I try not to join in with the "frog bashing" so beloved of so many expat blogs. A lot of the time I feel more connected to France than the UK, and my daughter is being raised as a French citizen. But there is one thing the French do really badly. I don't know if it is the same in the UK - maybe it is. But here, customer service is bad. You can insert pretty much any swear word to exacerbate the 'bad' there. It'll fit.
You know the saying "the customer is always right"? In France the customer may be right, may be wrong, but it won't change a damn thing. The customer is king? Yeah right. Well, actually, look at what the French did to one of their kings, and you might get the idea.
Now, I am not talking about the small businesses. There is no-one more pleasant to deal with than my local baker, or the waiters in my favourite restaurant, or even the officials in my local town hall. I popped into my local pharmacy for the first time last week to be fitted for yet another support belt for my poor aching back and by the time I left she not only knew my entire medical history in great detail, but I knew the birthdays of her, her parents, her daughter and she knew the names of my pets. And when I went back a couple of days later she remembered everything.
So I am not saying that all French customer service is bad. Far from it. Most French people are lovely, willing to help customers in any way they can, within reason.
It's the big companies who do their best to make their customers' lives that little bit harder. I have already ranted about my online supermarket shopping experience, which, as far as online shopping experiences go was positively medieval.
Last year I ranted about my internet/phone/TV provider who harassed me once, twice or even three times a week throughout my maternity leave. They never stopped you know. They kept on phoning up, however many complaints I made.
I intended to stick with them until after the move - figured they wer all as bad as each other. I phoned them up and asked what I needed to do to move the line to the new address. Oh, we'll make the switch, it'll take a couple of days, they answered. A few days later my husband called them, not realising I had already done so. Oh don't worry, said they, it's all under control, we'll make the switch next Monday. On the Sunday we called them again, to check that everythihng was going to go to plan (you see what little faith we had). It is then, the day before they were due to make the switch, that they decided to tell us that we had to open a line with France Telecom in the new house and then confirm they could proceed with the line switch.
They couldn't tell us that before? Maybe the first call, two weeks before would have been a good time to tell us? No. They just didn't bother. So we were facing potentially weeks with no phone / internet or TV service. Yes, very much a first world problem I know, but do you think they would stop billing us during that time? No.
So the next morning we acquired the keys to our new house, went to the shop of a competitor and sorted everything out at top speed. The actual person, working in the shop, was far more useful than any call centre employee and, in his gratitude at being able to snap up a customer from a rival fast tracked the process. Within three days everything was set up. I am sure however that my positive experience with the new provider will end there. Because there is nothing more head splittingly awful than dealing with internet providers' customer service.
What happened to the old provider? Well we sent them a letter stating we would be no longer requiring their shite service, that yes we would pay the 45 € for the privilige of cutting them off, listed the reasons and asked them not to call us again under any circumstances. Three phone calls from their so called customer services later and it appears they may have got the message.
Moving on. EDF. The electricity company, for those of you who haven't been ripped off by this company yet (though don't worry, they are working on it, providing electricity to more and more countries in the world). They promised the owner ofmy house to come and sort something out last week. They came, and didn't sort out the issue, resulting in cost and disruption to our landlord, and a temporary water boiler being installed in our bathroom, making a mess and taking up space. My landlord has been calling their customer services ever since. They hope to send out a technician sometime in November. No, they don't know why the nasty piece of work they did send was so unhelpful. To be frank, they don't care. They don't even care about keeping us as customers. The bloke they sent out last week pretty much said so. His precise words? "Well once you get sorted you can switch providers if you're not happy. I don't care."
Nice to feel like a valued customer isn't it?
So supermarkets, phone and internet providers and the electricity company all treat their customers like shit. How about satellite TV providers?
Just over a year ago CanalSat phoned me with an offer I couldn't refuse. All their channels for one year at only 10€ a month. I double checked. All their channels? Yes. All of them? Yes. OK then. Oh, and we'll send you a reward cheque for 100€ too, so in fact the whole service will only cost you 20€ for the whole year.
Who would refuse that? So I double checked the T&C.
And for a few weeks it was lovely. I was able to spend mindless hours zapping between channels during sleepless nights. Then after about a month I only had access to the basic package. Channels which, with the odd exception, I already had access to via my usual Tv provider. So I phoned them back. What the actual, said I. Oh we didn't mean all the channels, said they. Just the basic package.
Now, I know French is my second language, but my questions had been clear, and their answers had been perfectly clear. But they denied selling me the offer under the conditions which I understood. So I tried to cancel. But no, locked in for a year. And did I ever receive the 100€ cheque? Yeah, it arrived in the post with my winning lottery delivered by a flying green pig.
It was with great pleasure that I cancelled our subscription last week, having had reminders to do so programmed into my phone, because if you miss the deadline, you get locked in for another year. I am now waiting for the phone calls selling me the world for free in an attempt to sucker me in once more.
I have so many more examples of being treated like ignorant pig shit by companies such as these in France. Banks are bad too. Set foot in your bank and they will chain you to a chair until you buy some shoddy insurance policy that you will only have a one week a year window in which to cancel. I stupidly bought a mobile phone insurance policy with my bank about eight years ago, at a cost of 60€ a year. On the two occasions I have tried to use it I have been told where to go at the end of a long 25c/minute phone call for not fitting in to their very strict criteria. I have finally managed to cancel it this year, after five years of trying. Five years. Because I either, didn't send the cancellation by registered post, or I sent it to the wrong address (the one they told me to send it to) or the post system was on strike and it got there a day late. Etc etc etc etc.
Bad bad bad BAD French customer service I tells ya.
And breathe.... more another day...