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Pourquoi Faire Simple Quand On Peut Faire Compliqué!

February 20th, 2011 · 8 Comments

Part One:


Forget about “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” the real motto in France is “Pourquoi Faire Simple Quand On Peut Faire Compliqué!”  What it boils down to is, “Why do things the easy way when we can do it the hard way?”

This year will be my 40th anniversary of first coming to Paris!  Yes, forty years ago when I was a mere child (yeah right!) I came to Paris and fell in love with the city and a young French guy!  Forty years later, I am pulling my hair out (and if I had as much hair as I did forty years ago, I wouldn’t be complaining, but that’s no longer the case, so I am!) because what should be simple to do here is extremely complicated!


Everything that deals with the administration or customer service in France is a pain in the you know where. Why?  Because no one wants to do their bloody job, that’s why!  Le foot is not the national sport here in France, “Hot Potato” is!  Everyone plays the game and everyone is damn good at it!

“Here take this, because I sure as hell don’t want to deal with it!” each person says.  So, rather than do their job, they hand it over to someone else, who hands it over to someone else and you get the run around from everyone!

When you’ve spent a few years in the States and you see how everything works like a well oiled machine, you begin to take it for granted that this is how it is everywhere.  Not!  Not in France in any case.


Two examples that might make Americans stop complaining about customer service in the States….well, probably not, but here goes anyway!  Choosing two examples were extremely difficult because I have so many to choose from!

Example 1:

Back in the middle of October, Patrick and I still didn’t have the internet service set up and I needed it for my dream job of working at home, making my own hours, and getting well paid for it!  The only solution was to get a 3G so I could pick up the internet by satellite until our service was hooked up.


One Friday afternoon Patrick and I went to Auchan (like Walmart) and bought the system for a total of 75 euros (around $100).  We took it home, set it up and nothing happened.  We called customer service, but it was after 5 p.m. and they had all gone home for the day!  (24/7 what’s that?!!)  We had to call back the next day.

Saturday Patrick called and told them our 3G wasn’t working.  “Sorry, you have to call back Monday our technicians don’t work on the weekends.”  Of course not, what were we thinking!

Monday we just so happened to get our internet service and therefore we no longer needed the 3G so we decided to take it back to Auchan and get our money back for something that didn’t work in the first place.


We went to the service desk, they took our merchandise that we told them was perhaps defective since we couldn’t get it to work.  They gave us a slip of paper and told us to take it back to the electronics department.

“Aren’t you suppose to give us our money back?” I asked.

“No, take this paper over to the electronics department and they’ll take care of it for you.”

So off we went!

When it was finally our turn….”Here,” Patrick told the guy, “we’re suppose to be reimbursed for the 3G that didn’t work.”

“Oh no, it’s not here.  You need to go to the service desk.”

“We just came from there, they told us to come here.”

“No, it’s not here, you need to go back there.”

He kept insisting that it wasn’t his job, we needed to go back to the service desk, so back we went.

“Why are you here?” the girl asked.  “I told you you need to go to the electronics department.”

“We did, but the guy insisted that you need to take care of it.”

“No, it’s not my job to do that.”  (Something you’ll hear over and over in France.)

“Look,” I said, “we want to talk to a manager because we’re not going to stand in line for another 30+ minutes there when we already waited 40 minutes here and then another 20 minutes there only to be told to come back over here!”

So a manager finally came over and said, “You need to call the 3G service and they’ll reimburse you.”

“But the 3G service is you, Auchan.” Patrick said.

“I’m sorry, but you need to call this number, we can’t do that here.  They’re the ones who will give you back your money.”

So Patrick and I called that number over and over and over.  We spoke to not one, not two, but six or seven different people and each one said, “I can’t help you, you need to talk to so and so.”

[Rather than having a 1-800 number so customers don’t have to pay to call a company for help.  Here in France more and more companies now have numbers that make money for them and the customer gets screwed!  In other words, when you call a company or service you not only pay extra for the call, each minute you’re on line, you’re charged!]

So, November came and went, December as well.  January and we were still no closer to seeing our money! Now if we had gone to the customer service desk at Walmart or Target, you better believe we would have gotten back our money the very same day!!!


At the beginning of February I got fed up and wrote an e-mail to the department that was “suppose to be taking care of this matter” and I told them I was also sending a registered letter to the CEO of Auchan complaining that it was almost 4 months that this situation was dragging on and the very next day, we got an e-mail asking us for our address so they could send us a check!!!

Patrick answered the e-mail right away and sent our address and you would think that would be that, right?  Well no, one week passed, then two, and still no check.  I wrote another e-mail to them asking them, “Now where’s the problem?”  I told them I was fed up and that I would take this matter to the top and threatened to name all the names of all the people we had spoken to over the months.

Two days later we got our check in the mail!

Maya Muses:  Wow, only 4 months to get our money back!!!  Were we lucky or what?!

Tags: Paris - Paname · Pourquoi Faire Simple Quand On Peut Faire Compliqué

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Harriet // Feb 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    It’s amazing how different cultures handle situations — I’ll take the US when it comes to having to make a return.

    Nice sunny weather in Charleston today :)

  • 2 Lynn // Feb 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    It’s still cold and raining here most days. I swear dealing with the administration or customer service is a real nightmare! We’re still waiting for our health cards which has now taken 6 months (and counting) to get!!! But, that’s not the worst part, wait until you read my 2nd example, you won’t believe it!!!

    I hope you and Richard are doing well!

  • 3 Cid // Feb 28, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Next time I have to wait in line at Walmart to return something, I’m not going to complain!

  • 4 Lynn // Feb 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I know!!! I wouldn’t complain either, but here you learn not to buy something unless you really know you’re going to keep it or want it because it’s such a hassle to return something, most people just keep it. It’s when something isn’t working in the first place that things get complicated.

  • 5 Harriet // Mar 22, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Still waiting for Part Two….

  • 6 Lynn // Mar 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I know, I know! We are so busy you wouldn’t believe it! I’ll send you photos of the apartment and the changes and yes, I’ll try not to ignore my blog once we finally get settled in!!!

  • 7 Harriet // Apr 21, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Are you all moved in yet? Last year this time, I was still in Paris —- maybe next year……..

  • 8 Lynn // Apr 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I was thinking about you! I’ll email you soon! Doesn’t time go by much too quickly even when you’re not having fun!?!

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