Bad service at supermarket

Awful supermarket receptionist recently and many mistakes with my order. Charged for missing items, daft substitutions, etc.
Suppose they’re short staffed but that’s their problem. I tried to notify them but it never got there! Drove me to drink and the last straw is their fizzy plonk is corked!! In 17 years I’ve never had corked wine. Wish they could get my first name right and accept it’s not French.

This is most likely because this is a summer student filling in.
However, many supermarkets, especially the Hypermarkets couldn’t care less. They are totally unable to understand that happy customers come back and that is why they have jobs. Having said that , they are not well paid.
We left a whole trolley full of goods because there was only one till manually operating and they refused to let us take our goods through the automatic checkout.
All the French were still standing waiting in line and not thinking that there was anything wrong.
Motto, if you can’t recognise that you are getting bad service, thee isn’t a hope in hell of things improving.

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The longer I live here, the more I am thinking that what we call bad service in the very common manifestations day to day, is not bad service.

I think it comes from a different set of starting assumptions. Such as no one is anyone else’s servant. And that what is actually required, is the strict definition of the duties that has been given by the employer. And rather as RicePudding explained Napoleonic law, if it’s not specified in the job it doesn’t exist. So anything extra, must be given freely by the person, and they don’t have to, it"s their choice.

When the person responsible for the weekly catalogue in our supermarket goes on holiday, there’s no catalogue. Other branches may update to the national catalogue, ours has only the 1-week-outofdate catalogue, which becomes the 2-weeks-outofdate catalogue. Till the 3rd week when the catalogue is updated. No one seems to think this could be done better. The person responsible is on holiday, and that is their right. No one else is made responsible to cover for that person during their predicted regular absence. Presumably it would add work they’re not contracted to do and they’re already busy 100%.

Just like anywhere people can be kindness itself and extend themselves to help you. .But it has to be voluntary and you must not expect it.

So above is how far I’ve got. I rail against this issue a lot, and particularly struggle with functionaries who seem to live in their own world (and I add inefficiency to my issues there). So I’m still learning, and I think actually what needs to change is my own expectations. I’m still working on it :slight_smile:


I’d reword your motto, @Jane_Williamson:

“Motto, if you are constantly at odds with the way the country works, you’re living in the wrong country.” :wink: :rofl:

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If everyone thought like this we would all be sat round a bonfire eating Wolly Mammoth chops. Things evolve.


Joke, Cat! :slightly_smiling_face:

I strongly agree with your post. It is one of the many bees in my bonnet. A related bee is that I think it significant that the usual phrase in English when there is a blip in customer service is “We apologise for any inconvenience caused” whereas in French it is “Merci de votre compréhension”. To me this is an indication that in English, the expectation is that the customer always takes priority and if anything happens that results in inconvenience to the customer, the service provider must apologise because it should not have been allowed to happen. In French I see it as putting the service provider and the customer on a more equal footing, with the expectation being that customers appreciate that employees have lives just as they do, they cannot always be at the customer’s beck and call because sometimes they go on holiday or take time off for funerals or whatever, that is perfectly normal, the customer will understand and there is nothing to apologise for.

My approach was not to treat the person as if they were the organisation and had no identify of their own, but to approach them as a potential ally in overcoming the problem. Try to avoid turning it into a “me versus CPAM represented by you” situation and turn it into “me and you together versus the CPAM system”. For instance rather than say “You have sent me this letter, but you have got this wrong” I used to say “I received this letter from CPAM but I don’t know why it says this, could you help me to understand please?” And 99 times out of 100 they do.


I sympathise with the posts above - however…

The problem seems to be that support the customer might reasonably expect is not “written explicitly into the job description” so winds up being provided out of good will, or not at all if someone happens to be on leave/ill etc.

Some of it is cultural of course - when in Rome one is best advised to do as the Romans do but I think, additionally, one should expect that the locals will be behaving as Romans do as well.

However, whichever way you slice it France has got a reputation for poor customer service, perhaps we should pause to consider why and I am not sure a Gallic shrug and saying “well zat is ze French way” is the best approach.

Yes, if you are polite and persistent you can probably make some inroads but there plenty of tales where this doesn’t happen, and why should you have to demand decent service and then have no recourse if you don’t get it (I agree wholeheartedly that getting angry with the staff on the ground is not the way forward in that case).


Good points, well made, Billy.

From my perspective I don’t think I’ve ever experienced truly bad service here - but I’ve only been here 8 years.

I’ve had to adjust my expectations, attitude and behaviour a little to get the best from French suppliers and there are sometimes slight frustrations. The only recent bad experience was an online purchase from a company offering 24 hour despatch: when the item hadn’t arrived after a week I phoned them, to be told “Yes sir, we always despatch within 24 hours - of packing the goods. But sometimes it takes a week or so before we pack.”


No neither have I to be honest, though I firmly stick to the mantra of “commence with polite enquiry” and I always try to communicate with the French in French even if I’m not great at it.

I’ve had “no service” though or some difficulty getting it through to a French company that I can only be present during a pre-determined window of time needing at least 6 weeks’ notice.

To be fair I’ve run into the “next day delivery” != “same day despatch” issue in the UK, caveat emptor as they say.

Yes both employees and functionaries seem to have as their job to ‘inform’ you. When they have done that, whether you asked for it or not, that’s “job done”. In fact if they’re not addressing what seems to be not working for you [and they don’t seem to be listening and unwilling to take any responsibity for fixing a problem] then a tactic is for them to make a statement about some rule that’s not even related and then say" that’s it I’ve informed you" and refuse to continue.

I’ve tried to work with this by opening any matter as ‘asking them for information’ but so far I don’t have tactics when something is wrong and I get this.

Getting back to brass tacks, what is the average wage of a fairly responsible ie not on checkout of a hypermarket assistant? And is it much less that a uk counterpart? Anyone know?!

I don’t understand why you ask for a comparison with ‘UK counterparts’. Yosushi. What about rates of pay in Spain, or Germany, or wherever - it has nothing to do with the economic situation in France. My local Lidl is advertising for staff at c.€30,000 p/a. They multi-task (ie shelf-filling, checkouts etc). Pay rates have nothing to do with it - it is a culture thing. This has changed incredibly quickly in France, as the benefits of tourism have become apparent . . . the very existance of super and hyper markets has only happened because retail management now understands that understanding what the customer wants is the way to increase your turnover.

In the Spanish Civil War, shopkeepers, hairdressers, etc, on the socialist side put up signs on their premises saying ‘we are not your servants’.

I had an altercation with about a parcel that got sent back. I hadn’t been informed about the delivery, and they had sent me the wrong tracking number which kept saying that the parcel had been delayed. They charged me 2,70 Euros for the return. “Pauline” showed no interest in what I wrote and, as someone has mentioned, just kept quoting. with increasing emphasis. their Terms and Conditions.
Then I read about (My dear old Mum used to love complaining directly to CEOs, marking the letter “private and confidential”, and usually got results.) I checked the website, but I couldn’t find the company on their list, so I mailed them. A very polite man wrote back to me that the company belonged to a group owned by D2C Glanbia Performance Nutrition, and he gave gave me the address of the CEO.
I mailed him and explained everything, and lo and behold a week or two later I got a mail from bodyandfit saying that they had reviewed my case and enclosed a voucher for 10 Euros (no apology of course).
It didn’t bear any relationship to the time I had spent mailing, but it was the principle of the matter that had bothered me, and I was really pleased to have got one back at “Pauline”!

Even where the norm is (supposed to be) good service you can get shafted.

I’ve just tangled with my registrar for a domain that I have. For historic reasons I use an outfit in the US - they are expensive but I’ve generally negotiated them down to something close to market rate.

For domains they do require a bit more notice of renewal because they’ve got to go through Nominet in the UK - OK, I knew this, but had forgotten, and had Covid last month so a few things got pushed further down the to-do pile than maybe they should have been.

I phoned to renew, frankly the call will have cost me almost as much as I’d want to pay for a year, OK maybe not that much, looking at the call log it was much shorter than it felt and only cost me 63p, plus VAT - rather better that BT’s 68 and a bit pence per minute, thank <deity> for VoIP.

Once they’d figured it out they said “the back office team will look at it and get in touch, how many years renewal do you want?” - at that point my question was, obviously, “how much” whereupon the operator got a bit shady and said they’d let me know but could I commit to a length of time. My spider sense kicked in and I said one year (my intention had been 5 or 10 depending on what price I could extract).

Sure enough they then said “that will be $60” - the going rate for a is less than £20 a year (and their figure will have been ex VAT) - pointing out that was not an amount I’d pay I was assured I’d be able to discuss it before committing.

Needless to say no such thing happened and I was billed for the year - $38, still high but at least that seems to be VAT included, however, I have to say I’m not that pleased.

Their loss, ultimately - my existing ISP charges £1 a month for domains (+VAT = £14.40 a year), I’ll have to set up a DNS server on my cloud server but that’s not that hard TBH and the other domains that I have with them will get transferred when they expire.

Their loss ultimately.

Good customer service keeps your customers, bad customer service and they go elsewhere.

The problem in France is all to often the 2nd bit, if you fall out with one artisan there aren’t that many around - that is why I think the French over-regulate their small businesses to the detriment of consumers.

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