Phoenix Sitting in the Phoenix office of Advocates and Actions (www.advocatesandactions.org), I had trouble believing Isabelle and Teresa when they told me that when they talked to servicers for Bank of America loans they were talking to B of A representatives in Costa Rica. This was the same Bank of America that received $45 Billion dollars in U.S. government funds as part of the bailout hardly in 2009 after all. This was in fact the same Bank of America that had, well, how do I say it, AMERICA in its name.
Part of the back story goes back to Countrywide, which was bought by Bank of America. Part of the Countrywide operation evolved into something called ReconTrust, separate corporation from Bank of America, but clearly identified on its website as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of Bank of America, located in Simi Valley, California outside of Los Angeles, not far from Countrywide’s old haunts in Calabasas.
In fact in the FAQ on the ReconTrust website, they are clear about the relationship:
What is your affiliation with Bank of America?
San Jose Nicholas Kristof did a column in the Times in his usual didactic, rah-rah fashion trumpeting the happiness of Costa Rican people (http://bit.ly/6i0csw). He cites a couple of different “surveys” where Costa Ricans self-evaluate and cobbles this together with the point that in 1949 the government shutdown its army and investigated more in education subsequently, including additional language skills. Maybe, though any column that seems more written for the Costa Rican Tourism Bureau and to expense out a personal vacation on the Times tab makes me skeptical.
Ask me I and I think there are a couple of other pieces to this puzzle.
For one in an economy where tourism is a central driver, the real key to happiness for workers is the fact that they weld on an automatic 10% on all purchases at restaurants (while the country benefits from tourism exploitation by adding 13% for itself, which is smart too). The tips are pooled among the wait staff which produces decent professional staff without people being subservient to the little bit extra from the tipped economy. Furthermore from what my shaky Spanish could determine, wait and similar staff are still paid what passes for the minimum wage as well as the special “solidarity” pay which is an end of the year bonus that is part of the legal framework for workers. If a country is going to allow tourism to be a huge economic driver, guaranteeing tips will produce big time happiness!