Do you review? Products, books, holidays, services – if you don’t, do you read #reviews? Millions do.

Some people review as a matter of course. The Starbucks coffee shop, you had a good blether with your mates, yay, 5 stars! The new coffee shop struggling to get established, the coffee was better, the cakes excellent, but you were miffed because the person you were supposed to meet said it was too far away and stood you up. You crossly gave 1 star on location.

Was that entirely fair? You just hurt, perhaps broke, a potentially great little coffee shop, especially if yours was one of the first reviews.

the cynic

The book you just read was okay, and does have over a hundred 5* reviews supplied by the publisher, so what the hell, give it 4*. The indie one you just read was actually unexpectedly good, you really enjoyed it, but eek you don’t want to be the only person reviewing it!  No review.  Which is, by the way, why there are several hundred reviews within minutes of any traditionally published book being released, publishers know that readers love to be seen as being part of the crowd around a success.  Of course you may have hated it, and crossly gave a 1* review and said why, and oh yes reviews are vital!

I review a LOT, all products, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve given 5 stars. I’m a tough crowd and whatever the product, it has to be above expectations to get the 5th. However I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve given a blistering 1 star. The service had to be abysmal, the product description totally misleading, and the quality shocking.

Reviews only work if you are fair. If you were thrilled, 5 stars, yay.  If you got what you expected, 4 stars = valued feedback. If you were underwhelmed, 3 stars and say why. Keep the 2 and 1 stars for real disappointment, for incorrect advertising and false promises.

Puff reviews are paid, much of the time, and written up to the daily limit allowed. This is the best coffee, restaurant, book, hotel, product, I have EVER encountered while using this fake email address!! Some aren’t paid but look as if they are, even when they are well-meant – ‘(my friend / relative) has the best coffee, restaurant, book, hotel, product, I have ever found!’  but troll reviews are also scattered far and wide, with even more fake email addresses.

On behalf of those of us who live or die by your review – use your fifth star sparingly, really think twice before slashing with one star, and bless you for your explanatory comments whatever the final star tally – reviews that show thought are the nuggets of gold in a sea of dross.

I’ve always reviewed, long before it became personal.  When I became a supplier, I was meticulous about how I worded what I offer. Obviously, per the side margin, I’m a writer (whodunits, mainly, armchair detective style).  I’m now also, for nearly a year, a host offering holiday accommodation. The rooms are cheap, clean, cheap, comfortable, cheap, with multiple normal lens photographs, cheap, and the gumph about what you get is oh so carefully worded. I describe myself as that useful relative you don’t have in Spain. Come stay at Auntie Biff’s in your separate private suite in her funny old house in a funny little town near the Costa Tropical. It’s not, don’t know if I mentioned, very expensive, either, for those strapped for cash who love to explore

To be fair, most of my book reviews have been lovely, and the holiday reviews ditto, telling future readers and guests what to expect. Exactly what reviews should be. But oh my sometimes guests are odd cattle. 1* for location, for not being near Malaga. Um? Malaga is one of the most popular airports in Spain and I am also in Spain, but Spain is huge.  The Costa Tropical may be next along from the Costa del Sol, but those coasts stretch for miles . . . it is about 85 kilometres from A to B. Always check map distances, when planning your holiday trip in Spain – or ask your host. Like one sensible potential guest who asked if I was walking distance from the centre of Granada. Thank heavens she did. Granada city is in Granada province, as am I, and there’s a coach service from here to the centre of that lovely city, but she’d have to be a very keen walker.  The coach really belts it along the motorway, but allow half an hour . . .

Cyclists love me to bits, they can bring their bikes inside, the house is cool after the heat of the ride, their shower has tons of hot water under good pressure, and the beds are good.  Some holiday guests, though, forget they paid not very much to stay with faux-relative Auntie Biff, especially those who paid months earlier. Street parking for their car? Where’s the swimming pool? I have to drive to the beach? I expected a hotel? One said there’s not a lot of nightclubs (in a small town? Ya think?) and one said there’s not a lot to do, you have to expect to go out a lot (which is why it is described as an ideal base for exploring) and to those I can only say thank you for the comments, you have helped future travellers. Perhaps with us both saying the same thing, the point will carry . . . biggest thanks of all to those who remember to say it is fantastic value for money. Love you long time!

 

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Kiss Kiss, and I’m legal. #LivingInSpain  – burocracia with kisses

kisses

If I had been jumping through UK bureaucratic hoops today I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have been kissed so often.  Kiss kiss when I met my translator Chris, he who helped make the car legal a few months ago. I’ve given up waiting to see which way the Brexit farce will twist next, time to become legal.

xx

Kiss kiss Alessandro who was going to register me as self employed (autonoma), kiss kiss Paco who was called in to sort out the knotty issue of how I should be classified. (Not to be confused with the Paco who knocked giant holes through my walls, it is a very common name, although I shy nervously every time I meet one). Kisses all round again of course when we parted.

xx xx

xx xx xx

For anyone more interested in the process than counting kisses, you need your passport, NIE, and Spanish bank details. Oh, and fluent Spanish, as some of the questions are extremely complex, hence Chris’s presence.  By the time I got home the email confirming my registration was in my mailbox.

  • The authorities allow us self-employed types two years grace to get established which means for the next two years I will be paying 60 euros a month Social Security, with full health benefits and even unemployment benefits if awful things happen.
  • The full whack, because I am getting older, will be eye-wateringly high but after the 2 years grace I will get a 60% discount for 6 months, followed by a 30% discount for 6 months, and by then have to hope the house is fully booked on a frequent basis as it seems the entire house income (which goes into my Spanish bank account) will be needed to cover income taxes and my Social Security.
  • The tax-free window is small, 5500 euros a year, and full income tax is due on the whole amount once that is exceeded.

Next step will be talking to the tax authorities, since my complicated income is made up of teaching English as a second language (teaching  is VAT, or IVA, exempt) letting holiday rooms, (IVA applies but since Airbnb, for example, has me registered with their Irish office I won’t need to pay if I give them an IVA número) and my royalties, which are unlikely to pour much into the Spanish tax coffers but who knows, maybe one day. The next book could be the charm . . . that’s the one teaching basic essential Spanish as a second language, and I was fairly chuffed this morning to find I could not only make myself understood before Chris and Alessandro arrived, but could follow , hmm, nearly a quarter of the rapid-fire Spanish of the meeting!

Then there is the residency to be sorted, but I’m assured that because I am autonoma, it will be virtually automático, as simple as uno dos tres. My driving licence has to be switched no later than October. So there is lots more bureaucracy to come, I look forward to the kisses. And by the by, x in Spanish is equis, pronounced eh·kiss.

Ever researching on your behalf

 

Elegsabiff

xx