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The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything.

Good Samaritan? – not any more!
Tuesday, December 14, 2021 @ 5:37 AM

We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was described in the Bible in the Gospel according to St Luke. Many of us aspire to behave like that person and to help people who need assistance. It’s a common human reaction. The Curmudgeon, despite his tendency to have a moan, has always tried to live by that code by giving assistance to others who need it, whether that support be physical, mental, spiritual or linguistic. However, a couple of recent experiences have made him less keen to jump in and help. He also recalls how in the past he has been “ripped off” here in Spain, but only by guiris. He explains.

Like many, my instinct to help others is strong. Maybe too strong. Usually it works out fine and your help is accepted and appreciated, but by no means always.

I recall two incidents from around 15 years ago when I had a “spare” house in Algunlugar, Casa Blanca. First of all in 2006 I let it to Amanda, a Scots lady, at a reduced rent, as she was “down on her luck”. Despite having a written letting agreement (contract), at the end of her rental period, she did a “runner”, left unpaid utilities bills and took some of my belongings with her, eg bedding, a step ladder and umpteen CDs.

Lesson learned? Nope. I subsequently let it to an Irish “friend”, Trish, who was separating from her husband and needed somewhere to stay. Again I was prepared to accept a lower rent and we agreed she would pay me cash, as and when she had some. Am I stupid or what? She stayed for over two years, and only moved out when I sold the house in 2008. Trish owed me over a grand at that point. Has she paid me? Of course not.

In the next decade or so nothing untoward happened until earlier this year I met Jan, an English lady who needed some help to get her property in the Serranía ready for an upcoming Airbnb rental. As part of that support I did a big shop for her, which came to over 80 Euros. That was six months ago. She hasn’t paid me and doesn’t seem inclined to do so. Doh!

It reminds me of that prelude to a corny joke: “Have you heard the one about the Englishwoman, the Irishwoman and the Scotswoman?”

But, when it comes to getting engañado, ripped off, the best is yet to come.

This summer I was having an early morning coffee in the hotel near my house when a little old lady came to the bar to talk to the waitress, who was also looking after reception between serving coffees and chupitos.

The old dear couldn’t make herself understood. She was foreign; German as it happened. I offered to help. Both the receptionist and the German lady seemed visibly relieved.

The lady, let’s call her Gertraud Forster, because that is her name, was staying at the hotel and wanted to extend for three further days. Unfortunately, nay unusually, the hotel was already fully booked and there was no room at the inn.

I offered to help Gertraud find alternative accommodation, but she declined. In the course of the conversation, however, it emerged that, despite being 72 years of age, single and apparently unwell, she was a livestock farmer looking for a finca to buy in the Algunlugar area.

She already had seven stud horses and 15 or so donkeys “in kennels” nearby, so was keen to find somewhere quickly.

I’ve fancied my chances as a corredor (a kind of unofficial estate agent) for a while, so I spotted a possible opportunity to help this very amenable lady out whilst earning a bit of commission on the side.

We exchanged contact details. It was a Friday morning. She rang me several times over the weekend with questions and queries and to confirm that she would like me to find fincas for her to view.

On the Monday, instead of doing what I had planned, I spent most of the morning tracking down the owner of a farm that looked ideal for what Gertraud wanted. We viewed the farm but Gertraud was lukewarm, although she liked the price.

I continued the search for more farms for sale and lined up three more to view, but for various reasons Gertraud declined.

She was staying in a small hotel, which was working out to be expensive, so she asked me if I could find her somewhere to rent for her and her two dogs, also in kennels.

Within 24 hours I’d found her a large house in a nearby village, with outside space, a hot tub, parking and  rear entrance, for just 500€ a month including, electricity, gas and water. She agreed a three-month let with two months rent payable up front, as is normal. I was to get a month’s rent as my finder’s fee, which is also the norm here.

All this was done in a rush, on the phone and via WhatsApp, so no paperwork (B-I-I-IG MISTAKE!). She moved in on Saturday afternoon, but by Tuesday she’d done a “midnight flit”. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of her since.

Via WhatsApp she has promised to pay the house owner 200 € for the time she used the house, which I subsequently learned she has done. She has no intention of paying me my 500€ commission as we had no written contract. She seems to have no concept of “ein Gentleman’s Agreement”, although this has been a bona fide German word since the 1960s (Check Duden, if you don’t believe me!).

I went to the Guardia Civil to do a denuncia. The sergeant explained that they could do nothing because these were civil offences, not penal, and I had no proof of my allegations, ie no paperwork in the form of contracts etc.

Despite this his colleague painfully and very slowly typed up a denuncia (not sure why if they can’t do anything, but, hey, it’s Andalucía!)

All we knew at this point was Gertraud’s first name and we had her mobile number, strangely French!

I started to investigate further. I found out her surname, Forster. Through Spanish contacts it transpires that she has a huge debt with two livestock people locally.

One, who had been looking after her donkeys, is owed 30,000 Euros.

I went to see the owner of the stables where her seven studs are lodged. Juan Jesús told me she has been using his premises as a “kennels” for three years and she has, as yet, not paid him a penique. He reckons the debt is 23,000 Euros. He too has no contract, no paperwork.

What is it with everybody here? Are we all stupid, or gullible?

No we are most definitely not. Traditionally, in this part of Spain deals were often verbal and sealed with a handshake. Even houses were bought and sold on a handshake. People trusted each other. Unfortunately some foreigners have abused that, as these examples show.

So where next with Gertraud Forster? She should be re-named Gertraud Fraudster, in my view, because that is what she seems to be, systematically going round the place, appearing frail and helpless, getting mugs like me to work for her for nothing and not paying her bills. She is a serial engañadora by the evidence before us.

As it stands the law cannot and will not do anything. Until such time as one or more of her victims hires a procurador (solicitor) and a lawyer and goes before a judge, nothing will happen. The problem is none of the “victims” is keen to invest that kind of money with no guarantee of getting anything back.

So, if anyone sees a little old lady driving a grey Nissan X-Trail with a German registration, beginning with the letters ÜB, give me, or the cops, a shout.

With any luck they’ll be able to get her for having an illegal vehicle on the roads here! Like Al Capone and his income tax, she’s bound to have slipped up somewhere.

Me? Good Samaritan? Not any more, mate!

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lenox said:
Wednesday, December 15, 2021 @ 1:33 PM

Yes, over the years I've helped various people. The Spaniards are generally honest with me, while the foreigners have been decidedly less so. A larger lesson for us (all) is to distrust the urge one has to immediately trust a fellow foreigner. It'll often save one some money.

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