French customer service

I’ve not posted fr a while, and I hate that my latest post turns me into one of those expats I hate. You know the ones - they wax lyrical about how they love France, move here and then do nothing but moan about the weather / buerocracy / French / schools / taxes etc etc etc :slight_smile: Of course I’m sure that none of the lovely people here are like that :wink:

I have to say thought that my recent experience with Europcar St Martin au Laert near St Omer is the WORST I have ever had in terms of customer service in France - or indeed anywhere for that matter!

Turning up at 10 ready to pick up a 9 seater vehicle to take 5 kids on holiday (gotta love blended families, eh?) we were faced with the most po faced and unhelpful woman I have ever had the displeasure to meet.

There was a mix up with our booking, and she was determined that she was not going to help. She could have made a couple of phone calls and sorted it out, but refused.

We had paperwork clearly saying we had paid E350 deposit - her screen said E170, so even though I had paperwork and bank statements to prove otherwise, it ‘wasn’t her problem’.

Our paperwork said we had E650 left to pay. Her screen calculated that we had to pay E1200 - and again, this wasn’t her problem, it was ours.

Our paperwork said unlimited mileage. Hers said we could only do 250KM a day - not even enough to get us to our destination and back.

We spent a fortune calling the UK on our mobiles, as we knew people in Europcar head office. We spent a fortune calling Dunkerque as that’s their French head office. We spent a fortune calling Ireland, where the Cartrawler website that we had booked the vehicle on was based.

We spent SIX HOURS sat in her office while she gave us smug smiles and refused to help. I accept it wasn’t her problem - but her complete refusal to even care that I had kids ranging from 4 months to 18 years at home waiting drove me mad.

AND THEN she had the cheek to charge me E15 because she had top keep the office open over lunchtime because she refused to help with my problem and we refused to budge!

EVENTUALLY after a lot of phone calls we paid a security deposit (something else my paperwork said I didn’t need to pay as I’d paid extra for an all inclusive damage waiver) and finally left on our holiday - almost 7 hours later than planned.

We arrived at our mid way destination at 3am after an 8 hour drive, knackered and hungry and with another 4 hour drive ahead of us the next day.

I won’t say that Europcar and Car Trawler ruined our holiday - but they certainly set it off to a really bad start, and it could all have been helped with a little customer service and courtesy.

The thing these people don’t realise though, is that in the age of the Internet, their reputations can be ruined in one fell swoop - I for one will ensure that everyone I meet / speak to / come into contact with online will know about my crappy experience with Europcar St Omer - it only takes one or two more to do the same and that woman’s smug little smile might not be so smug anymore…

good service...So pleased! Must report some kind service from a big store. Was dumb enough to leave a precious memory card, with some important images on it, in a laptop that I took to Boulanger, Rennes for repair. The laptop guarantee made it replaceable and I collected a shiny new updated version, a couple of weeks later, with two, free, extra years guarantee added, having completely forgotten the memory card in the old laptop.

I had no hopes of retrieving it, as the service department said it was too late for them to search for it, the old laptop had already been sent away to their workshop in Nantes. Still, they didnt give up on it, and a kindly fellow at the service reception, spent a long time phoning around different departments to contact whoever it might be - who could find my tiny broken laptop, and return the card. No one had any idea where it might be at that time, but someone said they would try to find it, and post it to me. That was over a month ago. Yesterday I got a big padded envelope from Nantes with just the lost memory card inside. Someone had put thought and care into getting that card back to me, when it was lost by my own stupidity. I think thats very good service.

Not just France, we had an awful experience with Avis in Bristol. We booked a cradle baby seat for our daughter on arrival to be given a 4 year olds seat (our little one weighed 6kilos!) We explained it was not what we reserved only for the useless woman to say well that’s all we’ve got, you could always try National. We are actually Avis Preferred Business customers & have rented many cars for work in our days so were really annoyed about this. She basically did not see it as her problem. We told her to sort it out & we weren’t leaving until she did. During this period a family came in from a skiing holiday & had reserved a 7 seater people carrier, she didn’t have one and told them they could have a 5 seater (there were 6 of them!). They had reserved and paid on the internet but she then told them ‘the internet is not an exact science, it’s like airlines they don’t know where the planes are going to be & we don’t know where our cars are going to be’. The family were shocked, upset but too polite to complain properly. They simply went over to Hertz and no doubt paid a fortune for a last minute rental.
In the meantime a very cold cradle car seat came out of the Avis warehouse (it was January in the middle of the snow), so my hubbie tried to fit it into the car. The seatbelt was too short to go round the seat. He came back in and explained this & the lovely customer focused assistant told us it was our fault as we ordered too cheap a class of car! Can you believe it! We then paid £7+VAT for an upgrade. A joke! 2 hours later with a very unhappy baby who now wanted to eat again, we left the airport vowing to complain. Avis refunded the extra fee but that’s it!
UK Stores Delivering Overseas

What about this little nugget from the Telegraph?

*used to sit in the office with her feet on the desk and read books - do NO work - *

Wish I could get away with that :slight_smile:

Catharine’s point is true in most of Europe. I know someone who runs a hire car company (ironically! and she’s French) in Madrid and she had a member of staff for YEARS who used to sit in the office with her feet on the desk and read books - do NO work - and it was incredible the hoops she had to jump through to get rid of this idiot. Another friend of mine who’s a hiring manager for Dow Jones in Barcelona told me the same - they practically don’t take on full time analyst staff, because you can’t get rid of someone bad - so everyone’s on long term freelance contracts instead, until they’ve been there two or three years and the manager is convinced they really ARE good.

Sad, Greg and Catharine, but so very, very true.

The other thing is is that once people have a job, it is usually so hard to get rid of them that they have no fear of getting the sack for doing a crap job. So they carry on being unpleasant to all and sundry…

Even my French friends admit customer service in France is a disaster. They blame historical management styles/the way people are treated (my manager treated me like a cretin, so now I’m a manager I’ll treat my staff like cretins, and so it goes on - end result, desk jockeys like this lady truly hate their jobs and don’t give a monkeys).

Anyway - there’s a second story here. We got stung in Italy like this. Never but NEVER use third party car rental booking sites. Always book DIRECT from the car rental firm. We rocked up in Italy and had to pay a substantial local tax, even though our paperwork said we had paid in full. Added 100€ to the rental price. These 3rd-party car rental sites simply cannot give you the full picture - the dangerous thing is they claim they do. Don’t use them. Period.

Tweeted that, did you have a good holiday after all that crap?


Yes, we all love France, but sadly they have a LONG way to go to get the notion of customer service into their collective, national head.
We all have similar tales to tell, and I hope it didn’t spoil your holiday too much.
There is always an upside though.
I broke down in bad weather conditions (snow and ice) once, and the local hire company turned out in the small hours of the morning to organise a car for me and my daughter. They were wonderful, as were the breakdown people. So, sometimes they do get it right.
I ask myself do the French understand the notion of competition? They seem oblivious to the fact that bad service could lose them customers to someone else who might go they extra mile.- why, seemingly don’t they care?

Good for you for writing about your horrendous experience, I hope you get the compensation you deserve but what a miserable way to start a holiday, I’ve put it on Twitter, that kind of service (or lack of) drives me mad !

hehe I didn’t think of that Catharine - good job she didn’t or I may not have gone on holiday at all!

Have just stuck your post on the FB page too

You are just lucky she didn’t call the gendarmes when you refused to leave her office at lunchtime.

Hope the holiday made up for it! x