“Dey teef me!” Getting ripped off in Belize

Belize is wonderful, it’s a great place to live, it’s a free country. If I didn’t love living here I would move. It would, however, be irresponsible of me not to mention this issue to people considering a move to Belize. Getting ripped here off is the # 1 challenge for new people in Belize. If you’ve been here for a while and taken your licks, learned a few lessons, maybe it moves to #2.

Like many others, we moved here with a pie in the sky, very naïve outlook. That will cost you. A snowbird neighbor of mine happened to arrive for his yearly visit just after we had shown up and immediately told me something to the effect of, “I will introduce to the people you should deal with, do not deal with anyone else.” By this he meant my amazing Mennonite neighbors and several excellent, honest, trades people in the area. Of course I listened to him, met the very nice people, worked with a few but went on to ignore his advice. Seduced by smiles, charm and promises of low cost labor I eventually took my business elsewhere. This, of course, cost me thousands of dollars over a period of time. By my calculations we have lost about $20,000US to employees, trades-people, contractors and outright theft, it could be more. I assure you the ex-pats reading this are thinking, “Is that all?” On the bright side that’s only $278 a month for an education on living in Belize! It’s like a tax to live here. I’m not opposed to taxes, I just didn’t know about it!

I promise you every single person living in Belize knows this is true. Being “teefed” (thieved) is such a common place occurrence I almost don’t resent it anymore. Recently I was teefed by 2 small engine mechanics in the same day to the tune of about $175US. The second one told me, “Once you become my regular customer it won’t be so expensive.” It’s like your second week in prison doesn’t hurt as bad as your 1st.  The other mechanic destroyed my water pump, charged me $38US and told me he didn’t want to work on it in the 1st place. So far it has cost me about $150US and as of yesterday the pump was smoking and making bad noises. There is no recourse except for me to mention his name is Leonel, don’t use him. Shortly after construction was completed on our house and another building we had to shell out $2500US to repair our contractor’s negligence. A few years later, in a moment of weakness, the contractor confided to me that he,”… specializes in cement buildings..” and, “…didn’t know that much about the construction of wooden buildings at the time.” He and I are friends today.  I once made the mistake of leaving my vehicle with an employee of mine to sell (I can hear the ex-pats laughing), that only cost me about $1000 and although I don’t speak to the guy today I readily admit he was one of our best workers. I’m not even going to get into how much we have lost to employees a few dollars at a time, forget about it! Once, a trusted mechanic/machinist screwed up my truck to the tune of about $600US. One thing he did was, amazingly, install my brakes backwards and when I went back to bring it to his attention he said I was just, “Hard to please.” Thanks CB Machine and who we now call, “the bad Cornie”. Another time an electrician was here to install an inverter, a job he assured me he was qualified for, he hooked it up incorrectly, blew it up and simply drove off the property. When I went looking for Roberto The Electrician someone informed me he had just driven away. I didn’t see him for probably 2 years.  By then the $400US I paid to fix the inverter seemed like old news. On our property we’ve had goats stolen (yes, they got our goat), a toilet, shower, and a very large water tank, among many other things. “They” also once disassembled our generator from the diesel motor and took that in the middle of the day, an inside job to be sure. A friend of mine left a car in his in-laws front yard only to have the entire engine removed, allegedly unbeknownst to the in-laws. The same man had his house stripped down like a car left overnight in the ghetto. Door frames, windows, toilets, counter tops, you name it.

You might read this and think it’s just me, I’m not careful enough, I let it happen, trouble follows me, I’m a sucker. I assure you every single person here has similar stories, every one.  I know thieves are a problem everywhere and please don’t let me imply that only gringos are the victims and Belizeans the criminals. I was ripped off by a lovely American lady, a friend of my wife’s, for about $12,000US in a business deal a few years ago. A mutual “friend” of ours, another American lady, had a small role in it and just the other day said to me, “Jim, it’s so good to see you!” I didn’t even strangle her! An American backpacker I recently took into my home stole about $2000US worth of gear from another guest of ours. He is currently locked up in a very bad place. Honest Belizeans are victims as well but not to the same magnitude because they have taken their licks and learned a few lessons. They are not newcomers and not naïve. There are good people in this country and I’m proud to call some of them my friends. Finding & dealing with those people is key. I recommend a healthy dose of cynicism upon arrival and listening to the recommendations of those who have gone before you, like I didn’t.

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About BelizeBritts

Jim and Jacquelyn moved to Belize in 2004 after spending much of their adult lives as US Navy Deep Sea Divers. Jacquelyn specialized in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program handling sea lions and dolphins with the US Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) as well as conducting underwater repairs on navy ships. Jim was a Navy Chief specializing in underwater repairs to ships and submarines as well as operating a recompression chamber for the treatment of injured divers. They moved to Belize in 2004 from Pine Island, Florida where Jacquelyn is a 4th generation native. Jim is from all over but calls Nashville, Tennessee home. In March 2013 they moved back to Pine Island, FL to spend more time with their family.
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20 Responses to “Dey teef me!” Getting ripped off in Belize

  1. ldj2452 says:

    Wow! Great eye-opener. We have been contemplating a move to Belize for a while now. This, the truth, is not something you’re going to f ind out about at the bright colorful “come on down” sites! We know that the crime rate is on the rise there, but, it would seem that even with your eyes open, much of what you see is your own stuff being carted away! Thanks for sharing your experiences! We have much more to think about now!

    • belizebritts says:

      My primary point here to to say, “Beware”. I’m not saying don’t move to Belize, it’s a great place, maybe not for everyone but we love it. You are correct though, you will not read that on the “come on down” sites. Stay tuned, I’ve got more info for ya!

  2. brad says:

    that is very entertaining… and vrey true. You guys have a cool blog.

  3. Jana says:

    So true! This is a very realistic description of what is happening. My friend is still waiting for a taillight which she paid a mechanic for in advance … what a BIG mistake. Now, we have been here almost 10 years, and that shouldn’t have happened, but he had done good work and was reliable in the past, so we just did not expect anything like that. What can also be costly is the equipment that is being misused or simply vanishes! We just recently had a repair guy put a new pull cable on the lawn mower (it was tested and worked just fine) – only to have my regular worker pulling it out and putting the old string back, because “it no work”. GRRRRR …. But I still love it here 🙂

    • belizebritts says:

      Thanks for the comment Jane. Still happening to us to though we should know better. I think we met when my buddy and I came and stayed at your place down in Hopkins. Is that you?

  4. brad says:

    It is funny how after you come to understand the mind set here, you dont really get mad about things being stolen. Some times you think things like “what was I thinking? leaving my cell phone on my kitchen counter.” Because you know it could happen – you blame yourself for letting it happen.
    Someone stold a cell phone from our house and we had to tell his dad to get it back. It was funny because the guy was a full grown man and his dad was “spanking” him. lol

    • belizebritts says:

      That is funny. I know what you mean, I am almost not pissed any more. I left my latop, camera and ipod in the truck, it was stolen, I should not have left them in the truck. We left a bike and 3 gas cans in the truck one day in Cayo, guess what, it was our fault. We simply come to understand if you leave your stuff around, it WILL get stolen. I metioned to Arran one day that some guys working for us are from a certain local village by the highway, he said, “If you wanted to get rid of all your shit you should have told me, I’d have brought a truck!”

  5. DriveGoddess says:

    Fi tru Britts….between the gang of us we have met some characters but I do have to say that the characters who have vexed me the most (and i have lived/worked in other central american caribbean locales so my experiences are varied) have to be the gringos and we all have our stories regarding the many subspecies thereof…..hahahah…..I am glad you guys are finally blogging because what you have to share is important and immediate….and of course, entertaining and honest!

    Bless your hearts.

  6. sandy a says:

    Great blog! I’ve got it bookmarked now and will look forward to future posts.
    Fi’ tru about Belize. We’ve had stuff stolen there (once), and I know better than to leave stuff laying around, or not locked up like Ft. Knox, but we’ve been robbed/burglarized so so so many more times here in the States.

    • belizebritts says:

      Thanks for the comment! I suspect your US to Belize time ratio is quite significant as well. I was just saying a few days ago that I think the accumualted value of what I’ve been ripped of here greatly exceeds the amount in the US despite the fact that I’ve been here only six years.

  7. lucy pollard says:

    Great blog Jim – and probably the most accurate take on how it really is. Love to Jackie and hope to see you in the near future.

  8. Again what a fun read for me. Having lived in haiti for 4 years, the Dominican Republic for two, and Panama for two years, I know what you are talking about. I knew a guy in haiti that had a beautiful sail boat and rather than pay the money to put it in a managed marina decided to just keep it anchored in front of his beach house…I can stop telling the story right there as you know what happened ..man has to sleep or go for supplies sometimes…I think he lost 80 grand in high tech equipment…I have my own stories of losing valuables from local “friends” I own no personal jewelry, and I always buy the cheapest phone I can find. Even then someone stole it in the Zona Colonial and I had to pay 15 bucks to have it found> Guess what? the police had it..I used an intermediary to go get it. My fault from a night of way too much rum. I only wanted it back because of all the numbers I had stored in the phone otherwise I would not have cared at all. But here is the thing I only had to tell one man to have the phone found and returned and I was the one that told him I would pay 15 for its return. that is a big city there in Santo Domingo tell me how it is that telling one of my handout street people would know exactly where to look? I do not always give to the street hustlers but when i can see they really need a meal I buy them food and give them a few pesos to boot. So I am well known for this as #1 I have enough and a monthly income for life and #2 I have had them many times watch my back and keep me out of harms way. I do know a swiss guy in haiti who will just shoot anyone who has mistakingly chosen his property to scale the wall and found out that his germain shepards are trained to silently attack. Locals know better…I could never be happy with that kind of life. Me, i am all peace and party, but again knowing at the end of the day whatever i lose in a month another check will replace it all so i say do not sweat the small stuff.

    • belizebritts says:

      Tim it seems all of us who have lived in these enviroments have similar experiences with this. I got a lot of supportive comments from my friends here when I wrote this. Like you,they know.

  9. What I really wonder Jim is if there is any place left in the world where we as americans are actually liked?(like a pocket of safe harbor) I mean even those of us who love to help others and who are willing to share our insights.(I am not speaking about the Americans who travel who believe they own the world either aka rude americans) I wrote you a reply on another one of your blogs concerning a tourist travel idea I have been thinking about. I know you could be counted on as a port of call. I also talked with someone who knows you ..Skip. he shares your views and is worried about some changes that are being made in Belize.? he says the situation is becoming worse. see I am of the mind wherever you go you should always treat others like you yourself would want to be treated. sadly so many of these people do not at all feel the same. I still believe that if I had itineraries that include safe harbor spots where people could be safe and party that this could be profitable…My e-mail is timothypaulperry@yahoo.com and again i know you are busy but I would like to keep this conversation going. I will say that it seems that Estonians still like us and they too are so poor that everything is affordable..

  10. Hi Jim, I am loving your blog. I am building a little house on the river in Boom and am now looking for a cabinet builder for my kitchen and a carpenter for benches and such for my deck – can you recommend anyone? Thanks – you can see photos of my little house here:
    http://belizebelize.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/this-one-is-for-you-mom/

  11. That is really fascinating, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look
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  12. Ras Shelley says:

    I lived in Belize for a few years and now live with my Belizean husband in the US. I think this is a biased opinion. Where is Belize do you live? I lived in Placencia, Independence and Monkey River and never got teefed. I admit you can get ripped off and I have heard stories similar to this by folks who build homes in Belize but you also get what you pay for. If you try to get the cheapest labor or hire the cheapest bid, they (employees) will get there money in other ways. Pay someone what you would pay in the US and they will make sure you don’t get robbed. Belizean look at the way we (ex pats) spend/waste money. They feel like we won’t notice or that we can afford to lose some money. My advise is hire the right people and pay them right. Belizeans are the hardest working people I have ever met!!

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