Monday, September 18, 2006

Well, after decades of stupidity, it’s good to see a common sense solution has finally emerged on the thorny issue of Gibraltar. Praise must surely go to the government of Mr Zapatero for accepting the problem of sovereignty wasn’t going to be resolved against the wishes of the inhabitants and that an interim agreement would be of most benefit to Spain. In particular to those Andalucians who work in or live near the colony.

The thought struck me today that the secret to happiness in Spain is that when something really annoys you, you should sit down for a while with a glass of wine. Or do one of those relaxation exercises. Only then can you venture out onto the street and face all those things - people walking into you, kids racing their bikes along the pavement, vans parked on pedestrian crossings, etc. - that you’ve learned to take in your stride. If not, they will increasingl feel like painful lance jabs instead of pin pricks. Of course, if you’re at all irascible, you should never come to work or live here in the first place. You will simply explode.

This may seem like a strange comment – sandwiched as it is between the last paragraph and the next one – but, when I’m asked why I live here in preference to the UK, I usually say it’s because this is a more sane society. As if to prove my point, there were reports in the UK media yesterday that Cherie Blair had been investigated by the police for making a mock slapping gesture at a youth who put two fingers up behind her head. And then there was this little vignette – which no Spaniard would believe – in one of the papers:-
We in the UK are inundated with petty-minded health and safety gibberish, applied to everything from dangerous doormats to life-threatening hanging baskets. Once, at a supermarket fish counter, I asked the assistant to gut me some quite-sizeable sardines. She appeared to be expertly gutting lots of other fish: indeed, she looked as if she would happily gut me if I stood there long enough. But the sardines, like devotees of some strict little sect, had to be cremated with all their organs fully intact.
"We're not allowed to gut those for you, I'm afraid," she said, "Health and safety rules"
The sardines, it seemed, were sufficiently small and slippery to constitute an enhanced risk to the fishmonger.


You can log off now, if you don’t want to hear another rant about Spanish banks . . .

I’ve happily used the online and phone banking services of First Direct in the UK for many years. Not only do I have no complaints about them, I’m full of praise for the speed and simplicity with which I can effect transactions. So why do I get so apoplectic about Spanish banks? Maybe it’s because I’ve just spent a very frustrating 45 minutes on line and on the phone merely trying to get an account balance. This involved at least 5 calls to the ‘Help’ line, during most of which I went round in circles* until the machine finally informed me I needed to use the asterisk for the X when giving my identity number. I ultimately discovered the on-line problem was that my security system no longer allowed ‘pop-ups’ from my bank, though it had in the past and did allow all the pages up to that point. The bank employee I eventually spoke to got close to this in suggesting my browser might be set at too high a security rating. But, you’d think that, if this is the first thing they suspect, it wouldn’t be beyond them to include after the instruction to choose the date for the statement something like – “If it doesn’t show, check your security settings. In particular re pop-ups”. But this would mean empathising with a customer. Or denying yourself the profit on expensive phone calls. Spanish banks are not very good at either of these. Even the foreign-owned ones. I wonder how a First Direct subsidiary would operate here? But I fear we know the answer to that.

*
Please enter the number of your identity document
XXXXXXXX
Is this correct? XXXXXXXX
Yes
Please say whether you are a client or interested in any of these products . . . .
Client
Please enter the number of your identity document
XXXXXXXX
Is this correct? XXXXXXXX
Yes
Please say whether you are a client or interested in any of these products . . . .
Client
Please enter the number of your identity document
Etc., etc., etc, ad nauseam, with my screaming at the phone in both Spanish and English

1 comment:

Moof said...

Personally, I've always had good service from Barclays in Spain. Few charges, affable people in my branch willing to help me rather than help themselve, pretty good internet banking, the phone banking has no computer in front of it, and even has an english-speaking hotline, and in general a good banking experience from a name I trust a little more than any of the spanish banks that all seem to have had some major laundering or money-grubbing scandal hit in the past ten years or so.

If you haven't given them a try, do.