Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spanish web sites

Web sites in Spain are very frustrating. I like to think of myself as a very average sort of person. I've always been able to buy a suit off the peg without having to worry that the sleeves will be too long or the trousers too short. So I presume that my use of the web to find things out, buy things etc. is pretty typical. I've become used to being able to sort things out from home sitting at the keyboard.

Apparently in a survey of the top 35 Spanish firms (the local equivalent of the FTSE 100) only 25 had websites. Of those some ridiculously small number (just one I think) managed to keep it's website fully functional for 30 days on the trot. Antena 3, a TV station, was dead on the average by keeping its site up for just 8 out of the 30 day test period. That's my experience too that often the sites are simply not running. But, when they are.

You can't rely on the address being www. I read an article the other day about being able to watch legitimate movies from various websites. There were seven on the list, only two worked and only one was www. This was a typical address As you can see they like to keep them simple.

Or, for instance, I want to transfer 175€ from the CAM bank account to the CajaMurcia. If I go into the bank and do it I will pay nothing but to do it over the internet costs 2.70€ in commission.

I want to put a classified ad in Información, one of the local newspapers. Every time I try to pay the site rejects the payment but it also wipes out the information that I've typed into the various boxes so I have to start again with my ID number, name, address etc. When I eventually give up and phone the paper to place the ad they tell me that the website hasn't worked properly for a couple of months and won't take any sort of bank card payments. Ah! except it sometimes works with BBVA cards.

My ID number is called an NIE (Foreigner's number.) Spaniards all have a DNI (ID number.) When I manage to get my hands on a DNI it will be the same number as my current NIE. Every Spanish website that asks for any personal information asks for an ID number. On the official form my NIE number is X-5693545-X but if I try to put that into most sites it cuts off the last X. This is because the websites will only accept the number in a particular format and that format doesn't like hyphens. When I cut both hyphens to give X5693545X the websites often just sit there waiting for me to add the ten characters they require so I have to add a zero to get X05693545X. Then again some like to miss out the initial letter but stick with 9 characters 05693545X. It can be very frustrating especially as they seldom give an example of the format they are using.

Not all the websites offer the option to put an NIE instead of a DNI. They ask for a passport number instead. The trouble is that the next time I go back to this site it asks me for my DNI, NIE, CIF (tax identity) or passport number plus my password. When I typed in the information the first time I wasn't aware that the site was going to do this so I kept no record of which number I finally managed to use. Consequently, I have to go through the whole lot, complete with all the hyphen and zero variations, to get back into the site. Often though, and the websites don't tell you this, you only get three chances to get the number right before it stops taking any notice. I often use all the variations only to have them all rejected unless I remember to log in anew after every third failed attempt.

Or the required fields - Christopher for forename - Thompson for first surname - I leave the box for second surname blank as I don't have a second surname. This means the website rejects my name, tells me that I've forgotten my second surname and usually wipes out any information I've typed in to that point. I have tried inserting a space as my second surname, or a hyphen but the websites generally reject that and the only foolproof way is to put John as my first surname and Thompson as my second surname. It does mean that I get addressed as Señor John but it's better than the other options.

Addresses can be fun too. The majority are built up as street name, number, descriptors for flats (first floor, left hand door) etc. So the sophisticated websites have a drop down menu for each of those elements: street, avenue, drive, passage, place etc. They often do not have one for PO box (which is what we use) nor do they have one which says none of these. Our village is so small that the house identifier is just village name plus a number. It's a bit like number 5 Cambridge. We're not allowed by many of the websites not to choose street, avenue etc. and our postcode is based on the local, more important, town. So instead of being able to put our address as number 5 Culebron we end up with something that says Culebron street number 5, Pinoso which is a very plausible adress. It just isn't ours.

I used to use SMS messaging from the computer quite a bit. Telefonica, the phone company, offer the facility to send SMS messages, via the computer, charged to our fixed line phone. It works OK except that the box for the phone number will only takes nine numbers (a Spanish mobile phone number) which means it is impossible to send an international SMS message via this route.

And if I want to recharge my mobile phone via the internet I can, of course. But first I have to go to a Telefonica shop and sign a contract before they will give me a password to use on the website.

I can pay my Council Tax and water rates on the Internet but, again, I have to go to the office first to get a digital ID certificate and Iberdrola (the power company) took three weeks to send me the email with my password to access their "virtual office".

For anyone used to the majority of UK and US based websites Spanish websites are a real frustration.

1 comment:

Gannet77 said...

Just a suggestion Mr. T - if you install the Google Toolbar, it has an "Autofill" option which allows you to enter basic name/address details to fill in website forms.

Only works if the website uses standard field names and the like, so given the described quality of Spanish websites it may be of no use at all, but if it does work it's handy when the forms give an error and blank everything out...

Glad you teeth are OK. Hils is back from Stan lands bearing many carpets. Paid about 600$ excess baggage! Mission successful though.


Mr. C