Well, it just plain sucks. Most of the time...
You have to remember what I'm used to (though I have let myself forget now that I've been living in France for nearly 5 years) and that is good 'ole American customer service. People actually try to sell you things and you when you shop and if you ask a question they are there to help you find the answer.
It reminded me of when I spent a week in New York City in the summer of 2002, I was visiting a friend and we sent shopping in Soho and I was pretty much ignored when I tried to buy a pair of shoes. I had to go up and interrupt the sales person who was talking to another sales person to ask for my size. And then I was inadvertently spat upon when they sighed so loud because obviously I was a huge annoyance. My sister who lived in NYC for years confirmed to me that this was typical behavior. Little 'ole Midwestern me was not used to that. Little did I know a year later when I moved to France I'd experience the same thing every single time I had to go buy something or needed to ask a salesperson for help. After a year or so of this customer service abuse and having to deal with Noos Internet and television on the phone on an almost daily basis, I grew a thick skin. I figured out the things you have to say when you are interrupting a salesperson who is obviously ignoring you by looking at the ground or talking to another sales person: "Bonjour, Excusez-moi de vous deranger (fill in with your questions here)". This is a key phrase but also the tone of your voice has to be sweet almost Fun Dip candy sweet for them to get them to pay attention to you. Show attitude and you're in an uphill battle from there on out.
So, last weekend Julien and I were out strolling with Max near Les Gobelins. We picked up his new high chair and bought some bread and a delicious molleux au chocolat from the yummy Le Boulagner de Monge. We were heading back up Les Gobelins towards Place d'Italie when I spotted the Singer shop. Singer as in sewing machines.
Side story: When we did the huge overhaul of our apartment before Max was born I somehow misplaced the pedal to my sewing machine. We torn the apartment apart looking for it and had no luck. So, I had resolved myself to buying a new one. I had once before popped into the Singer store about a month ago and was literally vomited on by the sales woman's horrible attitude that a sugar coated greeting was not going get me anywhere. She obviously didn't want to help me. She was busy doing nothing. There wasn't another customer in the store. I turned on me heels and deemed that woman a witch and decided I would get my pedal somewhere else.
Anyway, Julien and I were doing a walk by on Saturday and I mentioned that the woman working in that store was an asshole. I never call women assholes unless they really are horrible. Julien knows this and he got a huge smile on his face. He gave me his look of don't worry honey, I'm here. I like it when he does this because he always get what we need. He goes in and gives the women his sugar coated Bonjour. And the very same sales lady was there, she greeted Julien with a huge smile. I was shocked but I kept it to myself. She looked at me and didn't say anything. Bitch! Julien explains the situation. The owner, an older woman, was smiling obviously entertained by my husband asking about sewing machine pedals as I'm almost positive they never have any male customers. The older woman pulls out a pedal and offers this pedal for us to try. Try it at the price of 45 euros. Julien and I looked at each other and I shook my head and said let's go. But then she said to try it and if it didn't work bring it back and we'll reimburse you. What did we have to lose? Went home, tried the pedal. Didn't work. Damn. Searched around the house again in a mad fit to find the pedal and guess what? FOUND IT. Under the espresso machine in the corner behind the cocotte minute. Julien shook his head in disbelief. I was happy we found it.
Monday morning I go back to return the pedal. The shop is closed. Mais, bien sur!! Closed for inventory. The younger sales woman sees me and comes and opens the door to tell me what I could read on the sign. She lectures me on how they are closed on one Monday a month and that I shouldn't have come to return the pedal that day. And she invited me (rather rudely) to return the next day. Like I was supposed to know they were closed that ONE MONDAY A MONTH. She twists her face up in a bitchy way and shuts the door on my face.
I stroll home with Max mildly annoyed. And I hear Julien's voice in my head saying that I must play their game. Don't let them see you get upset.
I go back today to return the pedal. The door is unlocked and I am the only person in the shop. The bitchy saleswoman comes out and stands at the door with her hands on her hips. I say Bonjour dripping with sweet American sass and put the pedal on the counter. She take the receipt and mutters under her breath that she'll write me up a store credit.
I object and tell her that that is not what you said to my husband and I when we were in the shop on Saturday. She tries to tell me that is exactly what she said. You can't even imagine her tone of voice here. Bitchy, condescending and insulting. I wanted to slap her. But I kept my cool and responded before she even finished her sentence that she knew very well that we took the pedal that was not guaranteed to work for my sewing machine only because we would be reimbursed if the pedal did not work. Period. No discussion.
Of course, I didn't say the last part. But I caught an image of myself turning my back to the woman as she tried to counter again and she couldn't because I cut her off with my body language. If you know me in real life, I don't do this. Joue le jeu, play the game, I could hear Julien's voice in my head....
She came back at me again saying that they ONLY did store credits. I threw back my same response again. And again. And again. We went like this about three times. I couldn't believe how I kept repeating myself and my tone. I was assertive and strong but did not insult. I was not going to let this woman win. Finally after the third time repeating myself the sales lady called back to the older woman.
"Edith!" She cawed. (pronounced Eeeh-deet)
Edith came out and gave me a genuine smile and greeting. She came over and shook Max's hand. The younger sale lady started to lose her patience. She mumbled quickly under her voice about how the pedal didn't work and that I was not smart enough to bring the reference and other silly remarks about me when Edith put her hand up and asked me what he problem was. I calmly recapped what happened on Saturday and reminded her that she had said we'd be reimbursed for the pedal if it did not work. She nodded and said, indeed, that they had said that. Edith pulled open the till and drew out 45 euros and pushed it across the counter. I thanked her. She called to me as I left saying sweetly that if I need anything other sewing products to come back. The other sales woman stomped off into the back. As I was leaving, I could hear Edith say to the young sales lady that she needed to be nicer to the customers (obviously she had been standing at the door unseen, listening to us) and that they had indeed said reimbursement.
So, maybe in France there are a few people who do have some good customer service integrity. I don't run into them very often but when I do, I am sure to remember which store they work at and I return the favor with my faithful business.
And another thing to cross off my 30 things list: Be assertive.