How on earth did the banking system in Spain survive the supposed global financial crisis of 2008? How the hell does it manage to retain so many branches and staff?
I only wanted to pay the tax for my Spanish car. This is not like the paying of certain other bills as I have written about previously (see here…). This tax could be done any time and any day of the week. I had the paperwork printed off from the internet so what could go wrong?
The first bank I went into (actually a “Caja” – see below) was my own bank. That is to say; I have an account with them. Sometimes that makes a difference – even in the UK. In this case the paperwork listed 12 banks and Cajas that, in theory, could be used to make the payment. Mine was one of them.
There were four people working in this branch. One dealt with me but seemed to be having problems.
“The bar code does not register.”
“And manually entering the reference numbers also does not work.”
He tried again. A few times. Or so it seemed. Then he told me I should try another bank. Like the one next door. Ok, I thought. Here we go again.
I went next door. This time there was a queue of one. Me. And it seemed that the person being attended to would be there a long time. Before I knew it there were a few people behind me.
When I finally got the chance to pay in the car tax money the same thing happened. The lady “working” in this bank could hardly be bothered trying a second time before telling me the bad news.
Temperature rising, I left to try another bank.
Fortunately there are loads of these financial institutions along the same stretch of road. Seven within just over 100 metres and all on the same side of the main road. Great eh? The third bank I entered was one of the big two in Spain. This one would work I thought.
I thought wrong. The same result and even less courtesy. I couldn’t get out quick enough.
Onto the next. Santander no less. They have a large presence in the UK having bought out some old bank or other… They also have a fairly poor reputation in the UK I am told. They are equally as hopeless in Spain. I walked in and straight up to the counter. Then the lady the other side pointed me in the direction of a machine. It was one of those that prints out numbers to wait to be called. What do you call those things?
“Really?? You have got to be kidding!” I said. “There is nobody else here (for feck sake)!”
I looked at the machine then the lady. Then the door, which I moved towards and out. I was not even going to give her the pleasure of telling me the barcode and numbers do not work.
Onto number 5…
I was about to give up and get another paying-in paper or at least check the numbers etc. on line. But as I am now telling my son to keep trying and remembering that old English adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” I thought I would give it one more go. There were three other banks to choose from. I chose the one at the end of the line.
Fifth time lucky. Just like all the other banks there was hardly any activity. Four people visible and only one working. That was the man seeing to my payment. Initially he said the same as all the other but he persisted. He deserves great credit for that. And it paid off. After a few attempts it seemed to all work and he took my money and gave me the official receipt.
The bank? It was none other than Caixa (pronounced Ky-sher – well, more or less). That well-known Catalan bank. Proving, at least in one way, why the Catalans think they can go it alone with independence. At least their banking system would work better than the rest of Spain’s. I have to agree. Fair play to Caixa bank. They deserve a lot of credit for that.
Spanish Cajas are similar to banks but different. I am not exactly sure how or why, but similar to the way Building Societies differ from banks in the UK. Following the ‘global financial crisis’ most Cajas either converted into banks (After which they miraculously carried on as if nothing had happened!?) and only two survived in their original format. Apparently many of the Cajas had been colluding with regional governments and had gotten up to all sorts of unscrupulous financial dealings. Well; T.I.S. (This is Spain!)