The only real reason for my brief visit to Galicia last week was order and pay for the kitchen that we'd chosen, and for which we'd had our measurements confirmed, from IKEA in A Coruña.
Landing just after 14:00 at Asturias airport I had a 250km drive. Mercifully it was along new, pristine and for the most part, empty roads. The A-8 (Cantabrian Highway) is close to completion with just a few small stretches of country roads and now takes just under three hours. This compared to the eight+ that weary travellers would have endured before Spain dragged its' northern coastline into the twenty-first century.
I arrived at IKEA just after six. Clutching my folders I made the long and twisting walk to the kitchen section, secured an English speaking assistant (Alex) and finalised the plans and quotation. We picked delivery and fitting dates and I just had a nagging doubt that it was all going too well. Then I went to pay and after queuing at the only 'manned' till for fifteen minutes I got to the front, but she didn't speak English.
I managed to explain that I was paying for a kitchen, she pushed all the relevant buttons and swiped my Spanish debit card. 'Rehusado' (refused), she said. 'Try again', I sheepishly suggested, already feeling a little embarrassed. She did and again it failed, she suggested I might not have a large enough limit.
Panic set in.
I asked her to 'try for €4,999', thinking my limit may be €5,000. 'Rehusado'. 'Try €3,000'. 'Rehusado'. '€2,500', all the time trying to work out how I was going to be able to pay the balance. 'No funciona Señor, lo siento'.
The queue behind me was getting impatient. I turned and announced my apology in my best castilian, red faced, and starting to perspire and panic.
I moved through the till and resorted to calling the number on the back of the card. The first number spoke no English, and gave me a second number. The second number spoke no English but kindly put me through to someone who could. I explained the situation to the man on the other end of the phone, way beyond the scope of my Spanish, and went through endless security questions before he told me that my daily limit was just €1,200.
I asked if it could be increased. He checked the account and found we'd more than three times the cost of the kitchen in our building account and suggested that it would be no problem, he just needed to clear it with my branch manager and his supervisor.
After what seemed an age, me on a mobile phone with unknown credit remaining and in fear of being cut off any second, he came back and told me that my branch had been closed since lunchtime (I could have told him that!) and that the best that they could do was double my limit to €2,400. I'd already spent €75 on it that day so my daily limit was now €2,325. Resolved to defeat I thanked him and asked him to 'make it so'.
It had never crossed my mind that there would be a credit limit, especially one so low. I have three active UK credit cards, all of which would have covered the cost of the kitchen without breaking into a sweat. It was one of these which would now take the brunt of the transaction, at some shocking conversion rate, and be treated as a cash withdrawal accruing interest from that moment until I settled the bill.
Paperwork stamped, but still stunned, I left IKEA for the two hour drive to the house to check the staircase (see last blog), and then on to our long suffering friends Stephen & Kay for sustenance, sympathy and a soft bed.