“You got to be kidding, we can’t take that,” says the shop assistant as a man places a €500 bill in front of her for a €10 purchase. A waiter at a Michelin-star restaurant gives a similar response despite the fact that the total bill for the meal came to well over €100. Beginning to despair, the man then tries to pay part of his rent with the €500 note — something he has done several times before — but even the property agency refuses to take it.
“Things have changed,” says the property agent. “We now have to jump through hoops trying to explain to the bank where every single one of these bills comes from. It’s not worth our bother.”
This is happening all over Spain. The €500 banknote has lost much of its allure in Spain. Twelve years ago, the country was home to a staggering 26% of all the €500 notes that circulated in the Eurozone, then a 17-country currency bloc. As El País reported at the time, much of the money was being used in the thriving real estate sector, which is one of the main sources of black money as well as a popular conduit for laundering the proceeds of crime.
In 2006 Spain was in the midst of one of the most insane property bubbles of modern times and the €500 bill was everywhere. But now, 12 years later, the love affair is over…