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Well Summer has well and truly arrived - and how do I know that? No not because of the sweltering heat but because the hypermarket chain Carrefour, (equivalent to Tesco in the UK) have increased their opening hours and are publicizing that they will soon be opening on Sunday!

From Friday 22nd June, the store will extend opening times until midnight and throughout July, August and September they will also be open every Sunday - this is a real novelty here in Spain.

As strange as that seems to British visitors, Spain is rather "behind the times" on store openings.... and on customer service come to think of it!
 In many towns you will find the shutters coming down on shops and businesses at 1.30pm for the extended lunch break - which incorporates the traditional siesta and not re-opening until 5pm in some cases! How they can manage to operate a business like this is beyond me...

After many years living here I still sometimes forget that both the post office and banks close at 2.00pm for the day - what on earth do the staff do for the rest of the day, because by 3pm the place is abandoned and locked up!

On the subject of customer service, Spain really needs to take a few lessons from the UK. If you purchase an item you have a mere 15 days to take it back. If after this period the goods become faulty, although guaranteed for a year, you have to take it up with the manufacturer - the store does not want to know, unlike in Britain where the store will exchange or refund. It is a very time consuming process, firstly trying to find out where the service centre is for the manufacturer - then trying to speak to someone in English if you're lucky. It is then generally your responsibility to get the faulty item there - and it is not necessarily that local.

I once had to take an item all the way to Alicante - then go back again to collect it. Depending on the cost of the item many just don't bother with the aggravation. A friend of mine had a microwave that stopped working after 6 months - she went to the store who actually contacted the manufacterer on her behalf and arranged to come and collect it - however, she wasn't told at the time that this would cost her 10€. As it was local and a relatively small item she would have taken it there herself .

On a serious note, the most important indicator that Summer has arrived is the increased Guardia Civil police inspections for drivers. This week they are running a campaign in the Alfaz del Pi area stopping ALL cars and checking papers and that you have all of the following items; Hi Visability vest, Warning triangle, Footwear ... DO NOT drive in your flip flops or any backless shoes - a hefty fine will be issued, Spare pair of glasses if you are a wearer.  No doubt once they have finished in Alfaz they will go onto he next town ... funny how they can suddenly speak very good English when they are issuing fines isn't it. And remember, if you are a tourist then you will be required to pay it on the spot.

Finally another indicator that Summer is here ... the sand castles are are back along Levante beach - a new one is a castle which is incredible. The work that goes into the creation is amazing - the "sculptor" sits next to his work under the shade of an umbrella and graciously accepts any donations. Someone actually guards the sculpture 24/7 .... if you happen to pass by at 3am you will see someone there!

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