when they tow your vehicle in Barcelona, you’re going to have to pay through the nose

I had an unpleasant shock a few weeks ago upon returning from a work trip abroad. The next morning, I went to collect my scooter and as I approached the road adjacent to where I live, where I had parked it just prior to my departure a week or so previously, it dawned upon me that I was surrounded by roadworks and there were no vehicles parked there.

With this realisation came several others of course, namely: I wasn’t going to make it to my appointment that morning unless I took a taxi; my scooter would have been taken to the municipal pound; this was going to cost me a wedge of cash, and based on prior experience, probably more with every passing minute that I didn’t collect my scooter.

One (overconfident) part of me was thinking I would be able to charm my way out of this. Another part of me was thinking that when they tow your vehicle in Barcelona, you’re going to have to pay through the nose, no matter what. And yet another part of me was thinking, hang on, there was no sign in place when I parked my scooter, so how could they possibly justify removing it from a legal parking spot on the road? Perhaps they wouldn’t charge me after all, it was all some big mistake on the part of the municipal authorities, and they would apologetically replace my scooter in the street and give me a 500-euro Mercadona voucher for my troubles... I’m sure you can guess which of these actually happened without me having to tell you. But I’m going to anyway.

The municipal pound for my neighbourhood is the one in Vall d’Hebron. So I headed off on the Metro, having postponed my appointment. I marched into the municipal office full of an indignant righteousness that had gradually built up over the Metro ride, only to be greeted by an unexpectedly friendly desk clerk.

I explained the error that the municipal authorities had made and demanded my scooter be returned to me forthwith, attempting to muster Withnail’s delivery style in his rant: “We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!” (if you haven’t seen it, “Withnail and I” is a cult classic English film from 1987).

The clerk’s response was to patiently explain that they only removed vehicles that had not observed the tow signs put up previously. “Ah,” I exclaimed, “well that’s where you’re wrong, because my scooter had only been there for a week and I know for a fact that they give you more notice than that!” To which he replied, “Yes, you’re right, the minimum is eight days, so let me check that for you…”

Just as I was feeling I might actually pull this one off, in almost Teutonic fashion the clerk explained that the sign had been put up eight days previously and my scooter had been towed the night before, i.e. the same day I had returned from my trip, or just 12 hours previously. In other words, the time between leaving the scooter and going to pick it up again had coincided almost perfectly with the time they had put up the sign and executed the towing sanction. “That’s very unlucky,” he added, “especially because very often they put the signs up a couple of weeks before… but not this time. That will be 131 euros please… which includes the discount for paying straight away”.

“But, but, but… what if you go away for a couple of weeks? Or a month? Or longer?” I pleaded. “Then you have to ask someone to move it for you. In fact, you’re not legally allowed to park your scooter in the same place for more than a week in Barcelona, you have to move it more regularly than that.” In other words, “learn the rules, mate”.


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