French Customer Service (An Oxymoron)

What’s the difference between customer service in France and customer service in the US? It exists in the US.

Any American expat living in France will tell you the same thing – and quite a few Parisians too. Here’s a recent example…

As a result of my non-functioning cable box, for approximately two months I’ve had to deal with the wretched telecommunications company that is known as Orange, who is the leading provider of internet, television and cell phone service. So you know how in NY, we complain about Time Warner and if we have issues, we can call and, if necessary, have them send someone over? Yeah, ça n’existe pas à Paris. First of all, every time you call Orange, you are charged per minute. Yes – even while you’re on hold forever. Then, when nothing seems to work to fix your cable box, even after you’ve exchanged the cable box (AKA un décodeur), they still refuse to send a technician over to help you – even if you say you’re willing to pay for it.

Moi: SVP, je peux payer! Je peux payer pour le technicien!
Horrid Orange: Non, c’est pas possible, madame. C’est pas possible.

Just last week, I literally made about 7 calls in one day to the Orange customer service number for Anglophones. Yes, I speak French – but when you’re dealing with technical, gadgety terms, I’d much prefer to speak in my native tongue. Well, every time I called this alleged Anglophone number, they would say that no one there spoke English so I’d have to call the Anglophone number and would proceed to give me the number I had just dialed. Realizing that speaking with an Anglophone wasn’t going to happen, I decided to just deal with the situation in French. That call lasted over an hour and resulted in me asking the painter next door for help and then being hung up on by Orange. Putain!

Well, this American does not give up! I called Orange again, practically in tears of frustration, and miraculously was able to get a slightly-friendlier customer service guy. And voila, he said he’d send over a technician (for a fee of 119 euros, naturally). When I asked him why every single other person I spoke with said it wasn’t possible to send a technician, he said he didn’t know why because he could.

Hmm… there’s a reason why some people say living in France is like living in a Kafka-esque world.

Anyone else have “French customer service” stories to share?

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