Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Can’t pay, Won’t pay

Spanish banks – don’t you just love ‘em? Well, the ratings agencies certainly don’t, and nor do international investors. And I certainly don’t, especially after seeing the latest set of charges to hit my account. Whether it be for payments, receipts, correspondence, maintenance or whatever, they’ll find an excuse to raid your account – which wouldn’t be so bad if they actually provided an efficient service.

Spanish banks

Returning from the UK, I discovered my annual car tax bill lying in the letter box. I dutifully trotted down to the local branch of my bank, La Caixa, to make the necessary payment. Having patiently queued for the clever machine that scans your bills and then debits your account accordingly, it was a case of the ‘computer says no’ and I was obliged to wait to speak to the bank clerk. Almost gleefully, he highlighted the small print on the invoice showing that I could only make payment at branches of Caja de Granada or Caja Rural de Granada. Silly me to think that one of the functions of a bank was to make payments for its customers.

Fortunately there is a branch of Caja de Granada just across the road so over I popped and joined the queue. The lady at the desk pointed dismissively toward the sign saying ‘Bill Payments between 0830 and 1030 hours only’ and then toward her watch showing 12 noon. Out I walked, tail between my legs.

Quietly fuming, I ambled back towards the car and by chance passed a branch of Caja Rural de Granada. I entered and yet again joined the queue, trying to ignore the (by now familiar) sign stating the hours for bill payments. I handed the invoice to the young assistant who immediately deferred to her supervisor. He looked me up and down, and then walked over.

‘Would you like to pay this now, sir?’ he asked. ‘Yes please’ I replied more out of politeness than expectation. ‘That’s fine.’ Somewhat taken aback, I handed over my credit card. ‘Sorry sir but you cannot pay by card.' ‘Why not? I could have sworn that I spotted the word Bank above your door.' ‘We only accept cards issued by our bank but there is, for your convenience, an ATM machine in the lobby. Please be aware, however, that your bank will charge your account for a cash withdrawal……’

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Balancing Act

Birthdays, especially for the young, are normally anticipated with great excitement. However the imminent fourth anniversary of my VW Golf was not a time for celebration - it meant that the dreaded ITV (the Spanish equivalent of the MOT) was now due.

A pre-emptive inspection of the car revealed that the tyres were suffering from the same problem as my pate - premature baldness - and so a visit to the local garage beckoned.

clip_image002The last time I had been there was to have a flat tyre plugged, after which I had slipped the grizzled fitter an extra 5 euro note in order to ensure speedy service in future. Upon arrival it was obvious that he recognised me as he was holding out his palm in anticipation, despite the fact that there were no other cars present. The man, who looks as if he could have auditioned successfully for two of the leading roles in the film ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly', persuaded me to part with my hard-earned cash to purchase a full set of new tyres.

'Did you get them balanced?' asked la Jefa, once I was back home. ', I forgot' I spluttered unconvincingly, not having a clue what she meant. 'Well, you'd better go back then'. Fearing the admonishment of 'Er Indoors over that of the horny-handed mechanic, I trudged sheepishly back to the repair shop. 'The tyres do not need balancing and in any event we don't have the kit to do it', I was bluntly informed.

I was left with a dilemma. Not wanting to go home empty-handed, what should I do? After dismissing the idea of lying to the wife (apparently my lips twitch even when attempting the most insignificant of porkies), I suddenly remembered that there was a VW concessionaire only a few hundred metres away. I arrived to find a showroom full of gleaming brand-new off-roaders but no staff. Whilst I was contemplating a free upgrade of my Golf, the manager appeared off the street holding a steaming cappuccino.

'How can I help?' he enquired. 'Apparently I need to have my tyres balanced' I replied. 'Unfortunately we don't have the equipment to do that - we always refer our clients to the tyre specialist just down the road......'