Spring has arrived here in Spain. The birds are frantically nest-building, bright green leaves are unfurling and the sky is clear and blue.
Unfortunately, just one dark cloud hovered above us this month. I’ll tell the story here in the hopes that fellow expats avoid being caught in the same way.
It began with a polite knock on the door. Joe answered it and found two smiling men in uniform waiting on the doorstep.
“Good morning,” said the one with the clipboard, “we are sorry for disturbing you, we’ve come to check your gas fittings.”
“Really? I don’t think we’ve ever had them checked before,” said Joe, suspicious.
“It’s just routine. Please check our IDs.”
Joe checked them and took note of their company. Everything seemed in order so he let them in.
We only use gas for the hob in the kitchen and the men peered into the cupboard housing the gas bottle.
“Your tube and fittings need replacing,” said one. “It won’t take long.”
They spread out their tools and set to work. The date on our tube was stamped 2009 and they replaced that and the fitting with new ones. Then they tightened the clips attaching the tube to the cooker.
The gas men were a pleasant, friendly pair. One sat on the floor doing the manual stuff, while the other filled in all the relevant forms at our kitchen table. There was a great deal of paperwork. An hour later the job was done.
“Finished,” said the worker. “I’ve checked that it’s all safe. That’ll be good for five years now.”
“If you would sign here, please,” said the other man, “and here, and here.”
“Everything seems to be in triplicate,” said Joe, scribbling his signature over and over again.
“Yes,” agreed the gas man, taking a calculator out of his briefcase and tapping away. “A lot of paperwork. The final bill is…”
Joe and I exchanged glances.
“It comes to 350 euros,” he said.
Joe and I stared at him.
“What?” said Joe, mouth hanging open.
“We don’t have that sort of money in the house,” I said.
The man looked apologetic. “Don’t worry, we have a card reader with us.” He produced one from his bag.
Reluctantly, we paid, received our receipts plus a cardboard folder of tips about bottled gas maintenance, then saw the men to the door.
“I think we’ve just been mugged,” I said. “I’m going to check all this paperwork on the Internet.
The company turned out to be perfectly legal, as was the service they provided. Apparently, they were just one of a host of companies who will knock on doors to check your gas. For a price.
Expat forums are full of advice on the subject, warning that these unsolicited companies will charge a fortune and may replace stuff that probably doesn’t need replacing.
Too late. We silly old fools had fallen for it and our bank balance was relieved of 350 euros. Be warned, don’t let it happen to you.
Do join me on Facebook to find out how we’re coping, day to day…