected the trailer and discussed possible modifications. The business representative had us speak with the manufacturing team. They all agreed that the modifications could be completed to our specifications and to our deadline. Our business dealings with Redsite began smoothly and we paid for the trailer and modifications in three installments.

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Discussing the modifications with Redsite techs. (Jan. 19, 2017)

2. And then things began to go sour. After numerous phone calls to check on the progress of the modifications (to enable us to leave on time for our trip), we finally learned that very little had been accomplished in the weeks since we had purchased the trailer.

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The techs could only do so much without the instructions and the materials provided by Redsite leadership. (Feb.17, 2017)

Mark was forced to drive to Redsite (an hour’s drive from our house) to discuss the matter in person. They told him that they had no one available for the electrical work – the trailer was without tail-lights – and so Mark took the trailer to a licensed electrification to have them installed. He gave the receipts to accounting at Redsite and was promised a refund. Meanwhile, we pushed off our departure date as far as we could to give Redsite extra time to finish the modifications.

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March 16, 2017

3. When we were finally able to pick up the trailer – the night before our expected departure – the work was so poorly done and the trailer was so dirty, we had to push off our departure another day to inspect and clean it before we could load our belongings.

But, alas, we could not put off our departure any further. We knew the trailer needed repairs and touch-ups but those things would have to be done on the road. We were driving to Patagonia – a region with a very small window for safe travel and we could not delay any further. We informed our Redsite contact who agreed that we would be reimbursed for any reasonable repairs and touch-ups that were required on the road.

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Yes, those are big gaping holes on the exterior of our trailer. There were several of these all over the unit when we picked it up which meant that our trailer was not watertight – road dust and water got into the trailer and all over its contents – sleeping bags, clothes, food. Plus, all edges were sharp and unfinished.
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This is a shot through the open door of one of the compartments on the modification. You can see daylight coming through because no seams were sealed. And what weather stripping you do see was added by us.
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The sink wasn’t bolted down and the water spigot was broken.
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The solar panel was supposed to slide in and out with ease on a set of brackets that we purchased for its installation. Where are the brackets? All I see is a pair of poorly soldered greased poles.
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Here is the solar panel inside the unit. Look at the crappy greased bracket they built.

We spent ten days in Puerto Montt, accomplishing much of these touch-ups and repairs before boarding the first ferry to the South of Chile. Beyond that point, repair work would be much more difficult as towns were few and far between, so we needed to make sure the trailer was fully equipped beforehand.

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Mark putting a protective plastic covering over the sharp edges (Mar. 25, 2017)

4. The first things that began to go wrong happened soon after our ferry ride. The doors on the sides of the trailer kept popping open and the lock barrels would just spin and spin when we tried to close them. We ended up using duct tape to keep the doors closed while driving over the bumpy gravel of the carretera austral. We also discovered to our frustration that the water tank would not hold water. It leaked out of every seam until it became a pure wonder that the bottom didn’t fall right off.

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The water tank began to empty as soon as it was filled. (Apr. 8, 2017)

5. It was while crossing a desolate pass over the Chilean Argentinian border that the first serious problem occurred. We were driving through a straight and flat valley when Mark noticed that the trailer had begun to pull to one side of the road and a small puff of smoke had appeared beside the wheel. We settled the trailer on a flat bit of ground beside the road and Mark crawled under the trailer to figure out what was going on.

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Apr. 18, 2017

Plain as day, we saw that the entire axle had shifted and the driver-side tire was now practically touching the trailer body. Further, when the axle shifted, the brake on that wheel engaged, causing the trailer to drag to one side, which is what had caught Mark’s attention. We were miles and miles from any town, on a pass across the border between Chile and Argentina that was sparingly used. We ended up having to lift the trailer, psychically (funny typo when I meant physically) push the axle back into place, and tighten the brackets around the axle shaft.

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The tire is almost touching the trailer.
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Trying to get the wheel off to see what was going on.

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But only a hour or so later, the axle shifted again and when we pulled over, we weren’t able to get underway again until the following morning. We spent the night camped out in an abandoned cow field, surrounded by sloping peaks and cow skulls. Not a single car or soul came along the road. We were truly alone.

When Mark took the wheel off the next morning, we saw the real cause for the axle shift – a faulty bolt had snapped causing the entire spring to shift out of true, loosing the shaft, and shifting the axle. It was only due to Mark’s ingenuity that we fixed this problem and were able to continue on to Argentina where we sought a solderer in the first town we could find.

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Those black metal plates are the spring and they’re supposed to be lined up and stacked like a wedding cake from large to small. These are massively out of place. (Apr.19, 2017)
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The shock has detached and the plates slid out of place.
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Mark had to take the entire spring apart and realign each piece. The bolt was broken and missing so he had to re purpose a long bolt from elsewhere to hold the spring together.

I shudder to think this, but if another family had been driving that trailer – perhaps if they hadn’t been as car-savvy as Mark is, perhaps they would not have noticed the pull on the trailer until it was too late. Surely that mountain pass would have been a terrible place to have an accident.

6. A variety of other things continued to go wrong. The shocks fell off, wheels locked up, and we discovered that the brakes had never actually had brake pads upon them to begin with. By this point, we were very far south and we opted to leave our trailer behind in Puerto Natales so we could continue on our research trip to Tierra del Fuego without the trouble of a falling-apart trailer. Upon our return to Puerto Natales, we made the difficult decision to head back to Santiago. We had many more places to visit as part of our research but they would have to wait until we had a travel-worthy trailer.

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Look, ma, no brake pads! (Apr. 27, 2017)
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Shock detached and dragging had to be removed.

7. But the troubles with the trailer were not finished yet. We opted to cross back into Argentina to take the smooth paved highways all the way back north. A few hours across the border into Argentina, just outside of the town of Rio Gallegos, the worst disaster occurred.

We were passing through a check-point several kilometers outside of the city of Rio Gallegos when something shifted and Mark gasped. In the rear view mirror, the back of the trailer was pointed into the air while the front was down out of sight. We couldn’t comprehend what we were seeing until we pulled over at a deserted roadside shrine and got out for a look.

To our horror, we saw that the chassis of the trailer had snapped clean in two places and that the only thing holding our trailer together was the tool box welded on the front. It was smashed against the spare tire and had to be pried open with a crowbar. We dragged some cement blocks over and tried to right the trailer as best we could.

7)

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The toolbox, crushed against the spare tire. (May 6, 2017)
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The crack in the chassis – driver’s side
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Crack in the chassis – passenger side

There we were, stranded by the faulty workmanship of the trailer and the terrible quality control of Redsite, for the second time. We had no idea how we could fix the problem this time. The scale of the problem was entirely beyond our expertise. We stood staring at the broken chassis, hating the trailer with a passion, and wondering where we would spend the night and if we were just going to have to leave it behind, when up drove a couple to see if we needed any help.

The man, Andres, turned out to be a life-saver. He happened to know a solderer who could bring his entire get-up out to this forsaken site and weld metal bars across the break in the chassis. “It’s not a permanent fix,” he said. “But it could get you home.”

We spent that night, squished onto two stained cots in a room built into the end of a shipping container at the side of the road – a last-ditch posada frequented by who knows what kind of people. The cots smelled of body odor and the wind crept under the brick-sized crack under the door. The proprietor gave us some boiled water which we used to make a broth for dinner. The only thing that made the whole experience bearable was the kindness of the stranger, Andres, and the little tom cat that visited us that night.

The next morning, Andres returned and he and Mark went into town in search of the solderer and his equipment. It was hours later when the trailer was driveable again – something I honestly didn’t think was remotely possible.

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The solderer willing to bring all his equipment to help us by the roadside shrine. (May 7, 2017)
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Still up on blocks but being repaired
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The repaired section on the driver’s side of the trailer.

We drove straight back to Santiago, only stopping to sleep in our car, for fear of the next thing to fall-off or blow-up on the trailer.

8. Back in Santiago, things were not about to get easier. Our contact with the company had been let go. The owner would not return our calls or respond to our emails. It wasn’t until we sought out a lawyer who called Redsite that we finally heard back from them. The owner, Patricio Becerra, said he wanted to talk. He wanted to see if we could solve the problem between just us and without the aid of lawyers. We agreed to a meeting.

In this meeting (June 14, 2017), Patricio expressed his condolences for the problems we had encountered and he was ready to write us a check for the trailer that day. But, the money we spent on the purchase of the trailer wasn’t the only money we had spent. In fact, we ended up spending thousands of USD in repairs and hotels – not to mention time lost for our research. We told them that we were certainly open to negotiation. We wanted to return the trailer to them, but we also wanted to be reimbursed for the trailer, the modification, and all repairs we had to incur on the road.

We handed him a spreadsheet and scanned copies of all the receipts. He said that he would need to review them and that we could meet the following week to get it all settled. We agreed to meet the following week.

And we have a recording of this meeting and all verbal agreements that all present agreed upon.

9. Except that follow-up meeting never happened. Patricio called off the meeting the following week, saying he was sick. Following that, he either didn’t return our calls or emails, or promised to call later – which he never did.  We waited about a month before seeking help from the expat community in Chile.

And through them we discovered that there was a six month window to file a claim with SERNAC (consumer protection) before a claim would no longer be valid. The Chilean lawyer who shared this with us also told us that most likely Redsite was pushing us off and avoiding our calls to get this would case past the six month time limit.

Although we had been willing to work with them, they decided to cheat us. Talk about scoundrels! Luckily for us, we were able to file a complaint with SERNAC within that window (August 10, 2017).

10. And now we are embroiled in the legal system. We filed our lawsuit with the Juzgada and it has been accepted. We have a court date at the end of March when we will finally get to be face to face with Mr. Becerra once again (if he decides to show up). I wonder what excuse he will offer when it is plain as day that he was trying to take advantage of the fact that we were foreigners and unaware of the SERNAC protection? I wonder what he will tell the judge regarding his sales of dangerous and poorly-made vehicles?

To Recap:

Our purpose in doing business with his company was to assist in promoting his country and his culture. We did not want to go to court over this. We tried and tried and tried to communicate directly with him to resolve the problem of the trailer. We only wanted to return the trailer and get our money back and move on. But now we are taking the man, his shoddy business practices and his extreme lack of professionalism and regard for public safety to court.

Wish us luck. And Share Share Share!

And if you live in Chile or are visiting Chile, or if you are doing business here, whatever you do, DON’T DO BUSINESS WITH EMPRESAS REDSITE!

Share Share Share!

5 thoughts on “Our Legal Battle in Chile

  1. This is horrible! I am so sorry this has happened to you and that you are all ok! I am thankful that Mark is so ingenuitive and was able to keep you all safe during this disaster. We miss you and hope that this is resolved quickly in court. S/N the pictures are not loading, but even without them this is so crazy :/

    Like

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