French customer service

It’s August and France is on holiday. We have been warned not to travel on major roads this weekend as the big exodus out of the cities takes place and shops, businesses, even restaurants are closed for their ‘congés annuels’. We all know anything official takes forever and in August nothing happens at all, but read on….

Three days ago, on the internet we saw a second hand car being sold by a family garage. It seemed to be exactly what Ade was looking for, although what he wanted seemed to change with every car he found!

Two days ago, at the end of the afternoon we popped into the garage (about an hours drive from us) to have a look. The car looked good, the price was good and without asking for any proof of ID the keys were handed over and we took it for a test-drive alone. Decision making isn’t one of my strong points and neither is spending money, so we thanked them for their time and said we’d think about it and get an insurance quote. No problem they said, but we close for our annual leave in two days. If you say yes, we’ll sort out everything for delivery and even pay the re-registering fee (260€) before we close.

One day ago, we visited our insurance agent to get the quote, we returned home for a coffee and then at 11.00am we called the garage to say yes, and what happens now! They were delighted. They emailed their bank details and we scanned and emailed Ade’s driving licence, passport and a recent electricity bill. Once the lunch hour(s) were over we headed back to get the insurance cover note, then to the bank to transfer the money and confuse the new girl by asking her to fax a proof of transfer to the garage. We then just had to wait nervously and hope, but the garage had a very busy afternoon. By the time we drove off their forecourt at 20.30 (half an hour after their official close time) the car had been to and passed it’s ‘control technique’, the prefecture had issued a provisional carte grise (registration documents), new number plates with the new registration number had been made and fitted, the car had received a full clean and valet and Monsieur had even managed to pick up a bouquet of flowers and a chilled bottle of rosé Champagne that he thoughtfully placed on the passenger seat.

Today we can’t really believe it all happened so quickly, in France and especially in August. In addition, because we have transferred the car insurance from the old car to the new one, but have yet to sell, our insurance company are giving us 2 months free cover for the old car (anyone want a C5?). That is customer service!

Steve and everybody else, always check sell by dates in store. If they are past sell by date go to the store manager. If you get no satisfaction by not seeing him/her or just waffle, go to the mairie, ask to see the local chamber of commerce representative and state your case. Precisely the same regulations apply here as in the UK, so the same should happen and the CoC person go to the store with your named product, list of products and probably if there are several with a couple of other people to do a store wide search. If the CoC representative does not want to know, then immediately call the departmental person at the prefecture. I have heard about the raids at food retailers and the fines imposed which does not go down well for store managers who bear total responsibility. I believe it is actually why our local supermarket had a sudden change of manager in fact.

Its nice to hear a good result. Not talking about a garage here but a warning to all buyer beware a certain Brico that ends in Marche has got my goat. Having ended up with products 18mths past the best before date I started to take a few photos of best before dates. I then went back and challenged them about the dates to which they replied we don't understand it, the sales man only brought them last week (his nose grew a foot) we will talk to him. My next visit found all the out of date products with all the dates scrubbed out. some were over 4 years out of date. So check all mastics additives to mortar and concrete waterproofers etc. I hope I can help someone from some hassle.

My regular garage is just as helpful. flat battery, no problem. Came out free of charge. It failed again two days later. OK, new battery when he had a look. Came back with replacement a while later. Did he want a cheque or what. "Oh no, pop into the garage tomorrow when the bill is made up" sort of response to that. Went in next day, the receptionist printed it out. We were charged for the battery only, no call outs or labour and all exactly when they said it would happen. His neighbours who do our garden machinery are exactly the same. They say collect day X, it is there and waiting and they help load the heavy ones into the car. Lots of French service is wonderful. The only 'downside' is once you get to know the people well enough for bise you lose time chatting about this and that which ain't that bad, is it?

Good to have a report not knocking French customer service. You clearly have a garage there who value customers, nice to hear.

Dare I say that France has turned a Customer Service corner? 18 months ago I was also pleasantly surprised by after sales service at Castorama;

Glad you had such a great service in August ......yesterday when we got up we discovered a burst pipe in our bathroom water every where but a phone call to our insurance company had a plumber here in a couple of hours......sorted on a Saturday in August .......again great service

Very much agreed that though there are exceptions, all in all France's reputation is not as bad as myth makes us believe.

renews ones faith in humanity!!