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Lottery fortune fame leads to Madrid mayhem

Doña Manolita's shop on Gran Vía attracts monster lines

Long lines bring out the worst in human nature. "You're cutting the line, ma'am," a beefy man publicly scolded a woman. "Shut up, you loudmouth," she replied, as she stumbled into Gran Vía lottery shop Doña Manolita. The endless trail of people lining up to purchase Christmas lottery tickets is a blessing for this business, which began in 1931 and which has come to be considered a "lucky" sales point, but it is a nuisance for the neighboring stores, who watch helplessly as their sales drop off at this time of year.

The Municipal Police have had to intervene on occasion due to altercations in the line, which tends to wrap around the block during the two months leading up to the December 22 draw. Miguel Ángel Bravo, manager of two shoe stores located next to Doña Manolita, wrote to Madrid City Hall some time ago in search of a solution. The council responded saying they cannot do anything about a public street. "These two months, we have to resign ourselves to falling sales. We accept it," Bravo explains. To fight back, he offers five euros' worth of lottery tickets for each pair of shoes purchased.

The lottery shop does not want to hurt its neighbors. They have hung up a sign that asks people to form a line up one side of Gran Vía on the days when even numbers are sold, and up the other side for odd numbers. But this has failed to mollify the owner of a recently-opened lingerie shop, who has decided to take action. He has laid a red carpet into the entrance, along with two plants and a security guard, who ensures that the line does not block access. The same goes for a large clothing store on the corner. "Lots of people come in, but with the line we do note a decrease. We try to get them away from the entrance so customers won't hesitate to enter," says the manager. Nobody gave any exact figures for the decline in sales.

If you want to speak to the manager of Doña Manolita, it is best to call the number listed in the phone book. "The police have had to come several times to help us close up. The people won't let us; we only have to mention that after 8.30pm the line is closed," says Concha Corona. She is often shouted at as she enters her workplace; people think she is cutting in.

The lines, which begin in early November, grow to their longest during the December 6-8 long weekend, but carry on right through Christmas. The influx does not abate until several days after the draw, when most people have cashed in their winnings. "There's nothing we can do, but if you have a good idea we would consider it," was the lottery shop's response when asked about its neighbors' complaints. They prefer to look at the positive side. "This part of Gran Vía has more traffic because of us. And the other stores can take advantage of that. People line up in front of their shop windows; I'm sure some see things that tempt them in."

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