Shopping online in Europe is generally not what it is in the US, especially in countries in the south, such as Spain. The whole online purchasing experience is somewhere in the late 1990’s “But can I trust it?” phase still despite online shopping being around just about as long here as it has been in the US. Unfortunately the skepticism is warranted as there are indeed many seedy enterprises out there. The water filter I ordered while living in Barcelona took nearly two months to arrive because it was obvious the company selling it didn’t have it in stock and had to order it, probably from China. A gift box of wine took a month to arrive because again, the online “entrepreneur” probably had to go pick up the wines. Having stock is also a problem in physical stores as well because if you have to order something, you might as well just forget about it.
What’s truly unique to online shopping though is the problem with making payments online. The screenshot above is from one of my favorite shops of damned clever Catalan products, Productes de la Terra. Their shopping experience works quite well, but once it’s time for payment, you come to these “options” which are pretty much the only options that anyone doing payments online has.
The first is what anyone in the US would choose which is regular old paying with a credit card. The problem here is that each bank has their own weird ass payment gateway set up with the biggest one being the horrible and corrupt, La Caixa. It wouldn’t be a terribly huge problem except their integration options are quite squalid and there’s the almighty over-zealous security system. That’s really the old raisin in the granola because once you try to pay, you come to a screen that says, “Type in your password” and let’s emphasize that this isn’t your PIN you use at an ATM. No, this is some other bizarre password you create just for online purchases. If you haven’t set it up, you’re screwed. If you can’t remember what the hell it is in three tries, like I am now, you will be screwed as your card is then blocked from all other purchases until you go in to a bank to clear up the problem.
The second option I’ve talked about lovingly before which is the caixa. You make the purchase and then have to either make the payment via your bank directly to their account by logging in to your bank’s website or physically go to the branch of the bank of the online shop and pay it in person. If this seems like it’s a bag of flaming dog shit, that’s because it is. People are accustomed to it, which is why they still do it, but it needs to go in a big, big way.
The last option is typically only found in the more forward thinking online shops out there which is to use Paypal. Here’s the thing though. Due to banks and governments thinking about financial transactions in a 19th century mindset, I can’t pay a Spanish Paypal charge with my American Paypal account. That’s fun, isn’t it? I don’t blame Paypal in this instance as I’m sure this is the rancid Spanish government thinking they’ll lose some precious centim of taxes if they were to allow this and some rancid Spanish bank thinking that they’ll lose some centim of bank charges.
In the end, for my order with Productes de la Terra, the easiest option is to go to their physical store and buy the items there immediately, with cash. There are indeed some for whom the online experience works for here, but if I can’t go physically, then usually my best option is to pay for something with one of my American credit cards despite the fact I’m then screwed by the bad exchange rates. Sometimes the American banks block me as well, but sadly it’s still easier than dealing with the online payment systems found here.
So in case people were wondering why no apps or grand internet inventions are seen coming out of Spain, this is a large part of the answer. Meanwhile companies from all over the rest of the world slowly take over the online businesses here as people do indeed trust Amazon and their Spanish site does quite well.