Purchases to Avoid, Barcelona
If a 20 euro Messi jersey sounds too good to be true, it is! Avoid purchasing the cheap jerseys on Las Ramblas, unless you're buying it for someone who you don't really like, haha. The jerseys are cheap replicas and the player name and number will rub off after one wash!
Fun Alternatives: If you are a fan and really want a Barca jersey that will last, buy a real one from an official store (like the one near Plaza Catalunya).
Barcelona is without doubt the city of Gaudi and his many works. You will also find many people trying to sell you Gaudi items, souveniers, photos, whatever. And you will see copies of his works, most of poor quality and not exact at all. Even Coca-Cola gets into the copy cat act and presents a Gaudi type machine for your displeasure.
This guy probably never expected to appear in a VT tip :)
But we locals wonder why some tourists do buy (and wear) Mexican hats while in Barcelona. No one knows why some tacky shops started to sell these (maybe a massive overproduction of Mexican hats made in China?? ) but it seems to be a good business as it has been going on for ages.
Of course, wear whatever you like, but if you want to look as the perfect “guiri” you certainly need one. Better if you combine a Mexican hat whit a Barça t-shirt, of course (and white socks with sandals!)
If case you don't know what a guiri is: it's a slang word for “foreigner”. Is a derogatory term, but I think it is rather soft. Unless it used in some context, tone, or together with some not-so-nice words (i.e. guiri de m...!! ), I would say it's almost affectional ;o)
Fun Alternatives: Instead, you can buy a barretina , the traditional Catalan hat. You will look pretty odd too (no one wear this nowadays except on traditional festivals) but at least is something local!
The Barcelona Card offers free public transport, some free museum entries, and money off some other museum entries, plus money off some shops, etc. In fairness, the Card does just what it says. BUT: do the maths. We found that it'd have been way cheaper to have paid for each thing separately and not to have bothered with the Card at all. Your mileage may vary, of course. Tedious as it is, it may be worth mapping out your likely costs (easy enough on a website like this!) before you go.
Those of us alarmed at Chequepoint's rip-off exchange rates might be interested in the following case in which the company tried to rip off one of its own employees by not paying four years' worth of contractually agreed bonuses. The question is, what can a customer expect from a company that treats its staff like this?
Here are the detail of the legal case:
Chequepoint (UK) Ltd -v- Radwan
The contract included a clause which said that:
"… the Company may, at its absolute discretion, pay to all or any of its employees an annual bonus … the terms and conditions of any such bonus scheme to be notified to employees from time to time."
Chequepoint (UK) Ltd ("Chequepoint") did actually notify the employees of the terms of that bonus by letter. However, for reasons which are not explained, Chequepoint then failed to pay Mr Radwan’s bonus for four years. When he was dismissed, he claimed payment of all four years’ bonus which amounted to about £11,500.
Mr Radwan successfully applied to the employment tribunal, who awarded him £11,500 in damages for breach of contract in relation to the unpaid bonus. Chequepoint took the case all the way to the Court of Appeal (CA), who upheld the employment tribunal’s decision. The CA said that while Chequepoint had a discretion as to payment of the bonus, once they notified Mr Radwan of the terms of the bonus, he was entitled to the bonus until Chequepoint notified a change in the scheme or its withdrawal. Not paying the bonus could not of itself amount to withdrawing the scheme.
Lord Justice May made his views on the case very clear:
"If you tell an employee that he is going to get a bonus payment on certain terms, you are or ought to be obliged to pay a bonus in accordance with those terms until the terms are altered and notice of the alteration is given."
Avoid using Chequepoint to change money in Barcelona or anywhere else for that matter.
Some of my British and American friends have told me horror stories of the rip-off rates charged by Chequepoint when changing money into Euros. The company (click on the logo so you can steer clear of it) has outlets at many tourist sites (including Barcelona Cathedral, if memory serves me right). It seems to be a problem with this particular dealer - other VT members in Hungary and Hong Kong have reported the same kind of fraud. My advice is not to use Chequepoint under any circumstances.
In any event, you will get much more competitive rates drawing local currency on your Visa or Visa Electron card (preferably use a cash dispenser in a bank during opening hours and check the card slot shows no evidence of being fiddled with (a favourite trick is to slip a thin additional reader in). Shield the keypad with your hand as you tap the numbers in (in another scam, a concealed webcam films your PIN number).
Unique Suggestions: Change your money at a reputable bank - in fact anywhere except Chequepoint.
Fellow tourists might like to consider the following letter to the Herald Tribune written by an outraged Chequepoint customer - source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2000/11/24/trlett.t_3.php
Speaking of Rip-Offs : LETTERS TO THE TRAVEL EDITOR
International Herald Tribune
Friday, November 24, 2000
From Irwin Hankins in Singapore:
I was most interested to read Mr. Ponka's letter about Chequepoint charging transaction fees and charging for a city map that he was offered ("Currency Exchange Fees," Nov. 17).
This happens not only in Prague; it seems to be a corporate practice and should be investigated by the relevant authorities in the countries where this organization is active. Licensing, consumer and tourist authorities should be made aware.
In Amsterdam, I have seen the same thing, and recently had the map scam tried on me. In this case I made so much noise, with a long line of customers behind me, that the clerk very quickly refunded the map cost to me. But there was no attempt at an apology and the attitude seemed to be, "O.K., so you caught us." More seriously, Chequepoint's exchange process is a rip-off. They convert all European transactions twice, claiming that this is a "regulation," which of course it is not.
For example, if you want to change Deutsche marks to Dutch guilders they do not use the cross rates, but convert marks to euros and then euros to guilders. I went to one of the leading local banks and was given the direct exchange — saving in this transaction over $45 as a result — at a better rate, with no hidden costs.
My strong advice to anyone changing money in Europe is to avoid this company no matter what, and, if possible, change foreign currency during banking hours at a trading bank.
Fun Alternatives: ..
What would you think of a chain of exchange bureaus that lost its operating license in the Netherlands and then went bankrupt? Not much I bet but that is what happened to Chequepoint.
Here's the low-down in Dutch, followed by my free translation in English:
- source: http://www.stelling.nl/kleintje/actueel2006.html
Spectaculaire kraak in Amsterdam
dinsdag 7 maart 2006
Zojuist bericht indymedia de kraak van Damrak 16 te Amsterdam. De bovenetages van dit grote pand gelegen tussen Centraal Station en de Dam stonden al jaren leeg. Eigenaar Kroonenberg Groep is het dan ook niet te doen om die bovengelegen etages; het gaat alleen om de lucratieve bedrijfsruimtes op de begane grond. Jarenlang zijn daar verschillende geldwisselkantoortjes gevestigd zoals Chequepoint Nederland die overigens failliet ging nadat de Nederlandse Bank haar vergunning introk. Checkpoint Change was de laatste gebruiker van Damrak 16. Zij gebruikten slechts de begane grond en lieten de bovenliggende verdiepingen ongebruikt. Checkpoint Change verliet in februari 2005 het pand. Daarna heeft het gehele pand meer dan een jaar zonder bestemming leeg heeft gestaan.
Spectacular squat in Amsterdam
Tuesday 7th March 2006
Indymedia has broken the news of the squat of No. 16 Damrak St. The upper stories of this large building between Central Station and Dam Square had lain empty for years. The owner - Kroonenberg Groep - left the upper floors unoccupied, focusing instead on the profitable ground-floor premises. These were let to various exchange bureaus such as Chequepoint Nederland, which went bankrupt when its official operating license was withdrawn. Checkpoint Change was the last tenant of No. 16 Damrak street and abandoned the premises in February 2005. Since then, the whole building has illegally lain abandoned for over a year.
It appears that many shops in the city centre sell Barcelona football tops, these are not sports shops but more tourist traps. If you buy one of these suspect tops, you will see very clearly that they are pretty poor quality and not at all of good quality. These shops offer strips at up to 25% of the true cost of a football top - sadly they are fake and what you buy will not be what you had hoped for!
Unique Suggestions: If you are buying a football top - check that the badges and logos are all where they should be; and of course the colours and labels are all as they should be.
For Barca tops you should find a good quality sewn badge, with a Nike swoosh, and the liga badge. If in doubt visit Camp Nou and buy direct from the club itself.
Fun Alternatives: Buy a strip from the club shop at Camp Nou or one of the Club shops!
My cousin and I got suckered into buying one of those "dancing magnetic cartoons."
You're site-seeing and then a guy with a radio has Bart Simpson or Buzz Lightyear dancing to techno... you think, "wow, my son or nephew would love this!" You haggle and think that you've got the best price! When you get home and show the gift to your loved one, it doesn't work! It's just cardboard paper of a favorite cartoon character tied with strings! You think back and wonder how in the world was it dancing on it's own and then you realize you should've known it was too good to be true! The toy comes with horrible instructions on how to make it dance but, not even a neuro-surgeon can figure it out!
Fun Alternatives: Save your 5 euros and get the kid something that works--like crayons!
I cannot stand those souvenir shops selling Mexican hats in Barcelona as a supposed local item... It should be banned... ;) But the worst is not the shops... The worst is those ridiculous tourists wearing those hats. Don't be vulgar, don't buy them!!
I think it's ok if you are in Mexico but in Barcelona...???...???
Usually just tourists drink sangria here. Really it's not very popular... Moreover the quality of the sangria served in bars and restaurants is really bad, it's a real tourist trap. It is even worst the bottled sangria!
Do you know that sangria is coming from the Antilles? Do you know English drank it before Spanish?
I suggest you to have some of the excellent wines or "caves" (Catalan champagne) we have instead of sangria.
Unique Suggestions: At least if you want to try it: prepare it by yourself!!!