French customer service
It has to be said that the French know nothing – or very little – about customer service. My father used to say that it was because they guillotined their upper classes and so had nobody to teach them! He said it tongue-in-cheek, of course, and it was the dry humour of an old gent who had lived a very long time, but I do sometimes wonder if there’s an element of truth in it.
We have travelled all over the world, and have spent months, if not years, in many countries, and so I feel I am allowed my opinion: the French know nothing about customer service.
Really all shop assistants in France should be obliged to do a course in the USA. They are the ones who have got customer service down to a real art. The British are pretty good about it too, also the Australians. Most people who work in or anywhere close to the tourist industry, anywhere in the world, have learnt that good customer service is essential. Except the French.
The “caissiere” at the supermarket check-out will quite cheerfully stare at the ceiling rather than help you load your bags. And as for somebody to help you load the trolley, let alone push the trolley to the car, well – let’s not get carried away with our dreams. When I did the supermarket shop last week I asked a lady stacking shelves where I would find fire-lighters. She turned vaguely at me, no smile, flicked her fingers in the direction of Elsewhere and replied “la-bas, Madame”. Then this week I had to take some items back to Leclerc because they were faulty. I was treated like a fraudster. None of the “oh dear, Madam, sorry about that” – or anything like it. The Manager (so-called – he looked and behaved more like a derelict) barked at me that he wanted receipts, which I produced, though I pointed out that the packets had not only got LECLERC printed on them but the date too. He snatched the receipts off me with an aggressive manner and eventually – totally disgruntled – slapped a refund down on the counter. Now, I realize that perhaps his dog had just died, or the tax inspector had visited, or perhaps he had got period pains (well, egalite, fraternite and all that) and that one has to make allowances for ignorance and stupidity – but still ! Being the shrinking violet that I am, I said to him (but in French of course) “I don’t like your attitude, Monsieur”. He rounded on me and shouted (in French of course) “you don’t like my attitude ?! Well, tough, it’s my attitude!!”
These are not isolated incidents. We have on two occasions walked out of restaurants because the waiter made it clear we were a nuisance. ( And I won’t start going on about French food. I’ll leave that for a different blog.) I love France and I know it well, but there is no denying that the French are not naturally polite people; they don’t seem to know how to be. Which brings me neatly round to what my father used to say.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.