The caixa, oh the caixa…


There are trade offs in life, indeed there are. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is probably either trying to sell you something or is a vapid moron–in either case, to be avoided.

In moving to Spain, I traded the fruitless, overtly tannic, high alcohol wines of California and the “New World” for elegant, graceful bottles that give a shit as to where they come from. I traded industrial meat for jamón and beef that has no “marbling” because that’s just fat and revolting. And I traded a barely functional rail and public transportation system (Greyhound, ’nuff said) for an extensive high speed rail network, metros, and a great deal of very good etc.

Then of course there are the banks. I never thought I’d be put in a position of defending the American banking system, but here I am as the alternative in Spain is not only 19th century, but Third World. I can best summarize it as: you should be so lucky to buy something.

The reason behind this is an antiquated system which at times you can still find in very, very old school places in the US wherein you gather together all your items for purchase, wait to have someone ring them up, and then you take the ticket to a small window call the “caixa” (which literally means “box”), wait in line again to pay and then go back to the first person who put together your order to give them the paid bill.

It is true that retailers like H&M, Mango, FNAC, and pretty much all the new ones don’t do this anymore and you wait in line once to pay and get the hell out. But, I bring this bit of retailing goodness up as it is how paying for something with a bank works.

Say you want to buy X for 500€. You will most likely no be able to pay for it where you are buying it. You’ll be given a bank account number, will then have to go to bank of the person you need to pay and deposit the money there. In essence, this puts the burden of payment upon the customer. I find this not only inconvenient, but also backwards to doing any reasonable form of business as anyone from the US knows that to pay something such as this, you issue a check to that person and then it’s up to them to deal with putting it in their bank.

Sure, these days some of these payments can be done online via direct bank transfers here in Spain. But, this will incur a transaction fee of varying amounts. This can usually be avoided by again paying in person directly at the bank although in the case of the bank called, La Caixa if you don’t have an account there, they will charge you a couple of euro fee for the “pleasure” of giving them money–don’t get me started on how much this infuriates me as seemingly everyone typically has a La Caixa account, but the smart businesses will also have another as an alternative bank given that “La Caixa és Mordor“.

At the end of the day, as seemingly stupid as they are, I miss checks, but even more so, I miss not having my payments limited to 1,000€ if done via an ATM. Oh yeah, that’s another thing, you can’t pay for anything over 1,000€ without providing full ID and yes, going in to the branch to do it. This “genius” plan was enacted by Spain because there has been so much “black money” (unreported earnings) that they thought they could control but can’t because they didn’t realize that their field of vision was limited by the walls of their asses. So what most people do is drive around to multiple ATMs to make multiple payments of just under 1,000€. And at the end of the day, when you have dentists, doctors, and yes, even your accountants telling you a price “with receipt” and a price that’s a good deal less “without receipt” you realize that this is rapidly going nowhere.

So, back to the wine, meat, and sun. Let’s just hope you don’t have to buy anything…