Friday, 24 February 2017

Very English!

It seems a long time ago that I was in Colombia! While I was away, the zoom lens in my camera broke inside - something mechanical came detached I guess - and so I used the camera in my mobile for the rest of my time there. It produced super pictures as you can see! I can imagine how the breakdown happened. Every time I use my camera, I have to press a button to release the lens to its full length and this obviously causes a small shock inside it. 

There was no possibility of getting the (detachable) lens repaired while I was away so, when I returned, I sent it to the official agent in Barcelona for a quotation. I won't mention their name out of politeness. About 3 weeks later, I received the quotation by email, €95 which is quite a lot of money. There was no mention of shipping charges and I was asked to confirm my agreement with the price, which I did. I was offered the choice of paying cash on receipt or bank transfer and I chose the latter.

Two weeks later a packet arrived unannounced with a request to pay €113 cash, representing the repair charge plus shipping of €18 which I refused because I had agreed to pay by bank transfer. And, the cheek of it! Three euros out of the 18 was a supplement for receiving the money. I suppose part of what I pay for a coffee is to cover paying it into the bank but imagine the riot if it was listed separately on the bill. "Ah," the driver said, "the shipping is €15". Nooo, it's 18.

I wrote to the repair company, said I wanted to send the repair money by bank transfer and I would use my own shipping agent, thank you very much!

The reason why I am writing this is not for you to feel sorry for me, or to get it off my chest. Nothing like that. it is because I have been very "English" and I think it makes a good story. The Brits recognise a rip-off when they see one and, even if it takes much time writing emails, there is a principle at stake! Generally the Spanish would pay up and not complain. And the company knows that. Another popular English phrase is "stitch-up"!

Finally after a week waiting for confirmation that they had received the repair money in their bank and that the original shipping company had returned the package, today I was able to instruct SEUR, which I know well, to pick up the package in Barcelona. They deliver most of my Amazon orders. In total, I sent around 15 emails to the repair company.

The cost is €10.81 - haha, no supplement for paying cash!

But being British (still), I have been terribly polite about it and suggested that my complaints were really positive feedback. I wasn't so polite with my bank when they put me on hold for a long time, transferred me and then couldn't tell me if the money had been delivered to the other account despite its being the same bank. Even good old Posty can tell me when a certified letter has been delivered. But I did say "sorry" for my impatience.

I started off by trying to transfer the money from my usual bank, La Caixa, but it gave an error message and reported a mis-match between the account number and the account name. BBVA does not do this check which amazes me. It should be the same as giving a credit card number and an address. The system should check the number against the name. La Caixa tried looking for the account name automatically as it usually does but could not find a match.

Admittedly, with bank account numbers in Spain, there is a check which guards against a single digit being wrong. If I change a digit, then the check will recognise the error. Here is a typical Spanish account number - the checksum, as it is called, is 13. The first group is the bank, the second is the branch.


What is a checksum? In its simplest form, the computer system adds all the digits apart from the checksum and then places the result in the checksum. So if the user makes a single mistake, it is picked up immediately. So, in my example, the checksum would be 13. I learnt all about checksums when I was designing electronic products in the 80s, it is a nice simple way of error-checking data, especially if it is sent over a long distance. Obviously, these days, it is a very complicated science because of course, encryption is often involved.


It is now Monday 27th and I am paying dearly for my obstinacy over shipping my lens. The SEUR website this morning indicated "Recogido", in other words, that the packet had been picked up. But nothing about delivery. I went out for a couple of hours and when I came back, the website said "Anulado". Nothing more. That was a bit of a shock.

I rang SEUR and they could not locate my referrence number. Of course they could not, it was cancelled. They recommended I get on my bike and go to the SEUR centre in the industrial estate in Celrà. They could tell me nothing, just a Hispanic shrug of the shoulders. I'm ashamed to say that I lost my temper. The website this morning said that it had been picked up. So it was in the hands of SEUR? No, they said. I should phone the repair company. But SEUR had my packet, no? Oh, at least my shouting brought about results. I asked to speak to the supervisor. He shrugged his shoulders also. But it was getting embarrassing, this guy shouting Spanish with an English accent. And finally, the supervisor said that, no it hadn't been picked up. That was an error in their system. It hadn't been ready for collection. So I came back home and wrote an email to the repair company. 

And, hey presto, while I was away the SEUR website has changed to show not "Collected" but "Registered" which just means they have received my instruction. And not "Anulado" but "Anulado Recogido", meaning that the pick-up had been cancelled.

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