Spanish locksmiths won't help banks evict people from their homes

As the subprime bubble continues to burst in Spain, locksmiths find themselves complicit in putting families out on the street. In Pamplona, the local locksmiths have banded together and will not accept work from the banks changing locks or opening doors, even though it's costing them business:

Tired of accompanying court officials to evict unemployed people as banks foreclosed mortgages, De Carlos consulted his fellow Pamplona locksmiths before Christmas. In no time at all, they came to an agreement. They would not do the dirty work of banks whose rash lending pumped up a housing bubble and then, after it popped, helped bring the country to its knees.

"It only took us 15 minutes to reach a decision," says De Carlos amid the racks of keys in the family's shop in the centre of this small northern city best known for its annual bull-runs and the adoration heaped on it by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. "We all had stories of jobs we had been on where families had been left on the street. When you set out all you have is an address and the name of the bank, but I recall an elderly, sick man who was barely given time to put his trousers on."

The logic behind their decision was clear and simple. While Spain's banks mop up billions of euros in public aid, they are also busy reclaiming homes that in some cases they lent silly money for. At the height of Spain's housing madness, banks were, in effect, offering mortgages of more than 100%. They aggressively chased clients – especially among the immigrants who arrived from Latin America in their millions to build new homes – creating an uncontrolled spiral of self-fulfilling, but ultimately doomed, demand. Complex networks of guarantors were pieced together by middlemen among immigrants who often barely understood what they were doing.

Pamplona's locksmiths join revolt as banks throw families from their homes [Monica Muñoz and Giles Tremlett/The Guardian]

(via We Make Money Not Art)


  1. I know it’s not possible for everyone (rent, food, etc, sadly take priority and force us into the vicious circle) but if we were all to engage in “capitalist disobedience” (like civil disobedience but directed at unfair corporate practices we perpetuate because they are part of our job), then I believe we would be on the path to some real change.

    Of course, things would probably get worse for a while because unemployment would raise, millions would be fired, etc. But imagine if we could all just say no when we are put in circumstances similar to these locksmiths.

    1. you may say I’m a dreamer….

      Reminds me when gas prices get too high and then you start seeing news stories about people biking to work and being more wise about their fuel consumption, and suddenly demand plummets and the price goes down. It is a rare example of when I see a unified community making change on such a large scale.

      1. eh, I’m just a stranger on the internet but I quit my (well paid) corporate job when I was told I had to fire my entire department because “shareholders value”. I was going to be rewarded for my inconvenience by being relocated to another department with the same pay and similar responsibilities. My job was supposed to entail transitioning the entire department to Eastern Europe and making sure said transition was unnoticeable for the customers we served. These were decent, hard working and capable employees, not some incompetent people who “deserved” it.

        How do I know it’s not feasible for everyone? because I could only do it because I have a partner who was earning enough to support us both. I fully realize I was in a privileged position.

          1. Oh yes they did fire them and someone else was in charge of that transition. Once they set the reorganization train in motion there is little that can be done to stop it. From what I’ve seen, not even customers demanding that the same people remain in charge of their accounts is a deterrent. Customers sign contracts for a certain service that rarely specifies who is going to provide that service (only the metrics related to quality).

      1. You haven’t seen what government have done yet. 

        If we take the UK, the government has profited by 250 bn since the banking crisis from taxes and penal rates of interest to the banks. 

        The government, namely Gordon Brown, prime minister, lost 60 bn share trading in the banks. His previous foray, gold trading resulted in him selling at an all time low. So for the banks, he learnt his lesson, he bought a high price, only to see the share prices drop. 

        Then we have the off balance sheet fraud. Namely the state run pension systems. 

        Liabilities of 5,010 bn 2 years ago. 1,100 bn of borrowing. PFI, another 400 billion off the books. ….

        True debt, 7,000 bn.

        Tax revenues, 550 bn

        Spending 700 bn 

        And all this time, the bankers have been handing over cash to the state. 

        So are the banks part of the problem? Yep, they’ve been propping up the biggest Ponzi scam ever. There is no way those debts can be paid, so that means not paying out, and it means not paying out on the pensions.

        Next, on the pensions payouts themselves. Median wage in the UK is 26K. If that median wage earner had put their NI (social security contributions for those in the USA), into the FTSE (stock market), they would have had a fund of 560,000 pounds. 910,000 USD at today’s exchange rate. 

        Instead the state offers them a pension that if bought in the market would cost 130,000 pounds

        That’s the state for you. It’s a fraud, and no bankers involved. 

        1. So are the banks part of the problem? Yep

          no bankers involved.

          You’re confusing me, LordBlagger.

          1. Why are you confused? I’ve put the numbers up that show the state of the game. For the UK, its 35 bn down if you ignore the taxes the bankers pay. Include that and even the share losses show that the state makes a huge profit out of the banks.

            Meanwhile the state is mortgaged 14 times its income, and has a 30% overspend problem. 

            Ah, I understand. You’ve fallen for the blame a scapegoat strategy. 

            1930s it was the Jews. Interestingly, I heard a left winger use the same today. Jewish capitalistic consiparacy to take over the world. It’s the bankers, its the blacks, its the purveyors of coffee. 

            All to hide there ponzi frauds.

          2. 1930s it was the Jews

            Nice false equivalency. At least you’ve nuked your dubious credibility early on.

          3. Yap, nuthing worse than all those left wing nazis out there scapegoating the Jews, blacks and innocent banks.

          4.  Right on, LordBlagger. People forget that while bankers and corporations are expected to operate in their own self-interest, it is the responsibility of the government to create the structure (policies, laws) within which these self-interest motivated parties can operate without damaging the welfare of the people (who also, btw, are expected to operate according to self interest). The government is the only entity with the power to limit the potentially destructive behavior of self-interested parties, and therefore the government must hold the blame when they fail to restrict, or even participate in, the fraud.

  2. I know the free market gets a bad rap often on Boing Boing, but I wanted to highlight what a great example this is of the free market in action. These locksmiths put a very real monetary value on the ethics of doing business with bankers, and are making a powerful statement as well: “We are part of this community, and when you came here to do business you did it dishonestly, therefore we will shun you.”

    Other great ways communities affected by big bank lending practices can peacefully use the free market to penalize the banks: refusing to do business with banks who participated in predatory loans and bailouts, refusing to vote for candidates who take money from predatory banks and their lobbying organizations, and publically disavowing the actions of the banks as tolerable in your communities.These sorts of actions speak volumes and have a far greater effect than legislation drafted by the banks themselves.

    1. I think you have a good point, but I think the general thinking is that, in general, the “free market” means go for wherever the gold is because you deserve it. And so although this is a pretty cool turn of events, I think the general thinking is that in a “free market” the locksmiths would have taken the gigs just because … well money. 

      I don’t know what my point is really. I guess it just seems like people generally feel that punishment for dishonest business doesn’t really fall under “free market” but some institution with more consciousness. 

      1. The free market not only assumes but requires your consciousness; the economic models all assume that humans are paying attention to their choices.

        (That’s it fails in practice.  Paying attention to all your choices is a significant cost in time and effort, which is why centralised capital power structures get to make all the rules.)

    2.  refusing to vote for candidates who take money from predatory banks and their lobbying organizations

      So are you proposing that people stop voting? At this point in time, without campaign finance and lobbying reform, pretty much ALL of the candidates are guilty of this.

          1. My name isn’t Tiresias so I don’t know how long they’ll last, but the Greens are and have been a viable choice in Europe’s parliaments for quite a while. As for the U.S. – how much longer will our populace sustain binary thinking to the exclusion of all other types of thought when it comes to politics?

        1. If there was campaign finance and lobbying reform, they might actually be viable candidates. Right now, however, a vote in their direction equates only to diluting the votes for the main parties.

    3. i don’t think this is any typical sort of “free market in action”.  this is much closer to revolution than the invisible hand of the market.  it doesn’t take too much imagination to think what would happen to a single locksmith that decided to follow the “free market” money and broke with the nearly unionized forces of radical empathy for the down-trodden in this case.

      1. *Nothing* could be closer to revolution than the invisible hand of the market; it does revolution very well.  Mostly by turning open societies into oligarchies.

    4. Although I agree with your sentiment completely, the problem is that when you have a group of professionals collectively agreeing to do or not do a specific thing, it magically “becomes” anti-capitalist and anti-free market. “Locksmiths won’t work with predatory banks? That’s because they’re all communists who hate freedom.”

      Unions, the Occupy movement, and other forms of economic protest are all a part of the free market, but I think very few people will see it that way.

    5. That’s not an example of “free market”, it’s an example of collectivism.

      (And I hear all Randists scream in terror)

    6. When people insist the free market will take care of something, it’s usually their way of saying they don’t want anyone to do things like this.

      So here is a neat irony: if this is how the free market is supposed to work, the people who support it are the ones who break it.

      1. It’s supposed to work by clearing out the bad. e.g. Banks who go bust, go to the wall. 

        Countries who bankrupt themselves go to the wall. Then hopefully the crooks who run it into the ground spend the rest of their time on earth in a small room, looking at blank walls after being stripped of all their assets.

        Howevr, in the UK after looting the cash, they get let back into the core of Government. 

        Search for David Laws

    7. The free market gives a million people Ebola, then hands out a couple of bottles of aspirin, and we’re supposed to cheer?

  3. Maybe if people actually used their common sense and reason, they would not buy into schemes that put them on the losing end quite so often.

    I rarely see any blame being attached to the people who signed for loans they could not afford or who failed to do even the most basic “due diligence”.  Being an immigrant does not make you stupid.  If it does, then maybe we need to start declaring everyone who crosses our border as mentally incompetent until they prove otherwise.  For their own “protection” of course.

    1. Loan officers are fiduciaries. That makes them legally required to adequately explain terms to their clients, or principals. There is no reasonable expectation that any normal person can understand the legalese in financial documents. Using a fiduciary is due diligence. That’s why the law has provided for fiduciaries. The fiduciaries used deceptive practices and outright lied.

      There’s nothing complex or difficult about assigning culpability to the fiduciaries in these cases. Unless you just get off on blaming people who trusted the people whom they are legally supposed to be able to trust.

    2. What happens when they lock you up if you don’t hand over your money to a scheme where you’re going to lose?

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