Left at the curb in the Port of Colon

Departing was such sweet sorrow. After three days and two nights without cooking or cleaning I was not ready to leave the Grandeur of the Seas. However it was for the best, gluttony is a pleasurable vice, but gluttony is too easy on a cruise ship and was adding to my waistline. I also confess to sloth like behavior, eating, drinking, dancing, drinking, eating, oh my. The unofficial computation is one pound per day of weight gain on a cruise.

We abandoned ship at about 9:30am with bursting bellies and an ache in my heart. I knew we were to face suitcases, boxes, carryon luggage and a long ride back to Boquete. Some people like this repositioning cruise for food and entertainment, others like Panamanian Customs in Colon. The only inspection was done by a dog and the K9 did earn his keep. The drug sniffing dog did discover contraband on a wheelchair riding, gray haired lady in front of us. The dog sniffed out a bran muffin and the customs agent confiscated the offending item. Remember drug sniffing dogs like bran muffins too.

Loose inspection allows people to bring in busloads of stuff and they do, we did too. We were proactive for the return to Boquete. Mayra bought space for five people, five suitcases and five boxes on a bus from Jonathan Evatt of Inspired Earth Publishing, a Bocas resident who promoted his grief saving buses on Boquete Ning. It was a risk which turned out to be an error.

Jonathan had two undersized, underpowered twenty seat coaster buses. The first bus he rented to a small group with a ton of stuff, they paid him $600 for the service and expected to have the bus to themselves, they did not. The second bus had only twenty seats and another ton of stuff. At first Jonathan gave me hard time about our boxes. He conveniently forgot Mayra had paid for five people. Between the five of us we declared to him exactly what we had, five people, five suitcases and five boxes. Jonathan told me I needed to pay an extra $8 a box beyond two, I reluctantly agreed.

They started loading half a ton of suitcases on the roof of the little bus. Mayra said the little buses were never designed for that type of load on the roof. Then they realized there was not going to be room inside for all the paying passengers and the other half ton.

I volunteered to abandon the bus before people were asked to leave or the tires burst from the overloading. Jonathan agreed and then as we sought alternate transport he decided two of our group could squeeze into the overcrowded, overweight bus. He did finally agreed to refund our money, but since Mayra paid via Paypal he said he would only refund through Paypal. In retrospect I should have demanded the money then and there.

The Port of Colon does not allow taxis to enter for passenger pickup. They did however allow a van to come in and load five people, five suitcases and five boxes. We took the van through the increasing rain to the Bus Terminal in Panama City. In our path the rain turned into flooding and one of the roads into Panama City suffered a collapse killing two Red Cross workers, we managed to escape the tragedy. I feel for all those who lost families, friends and homes in the the disaster we were lucky, their losses makes ours look trivial.

Flooding in Colon Panama 26 Nov.

Photo Credit La Prensa

Arriving in Panama City we loaded ourselves and our stuff into a bus to David and had a comfortable seven hour ride through the rain. We met a couple from Bocas on the bus, they too had been left at the curb in Colon by Jonathan. They did demand a cash refund from him and did receive it,  there maybe more people out there.

We arrived in David at 8pm. People who were on Jonathan’s bus said they suffered a blown out tire along the road, overloading will do that. Arriving in Boquete they were abandoned at Super Mercado Ivan at 8PM and left to try to find taxis from there. Jonathan demanded each of them pay another $20 to compensate for the revenue he lost from us and the other couple who could not fit on the bus in Colon.

I am waiting for a refund from Jonathan. I have emailed him, no response, I have filed a dispute with Paypal, they have emailed him, no response. I will wait another few days for him to respond and then I will file a claim and hope Paypal makes good on the $210 he took from us and promised to refund. I am not sure how many more people were left at the curb as his buses left Colon. If any other readers paid him and were cheated I urge you to also contact Paypal and demand a refund.

It was a memorable end to a lovely week and another lesson about some of the expats who live in Panama. We made a mistake and trusted Jonathan, a mistake that will not be repeated by us.


  1. B&A in Brisas says:

    We were not signed up on the community bus trip. We had only a few bags and walked them ourselves out of the fenced in area to the outside where the taxis were. It was a long walk and fortunately a taxi driver assisted us with the heavy bag 1/2 the way. It was $5.00 to the bus station and $3.30 each for the bus to Panama City where we laid low til the rain and holiday was over. We took in the King Tut exhibit at the museum and headed home the next day. It worked out well for us. So sorry to hear about the bus confusion there for you all. Such a shame…and with flooding rain to make it all the worse.

  2. Lee: Is Jonathan an ex-pat?

    “It was a memorable end to a lovely week and another lesson about some of the expats who live in Panama”

  3. Patrick, yes he is an expat

  4. The white on white font on your site cuts of the “See more” link under my Facebook comment, so I shall post my comment here also.

    It is truly fascinating to see how the human mind can misconstrue fiction into “facts” in order to support a certain self-centred reaction to a situation.

    As stated in my many emails to you, and my phone call to you Lee, you did not purchase bus tickets from me. This was a personal arrangement between a group of us wanting a bus. It was unfortunate we were given two buses smaller than we had booked. Why you choose to be vindictive towards me because of what we collectively experienced is a mystery to me.

    You have failed to mention the following: From the outset I made it clear I was simply assisting fellow Boquete residents to get an affordable bus ride from Colon to Boquete. You can read the understanding he agreed to here: http://jonathanevatt.com/site/bus-reservation-agreement/

    I am not sure who you spoke to on the bus you took from Panama city. The only other people who didn’t get on the bus were a couple who reserved a place very last minute and they had in fact not actually paid. So it is not likely I would have promised or given them a refund. Is it? What’s more, they were not “left at the curb”. They saw the bus was going to be full enough without them and gracefully elected to find another means of transport.

    I am also not sure who you spoke to from our bus. We didn’t have any blown out tire issues. The whole trip was uneventful in that regard.

    It was not “his (my) buses” but OUR buses.

    I don’t recall you reluctantly agreeing to pay for the additional boxes. Actually I recall you swearing and walking away in a huff. I was okay with that, but let’s at least keep things honest here.

    As pointed out to you by email, I was in no position to agree to giving out refunds on behalf of the group. What’s more, even if I wanted to give you a refund, I would never have said it would be via Paypal. I don’t store money on Paypal. It was simply used a means to make it easier for the group to get the money to me, to pass on to the bus provider.

    The bus had 6 empty seats when we departed. With luggage, that would have easily allowed 2 or 3 more people onto the bus. It is unfortunate that we were still short 2 or 3 seats (for people), and yes you, your partner, and one other person needed to find alternative transport. You have been offered a full refund by the group for those three lacking seats.

    Your two other friends elected to not come on the bus despite the fact there was space enough for them. This was their choice, and I respected that. There being space enough, and the unlikelihood of a refund was discussed with them at the time, and unlike yourself, William said there was “no hard feelings” from him, and something to the effect that we’ll figure this out back in Boquete. To reiterate, I explained it would be unlikely he’d get a refund because the group has paid for the whole bus. He still elected to get alternative transport with you. I assumed he had his own personal reasons for that. He did mention needing to stop every hour on the trip in order to have water. I suggested we stop at the beginning and buy him a big bottle of water, but he seemed to have something else going on which wasn’t clear to me.

    I am sorry to see you feel so victimised by this experience, and can only wish you all the best in your healing through Life.

  5. Dear Jonathan, you have a selective memory and because mine is not perfect I did ask others to answer some questions. Rather than me responding to you in my words I will post my questions and two of the responses. Someone also sent my request to you and you responded also.

    You can heal me by refunding Mayra’s money, if not I hope Paypal will do the refund. You sold a service, you failed to deliver.

    You dance around the fact you collected our money and did indeed leave us at the curb without space on the buses “we collectively” hired. I stand corrected in my statement you demanded $20 from each person. I have now been told you requested $20 a couple, it was neither a collective decision as you stated nor a demand as I previously stated. You apparently have a difficult time accepting responsibility for your actions. Since I am certain this was not done as an act of charity, why don’t you just refund the money and accept the fact you made some bad business decisions.

    Although in the post I did call the buses Coasters, they were not. A Coaster is much larger and you did write you would provide coasters. If you had delivered what you promised weight would not have been a problem and space would not have been a problem.

    Permalink Reply by Jonathan on October 22, 2012 at 1:38pm

    The bus is a coaster bus.

    These are the questions I set to the people who were on the bus.

    I hoped not to involve others in my dispute with Jonathan but since I was not on the bus I need to ask a few questions of those who were.

    1. He says you all collectively agreed to pay him more money. he says $10 a person, I was told $20 and that it was a demand not a collective decision. What is true.

    2. He denies agreeing to refund my money, did anyone hear him tell me he would refund through Paypal?

    3. He claims the bus was not overloaded, does anyone wish to add an opinion about how comfortable it would have been with two more people and their luggage?

    4. Before committing I asked what size buses, he wrote Coasters, the small Collegio buses are not coasters. Did anyone else receive that email?

    5. Finally, if he offered this service again next year would you recommend the service?

    One couple

    I was standing less than 5 feet from you when he agreed to refund your money.

    When he and I were talking he pointed to the two seats that were left on the bus, there was luggage and boxes on all the seats behind these two seats and no room for our luggage and our boxes. I asked if he was kidding and why did he have such small buses. He never answered me.

    No, I would not there was a total lack of logistical thought and confimations of the buses. He stated in one email that these were to be Coasters.

    second response

    You can gladly relay my answers if you choose………..

    1. $10.00 per person is what we paid (don’t remember # of people on bus). I would classify as “an ask, not
    a demand”. I did it because everyone else did it

    2. Yes Jonathan said he would be refunding your money.

    3. It would have been 100% impossible to fit anyone in #1 bus. There was one seat available on bus #2.
    To reiterate: I am 100% positive there was only 1 seat available. Yes it was very cramped. There was a safety issue
    way too much luggage, drivers that drove down from Boquete (tired) + are windshield wipers worked if they were started manually from the outside

    4. I have a vague recollection you wrote on Ning inquiring about the size of bus…….

    5. No. I don’t like risking my life to save about $30.00. This is factoring in my tip to the
    drivers, Fleets Chevalis, & Air Panama .

    I am hoping others who were on the bus will also respond.

  6. Will Wolff says:

    When I was standing outside the bus, as the driver and his assistant were loading things on the roof of the bus, I noted there were three seats left at the back of the bus, However, all the seats forward were filled, and there were a number of people standing trying to get to the back of the bus. We had 3 suitcases and 3 boxes as we had agreed in our understanding with Jonathan, There simply was not enough room for everyone in that bus. The back of the bus was piled high with things that if there were to be an accident would have been catapulted forward causing serious injury to any passenger in it’s path. We were left at the curb, unless as Jonathan was saying, we were willing to place our boxes outside the bus on the roof, where the two people loading were saying they did not have enough tarp to cover and protect our boxes and there was no more room except that few seats that were left. It was obvious to me that this was a complete CF (in military terms), That someone dropped the ball in planning and arrangements of the size and quantity of buses.

  7. Will and Lee,
    I appreciate you formed opinions about whether or not the bus could accommodate you. I have agreed that three people were without a suitable space on the bus, and those three people have been offered a full refund by the other passengers and myself. I don’t see any issue with that.

    Lee, who is it you are quoting regarding someone overhearing me offer you a refund? Will perhaps? Although that is all beside the point. It’s a strawman. Whether I offer you Lee (and your group of three people) a refund or not is a mute point. The moment I received your email demanding a refund, I emailed you saying we had a refund for you, and I phoned you to say the same thing. I found your response on the phone to be rude and demanding. Of course you’re free to behave as you feel to.

    Since it’s apparent the fellow passenger you have communicated with about seats does not appear to have made an accurate (factual) assessment of the seating, I will spell it out here for you. When we were ready to depart we had the following seats empty: 1 double seat in front of the luggage (seat for 2), half a double seat back from the front door (seats 1 person) and a full double seat at the front of the bus (seats 2). There was also the single seat in front of the door (seats 1). The spare driver sat in that single said, but if it was needed, he was more than happy to sit in the fold-down seat and let a passenger sit in the single seat.

    That’s seating for 6 people.

    I offered for people to spread out and make use of the spare seats. I assume everyone was fine where they were (two per seat, as the bus is designed for) as no one elected to spread out. So my partner and I sat on a double seat each.

    When I saw how much free space we had just before departing, I opted to move some luggage down onto the double seat toward the back of the bus. I will say that I would have still left that luggage there even if Will and Mari came on the bus, and I would have added their luggage to that. Bill and Mari could have comfortably had the empty double seat at the front of the bus. Obviously when I say “comfortable” I mean as comfortable as one can expect, as opposed to sitting wedged in between luggage and so on.

    If necessary the passenger who had a double seat to herself (back from the doors) could have sat on the single seat the spare driver ended up using. That would have allowed for another couple at the back of the bus to move forward. That would have given them more leg room and freed up more space for spreading out luggage. As it was, the luggage was no longer “dangerously high” (as Will has judge it to be) and didn’t need further spreading out. So we left everyone where they were. Had Will and Mari been on the bus, I would have moved two people forward as mentioned. Providing ample space for Will’s luggage at the back of the bus.

    Will, for the record (since you are choosing to take this matter up with me publicly rather than returning my phone call and emails) you actually registered online that you have two bags, and three boxes. Here’s a copy/paste from your registration for the bus:

    Product Qty Unit Price Price
    Bus Ticket 2 $42.00 $84.00
    1 Bag 1 $0.00 $0.00
    2 boxes 1 $0.00 $0.00
    1 Full Size bag 1 $0.00 $0.00
    1 box 1 $0.00 $0.00
    Total $84.00

    That differs from the 3 boxes and 3 bags you mentioned here in your comments. Perhaps that error was a typo? I don’t recall how many bags and boxes you turned up with on the day.

    At one of our stops along the way, one passenger had his wife come from the second bus onto the first bus. The “first bus” is the one I have been detailing above.

    So when one of the passengers states: “It would have been 100% impossible to fit anyone in #1 bus. There was one seat available on bus #2.”

    I can only assume he is referring, perhaps, to his recollection of the seating when we arrived in Boquete? I am not really sure, as what he has told you is not accurate. You see, already this witness account is showing itself to be false or mistaken. I had a double seat to myself. That makes 1 spare seat. My partner had a double seat to herself. That now makes 2 spare seats. Bonnie (sitting back from the door) had a double seat to herself. That now makes 3 spare seats. The driver was happy to sit on the folding down chair, so that means there was a 4th spare seat. This is after I shuffled luggage down onto the spare double seat at the back of the bus.

    Even if your friend didn’t realise the spare driver would sit on the fold-down seat, there was still quite obviously 3 spare seats, yet he is stating the following: “To reiterate: I am 100% positive there was only 1 seat available. Yes it was very cramped. ” and “When he and I were talking he pointed to the two seats that were left on the bus” – what are we to make of that? He says there was only one seat available. Then in the same message to you he says I pointed to the “two seats that were left on the bus”. I absolutely accept people makes errors and make mistakes when recounting events and when writing emails… but you’re trying to use this as some kind of evidence to prove your position.

    He feels “100% positive” about his opinion, and yet it is plainly 100% inaccurate. Was there “1 seat”, “two seats”, or the 4 to 6 seats I have detailed? (4 after I rearranged luggage into a spare seat at the back).

    And yet you accuse me of having a “selective memory” ? I don’t wish to take the micky out of you Lee (or your eye witness) but surely you have enough sense of humour to see this is verging on being laughable. It’s like some kind of comic parody playing out here.

    Your friend has also stated, “There was a safety issue way too much luggage, drivers that drove down from Boquete (tired) + are windshield wipers worked if they were started manually from the outside”

    Please, we are in Panama, Central America. I am sure you’ve all lived here long enough to know things rarely work or turn out in the way they do in places like the USA. Let’s not pretend this bus was worse than anyone living in Panama might realistically expect.

    In terms to the perceived “safety issue”… that’s obviously a matter of opinion and we are all entitled to our opinions. I accept, for instance, that Will felt the bus was not safe and didn’t wish to ride in it. That was his choice. Bonnie’s opinion (a passenger on the bus) was this: “I would certainly go again if Jonathan offered this service.” Here’s a single woman who apparently didn’t feel unsafe (and she made that clear to me when I asked her on the bus), and yet Will, for whatever personal reasons, did feel unsafe. Both people are right. Both have their own assessment of a subjective situation.

    I paid very close attention to the way the bus moved on the road. I determined the bus was sitting on the road just fine. I was paying very close attention to this because when I noticed how much free space we had inside the bus before departure I asked the driver to take some of the heavier items from the roof into the bus. I felt we might as well eliminate any possible unnecessary safety risks. He was very reluctant to do this and assured me the roof weight was fine. Not inclined to trust the judgement of Panamanians on such matters, I told him that if at any time I felt it was dangerously top-heavy I would demand they stop the bus and move luggage down onto the spare seats on the bus. He agreed to this. As it turned out, this was thankfully not necessary. I will say I was a tad surprised about that, as the roof rack was rather full (although no more so than other buses I have seen cruising on the roads of Panama… that’s just a fact of life here).

    I have at no time tried to deny that I was told (when I enquired, at your request) and relayed to you that we would get coasters. That’s a mute point. We were promised Coasters by a Panamanian bus company, and received something smaller. I believe we all did out best at the time to handle that challenge this presented us with. Again, such is life in Panama.

    Again, I am sorry you feel so angry and cheated. I accept the bus company screwed up in their delivery of services to us, but I don’t see how I can realistically take the full responsibility for that. Under these circumstances, doing that would make you a victim in your life, and I do not wish to support such an undignified concept in your world or mine.

  8. Bonnie Schneider says:

    Hello everyone,

    My, I don’t believe what has been made of this whole thing… Everything that Jonathan and the others that were on our bus have said about what happened on our bus is true. Jonathan asked us if we would consider volunteering another $10 per person to give those who did not come with us a partial refund. He was the epitomy of graciousness. There was still more room on the bus for at least three people and luggage.

    He made it very clear in the begining that he was only helping us all out and that we all were taking responsibility to rent this bus collectively. There are always little glitches in Panama and you very often end up getting something that you didn’t necessarily want. It’s not his fault that a smaller bus came than he expected and that he requested. That’s life here in Panama.

    Jonathan worked like a trogan with luggage and seeing to all our needs. He wasn’t being paid for this he was doing out of the goodness of his heart. Organizing something like this takes a lot of work and a lot of patience too. He deserves our appreciation and gratitude for all of this. I was happy to be able to get back to Boquete for $50 as the other prices that I was quoted were more. It was a very long drive and it was the other bus that had a blow out.

    I would certainly go again if Jonathan offered this service.

    Kind Regards,

    Bonnie Schneider

  9. Bonnie, you are correct on all counts. You said you were on the bus, we however were not. There was no space for five more people. five more boxes and five more suitcases, exactly what we said we would have.

    All I am requesting is a refund because it was promised at the curb when we offered to not get on the bus. We needed to find alternative transportation which cost as much as what we paid. Not too complicated and if the promised refund was made indeed this wold not be an issue. We are out of pocket $210, twice, you are not.

    If you were not provided your trip back I suspect you would be asking for a refund also?

  10. Lee, I am doing my best to understand you. I am sorry to say that so far I do not. There are a couple of points I don’t think you have addressed.

    1- With regard to your decision to not board the bus: That was an issue I dealt with with you in person, and it was regarding you, your wife, and a friend of yours (Yanara) deciding to take alternative transport. I was not in a position to outright promise you a refund, as I didn’t have the money we (the whole group) paid for the bus. It was utilised to pay for the bus.
    I do recall, and in hindsight think it highly likely, I suggested I would see what I could do, either by way of asking the group to refund you or getting money from the bus provider. I certainly would never have suggested refunding you by PayPal as I don’t keep money on PayPal. The bus money that came to my PayPal had been withdrawn to pay for the buses, and my account sits empty.

    I realise we seem to have had a significant misunderstanding about these points, and rather than claiming or implying you are a liar (as you have done to me), I will simply accept it as that… a misunderstanding. I trust you have enough sense to do the same.

    Having said that, I think this is a mute point. Even if I did “promise” you a refund, as you claim, and as I deny, what is the issue here? The people on the bus have already put forth $120 as a full refund for you, your wife, and Yanara. So whether or not I promised you a refund somehow seems irrelevant to me, because you have in fact been offered exactly that– A FULL REFUND. You have, however, refused to accept it and you since elected to demand PayPal have the final word on whether or not you get a refund… not just for yourself though, but instead for your friends William Wolff and Mari Ruiz as well.

    That brings me to the other point I am not understanding your view on.

    William approached me independently of my conversation with you, and some time after that conversation. He communicated to me something to the effect that he had concerns about the bus being top-heavy, he had concerns about getting access to water every hour, and he didn’t think there was room for him (& his wife, plus luggage), and that he was thinking of going with his friend (you) on alternative transport. I explained that as there was space enough for him it would be at his expense if he decided to use alternative transport. We had a brief chat about that (in which I recall he was not particularly clear with me… he seemed flustered and confused), which ended with him saying (verbatim), “There’s no hard feelings from me”… and something to the effect, “I’ll talk with you in Boquete to sort it out later”. I left it at that.

    So the way it looks to me is that you since decided it was not enough to only receive the refund the passengers have offered you, but that you also wanted to push for getting a refund for William and Mari. I can understand the desire to help your friends out, but I think it is misleading to try and mix the two cases into one — demanding a refund for your friend who was clearly and outright told there was little if any chance of a refund, and basing that demand on an alleged promise that someone else (you) would be refunded.

    Am I spelling this out clearly enough here that it makes sense to you? I certainly hope so.

    “There was no space for five more people. five more boxes and five more suitcases, exactly what we said we would have.”

    This is a strawman you are throwing into the argument. NO ONE except you is claiming that there was enough space for 5 additional people (plus luggage). There was, however, ample space for at least 2 (and potentially 3) people, plus luggage. If we go with the more conservative option, that’s 2 additional people and their luggage who could have been on that bus. Those two people would have been your friend’s William and Mari, had they not chosen to travel with you instead.

    “If you were not provided your trip back I suspect you would be asking for a refund also?”
    In this case, Lee, I very much doubt Bonnie would be demanding a refund. If she was not on the bus due to their being insufficient space for her, I imagine she would simply have accepted the cash refund offered to her once back in Boquete. I can’t imagine her creating stories to try and also get refunds for her friends that decided to also not get on the bus, despite there being room for them.

    Speaking of your friends, I have yet to hear ANYTHING from William and Mari. No email. no reply to my two voicemails.

    Since you have agreed that Bonnie’s account of the situation is “correct on all accounts” I now understand you are currently basing this whole issue of alleged injustice solely on your allegation that YOU were promised a full refund (for you, your wife, and Yanara), and ONLY by PayPal, and that this promise somehow also includes your friends (who made a separate booking), and that the full refund we offered you in cash was somehow not satisfactory for you.

    I am sorry Lee, but you make less and less sense to me the more this drags out.

    This will quite likely be my final word to you on this matter, so do not be alarmed if you hear nothing more from me. I feel I’ve given you more than enough of my time and energy trying to accommodate your inability to piece together an honest, sincere, and rational argument for your point-of-view. Just as you have demanded it to be, I am stepping right out of this whole thing and shall leave it in the hands of PayPal.

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