Thursday, June 19, 2008

With the property market virtually frozen as far ahead as one can reasonably see, there’ll surely come a day when the left-of-centre press isn’t highlighting a case of corruption by some PP councillors or the right-of-centre press isn’t doing likewise in respect of some PSOE equivalents. However, today the news is that the mayor of Estepona and 24 of his council colleagues have been arrested for a variety of offences, all of which have a familiar ring. This chap, it seems, is already famous for having fulminated against financial skulduggery in the property field. Que cara!

I’m regularly told that Spain’s best brains go into the banking sphere; that it’s a very profitable industry; and that it’s made a number of successful foreign acquisitions. None of this necessarily means, of course, that it provides a level of customer service in Spain that is available elsewhere. All of which is a shameless lead into . . . Transferring cash: Chapter 2

You’ll recall that Bank A didn’t make a requested internet transfer a week ago but on Monday guaranteed to have the sum in my account at Bank B for yesterday morning. Checking at a nearby ATM at 9, I wasn’t too surprised to find no evidence of it. But, happily, a later check down in the entrance of Bank B confirmed it was now in my account. As I was getting this information, a clerk at one of the desks called me over to say she’d been about to ring me to tell me about the arrival of my cash. So . . .
Fine. I’d like a bank cheque drawn for X euros in time for a meeting I have at 12.
Oh, we can’t do that.
Why ever not?
Because it has no value until tomorrow.
This is ridiculous. It’s in the account now.
Yes, but it has no value until tomorrow.
Well, can you please ask someone senior to show some flexibility.
[Later] No, we can’t give you a cheque today unless we lend you the amount you want. But you’d have to pay interest on that.
I don’t believe this. You’re denying me interest on the money that’s in my account because it ‘has no value’ and offering to lend me an equivalent amount in respect of which you will add insult to injury by charging me for it. I’ll see you tomorrow.

As this pleasant little chat was ending, a loud pinging came from the ATM machine, which is the only one I’ve ever used which doesn’t give a noisy reminder to take your card out. At least not, it seems, until 5 minutes after your transaction. As I raced to get the card, the machine duly ate it and the cashier breezily told me I’d have to come back the following morning to get it. This made me feel a lot better.

I’ve no idea which bank is at fault here and I didn’t bother to ask. There’s a commonplace Spanish word – mentira - which covers the entire range from innocent mis-statement to bare-faced lie on a Hitlerian scale. And this is what I’d surely get from both of them. So, I cancelled the meeting and braved the wrath of the chap who’d been due to get the money. There then occurred another truly Spanish moment. Under enquiry, he confessed he hadn’t yet got all his papers in order, meaning that the meeting would have aborted even if the money had been available. But at least, when this was pointed out to him, he had the good grace to come down off the ceiling.

And that’s the joy of life in Spain – When you get up in the morning, you don’t know whether you’ll be operating in the 19th, the 20th or the 21st century. So, patience and flexibility are at a premium. I have a lot of the latter but not much of the former. So, in truth, at least half of me should not be living here.

Speaking to a lawyer friend later about this, she cited the tax office as the most efficient operation in Spain. Her evidence was that its web page was the quickest in the country and they repaid you excess tax immediately you asked for it. Both observations are true but I felt I had to point out that an outfit which overcharges 80% of its customers and so denies them up to 12 months’ interest on their money can be admired for only one thing – efficient extortion. Far more impressive would be getting your monthly tax payments right. Maybe in the 22nd century. When Spain’s best business brains could well be working on how to get and keep customers by offering them excellent service. For this to happen, though, the Spanish will have to stop fatalistically telling themselves and each other “They’re all the same. There’s no point in moving to someone else”. And to start complaining the way they do if their food or drink is even fractionally inadequate.

Meanwhile . . Another day, another lost dollar.


Midnight Golfer said...

-"efficient extortion"

don't we know it.

Pedro J. said...

Honestly, checks are part of the 20th Century.... As you probably know checks in spain are not popular and banks want then to dissapear. There are many different ways to do it. Just be aware os something checks are very popular in countries like US or France but not Spain. sincerly when someone talk to me about checks in Spain sounds like stone age for me. Last tie I used one It was around 10 years ago.
Have ever think that maybe the one in 19th century is you?

Colin said...

The plain fact is that, for certain transactions, only un cheque bancario is permitted. So, yes, someone is certainly living in the 18th or 19th century but, as I too never use cheques except when I'm forced to by Spain's bureaucracy, it ain't me, mate.