A cautionary tale!
Sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough is a cautionary tale about being careful as an expat.
Expats, and Brits in particular, are resourceful when it comes to making a living. Here in Spain we see many businesses spring up with regularity, all looking to carve their own niche in a crowded market.
The basic rule seems to be that if there is something you need or want, you should always be able to find someone who can provide it.
You can wake up anywhere along the Spanish Costas, let the cleaner in and go off for a full English. Or have a decent coffee, and join in a yoga class, before dropping your car in for a service.
Then you can hire a bike to ride to your Spanish language class, before having another coffee. After that you could head off to the aqua-aerobic session in a cool swimming pool by the beach. After an hour or so at the beach you can lunch on tapas and chill out at the Mindfulness and Well-being retreat. Or learn how to paint landscapes. After all of this you can have afternoon tea and then maybe a haircut or make-over. Finally to finish the day off by taking the bike back and picking up the car.
You can then go home to check on the gardener and the job the pool man did cleaning your pool. Additionally, you can then marvel at the works done by your team of builders and decorators. Then it’s getting ready to go for a meal, take in a band, or join in a quiz. All after your dance class of course. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
A great place to live
Happily, British entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and is seen everywhere along the Costas. From gardeners, painters, builders, cleaners, mechanics, nail technicians, dressmakers, artists and singers. All these vie for your attention with Man and Van services, Language Tutors, Interpreters, Dance Instructors and Fitness Coaches.
Everything is available by recommendation or a click/like on social media. Everyone is in competition for your “shares” and “likes”. It’s great, with all you need is just a click away. It’s a true reflection of the modern connected society we are all now living in.
Being entrepreneurial is all well and good, and very commendable. But sometimes it does come at a cost. I have huge admiration for those that have become established and operate their businesses in accordance with the correct laws and regulations in the new country they have chosen to call home.
However, it seems that not everyone can do what they say. Sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough. Not everyone is as honest, or legal, as you may think.
Recently I’ve had a couple of instances that illustrate just how costly it could be for you, as an unwitting victim. The first story is about someone who didn’t really seem to care who did a job for her – whilst in the other story the lady took a bit more time and got a completely different result. Both cases show why sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough.
The first instance started very late one Friday night. I noticed, via facebook, the plight of a lady in South West England. She had been waiting all day for a ‘man with a van’ to collect her furniture and belongings, for transport to Spain. He didn’t turn up, then he didn’t answer the phone or respond to emails. He even ignored repeated appeals on social media. What he did was simply pocket the £700 cash given to him several weeks before, and then disappear. What he did was despicable. I therefore sent a message to this lady saying I would do what I could to help.
The following morning, I spoke to her on the phone. She said that she was flying to Spain the next day and therefore whatever I could arrange must be done quickly.
Liking a challenge, I got on the phone and managed to find a solution at very short notice. By using our network of legal and accredited removal companies belonging to the Move Assured trade body, I arranged collection of her treasured belongings that same afternoon. This was one day later than the original planned date. Once in storage for a few days, they’d be delivered to her door in Spain some 10 days later. Pretty good going at such short notice, I thought. A collaboration of 3 removal firms, working together for the clients benefit, for very little reward, but all for the common good.
Man and Van
I then rang the lady back to explain what I had arranged. She then told me she had managed to arrange a new, different man with a van who “would collect everything next week and take it Spain when he is down that way later in the summer”. She had already paid him £700 – in cash again as he was local to her in the UK. So she was now £1,400 down, with no guarantee of when her delivery would occur.
I was, to put it mildly, shocked at her actions.
As she had sorted herself out she then thanked me for my interest, but obviously didn’t want to proceed with my solution. This even though we would have collected that same day and therefore while she was still in the house, and before she left the Country. It seems you just can’t help people no matter what you do!
I sincerely hope that she gets her furniture. I suspect that she too will be hoping, and praying during the next few months. After a bit of investigation I discovered that the man with a van to whom she had so gratefully given her cash to was actually a gardener with a van. He is obviously going to take the van on holiday! This is a classic case that illustrates why sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough
A proper job
The second instance concerned an elderly lady in Scotland. She was unable to travel and accepted an offer for the sale of her property here in Spain. She needed someone to pack all her belongings and move them to Scotland. Fortunately for her someone knew of a man with an empty van on his way back from Spain. He could do it, no problem, for £900.00 – cash. He gave this price without seeing the job and could only offer himself and his van.
I arranged with the local estate agent, who was handling her sale, for me to look at the property and survey the property, which is normal practice for us for every removal apart from the most basic small moves. After a 2-hour drive and a good look around I could see that indeed It was a full load for a large Luton type van. This would be no problem for ‘White Vanman’, if it only had to be chucked in the empty space he had (but he’d also certainly be overweight with everything that I had listed, but we won’t open that can of worms today)
However, it all needed wrapping and packing as well, as the lady had not been in Spain for over a year and couldn’t leave Scotland. All in all there were 72 large boxes that needed packing. Plus, the pictures and artwork needed special handling and export wrapping and there was office furniture to dismantle. In addition, there were also several very expensive pieces of crystal glassware. I noted every item, took photographs of the delicate items I had earmarked for specialised packing and headed back to my desk to prepare a quote.
Once I sent the quote by email, I phoned the client. She took a while to answer and jokingly I suggested that was because she had to pick herself up from the floor. This was funny but understandable, because our quote was considerably higher than the ‘man and van’ price. However, she was pleased and grateful that I had identified the solutions to moving her precious lifelong possessions. Unlike the man with a van who had no clue as to how to properly look after, pack or wrap anything.
Needless to say, she recognised the difference between ‘cash van man’ and our proper removal service, and agreed for us to undertake the removal. She understood that sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough
I am happy to say that, within 2 weeks of her acceptance, I made the 2 hour drive again. However this time it was in a fully equipped removal van, with another trained removal man as company, as this job clearly required a two man service. We carried various sized boxes, specially designed picture packs, wrapping paper, export grade bubble blanket, quilted furniture covers and high-quality removal blankets, and a specially designed wooden crate.
So, one lady in Scotland spent just over two weeks looking forward to the safe delivery of her items, knowing exactly when they would be delivered and feeling reassured that they would arrive in perfect condition.
Another lady who was now in Spain spent months ‘hoping’ to take delivery of her items at some point, not knowing how they will be delivered, or if they will be delivered at all.
Moral of the story?
Just because someone gives you a price quickly, or is cheaper, doesn’t mean they can do what they claim. Sometimes a ‘Facebook man & van’ just isn’t good enough. Please please check the credentials of anyone who you are looking to do any work for you.