Why isn't everyone as nice as me?

OK, the above is a little tongue-in-cheek - I'm not necessarily the nicest person around, but I do have certain standards.

But I have spent the past few days boiling up inside & it has nothing to do with the weather.

The thing which makes me mad is dishonesty. I know it exists all over the world but somehow I've come to feel that those of us with the desire & wit to move here & start a new life are able to because we have honesty, both to ourselves & our neighbours. Sure, we have different interpretations of what honesty is but generally, in our own communities, we can relax & not always lock the car.

I recently posted on a local site a tip for people who have mower problems in the Spring - basically that a battery will die over the winter but will come to life briefly if charged only to die again when you think it is now OK. My advice was to check your battery before taking your mower in for repair, because "most [motocultures] are very busy & cannot promise that you will have your mower back before you really need a combine harvester!" A true enough statement, I thought, which most motocultures would readily agree. As usual one person did take exception to this comment & saw it as some kind of criticism - "don't include us in your seething melting pot" was the rather strange repost.
This was followed by a comment about a car I was selling that the person had come to look at, "and I won’t go into detail about the one we came to see that you advertised – unlucky for you P is a very good mechanic." In the ensuing exchange of emails the person threatened to post a warning about dishonest car salemen with me as the star! I eventually discovered which car was the issue & why. It was a 21 year old car which was in really good condition & being sold for well under 1000 euros. (I should point out that, to date, no car I have sold has ever been returned or even complained about). I had described the car as rust free but the "mechanic" who came to look noticed that the bottom of the inner part of a door was indeed rusty - I had failed to notice this as I had no reason to lie with my head on the ground & look up with the door open. No attempt had been made to hide this rust & not noticing something so minor is a mistake - trying to hide it would have been dishonest! The person decided that the little bit of rust, plus the new style number plates (on a car which I had said had been a customer's shopping car for some time (she had moved house) led the person to believe the car & me to be "dodgy". I know that they walked away from a genuine low mileage VW which would have given many more years of good service which it is now doing for the wife of an SNCF engineer!

The point of the story is that the threat to expose me as dishonest would be pointless. I may be many things but dishonest is not one of them & apart from the odd person there are many who know me enough to support that.

But being called dishonest by a misguided individual who chooses to make an opinion become fact is not something which worries me. It is the fact that the REAL dishonest ones seem to get away with so much!

I have a car for sale at the moment which belongs to a woman who has returned to the UK. I am to sell her car then forward the money to her account. This is something I have done on quite a few occasions. It means that I handle potential customers & make sure all the paperwork is done correctly. Looking through the papers for this car I came across a devis/invoice for work which had been required about a year ago. the bill was for over 2000 euros! It seems that the woman had been following another vehicle when a lump of metal had fallen into the road & been driven over. The car was damaged & oil was pouring out from underneath. The driver had a card from an English "mechanic" whom she called.

Looking at the car today I can see that the sump has been replaced but that is all. The devis shows a new turbo & front exhaust pipe, together about 1500 euros, needed to be replaced. There is no evidence that either part has ever been removed from the car - you can tell by looking at bolt heads & the patina of the engine. A year old component will not look as dull & dirty as the rest of a 12 year old engine. The devis includes a siret number - for a repairer of "other personal & domestic goods - - Repair of bicycles
- The repair and alteration of clothing items
- Repair of sporting goods (excluding guns for sport shooting) and camping equipment
- Repair of books
- Repair of musical instruments (except organs and historical musical instruments)
- Repair of toys and similar articles
- Repair of other personal and household goods
- Tuning pianos

No mention of cars, then!

It is a huge amount for work clearly not done but not many people would know. How can someone do that to another? It is so deliberate it makes my blood boil!

Today I am dealing with a Brit builder which my sister has been using. At first his work , though expensive in my opinion, was perfectly acceptable. Now he has been asked to do a second job but his admin seems to have gone a bit wrong. He has submitted a letter - not a devis - giving confusing figures. he also demanded, & was given, a cash sum. He writes"The money you have paid me is a float for the materials and day work for the floors etc. "

My sister felt that costs were not being made clear with no mention of material costs. Labour was quoted at a daily rate but with no clue as to how long the job would take.

My sister decided not to use this builder who has now decided to keep the balance of the cash sum as he now has no work for a time, although he says that he has "put off" other jobs. No deposit was asked for or given, no contract was signed.

Tonight he said that he has arbitarily decided to keep the money given as a float - to me that is theft.

As Wogan used to say "Is it me?"

Today I am Yosemite Sam!

Norman, what are you implying? I only ever use "top end" establishments which are more like the RAC Club but with iced coffee & Chesterfield massage tables. I learn from my mistakes.

(Blast! Just when I was building an angelic reputation!)

Thanks, Tracy, that’s just the sort of point I was thinking of posting.

If you get an honest tradesman to work on your unpredictable renovation project, he will ultimately be cheaper working hourly or on a day rate than Monsieur Fixed-Price (arrived at by considering EVERY eventuality - then doubling or tripling the price he first thought of to make sure he’s covered) but, having said that, I can understand how folk who don’t know how to do the job themselves can feel more comfortable and secure with a guaranteed fixed price. Fairy Nuff, but a lot of this stuff about honest French on fixed price vs rip-off Brits (or Vicky Verky) running off with your deposit are, at best, sweeping generalisations and this can run and run and still not change anything.

Because a house is a bit bigger than a car!

Also if a 'builder' quotes a price he will quote a price to cover all eventualites., which means hor him not to be out of pocket, (you know, actually earn a living) then especially on these old houses that have been done on the cheap in the first place, thne the fixed price will have to cover this. If you accept a day rate then you only pay for what needs to be done.

Also, make sure you get the right person for the job, there is no such trade as 'general builder'in France, if they are they are more likely to be the Britany Ferries kind.

As are the business owners of course.

I wasn't being hard on VCs, I was making the same point as you; business is about making money. This in turn ripples down to the sales people who are obliged to achieve target.

State of mind Susan

You are happier in UK beacuse it is newer, exciting, energetic and has a magic

which lives inside your mind.

Nothing wrong with that.
But good people live all over the world and bad people live in the same


And, sometimes good people behave badly.

Jane, don't be too hard on Venture Capitalists, they are very often the 'angels' who rescue companies as well as those who finance 'start-ups'. One further side benefit is that they always ask the main questions that need to be answered, and I know from a lot of experience they have rejected far more projects than they have ever financed - and I suspect saved a lot of people from making a big mistake and lining up a lot of grief for later.

I have just returned from a 48 hour meeting my VC partner and he asks ALL the right questions - often painful ones, but he is committed to the project, not because of my bright eyes and personality but because he sees it can be profitable. That's his role in life - by making me profitable he makes profit for himself. Without him, I have no business - makes the business world go round doesn't it?

I do agree that we do not give sales people the respect they deserve. As they say 'No sales, no business'. Setting targets is a discipline, as they are a major cost item on a business balance sheet, but where it goes seriously wrong is when an arbitrary plussing up takes place each year for a same territory that just doesn't have the capacity to provide it.

As in every profession or trade there are the good, the bad, and those in the middle, and with most in that latter category. Too many companies try to build their businesses around the 'high-flyers'' who can and often do crash, or move on to more rewarding fields.

As the old saw goes 'if you are not in business for fun or profit - what the Hell are you doing here?'

Just a point Mark - how do you know what cheap Thai brothel sofa looks like?

I entirely agree John.

It can all be a bit of a quagmire! The last company I worked for were bought out by venture capitalists, and despite the protest, that no, it wasn't all about profitability, of course, it was!

If you're a sales person with a target, than that's what you're going to try and do, and in some cases, despite customer satisfaction; as if you don't, there goes your job.

Maybe it's the companies who are at fault? But then, money (those venture capitalists) makes the world go round!

It will never change I expect.

Anyway, well out of it now, as are you, and I hope you're enjoying your life here in France?

I agree Jane, integrity wins out eventually but many quarterly based sales plans leave little room to develop a long team relationship with clients. From what you write I would have called you more a relationship manager who has a sales target. Looking at a company’s sales plans can often indicate what sort of a company it is. Compensating sales people on a mixture of short term sales targets, longer term sales targets and client satisfaction is, in my opinion, vital.

Hear hear!

Hi John,

No, I didn't do that. The companies I chose to work for had integrity. I know the companies you talk about though and I'm sure we can both name names!. I worked for one of them for a year - hated it! Nothing nice about it and I was bullied, both by my boss and my colleagues. I am tough, but even for me, it was enough.

In response to your point, professionalism and selling something that you like are not mutually exclusive. I know I very well could sell something I didn't like. In sales, it's whether you are fulfilling the customer's needs and wants / likes that is key. It's about listening and finding out what they want, and then proposing a solution to meet the needs.

A fatal flaw in so many salespeople is that they talk, not listen. This, I guess, is why some of them become unscrupulous, as they don't have the skills or training to make a sale. But being fraudulent will always come back to bite you on the bum!

I was no. 3 out of a couple of hundred salespeople, over the last 5 years of my career. I think that says it all - my point being, integrity wins in the long term.

One thing to add though - in defence of the disliked sales person. It's tough. It's a really, really, really tough job. The rewards can be massive, but if you want to receive them, then your life outside of the job is over. I encountered a lot of jealousy and resentment from people along my career, but I know, had some of them actually had the gumption to try selling, they would failed, as they would not have had the will to graft and the determination and resilience that's required.

So folks, please don't tar us all with the same brush. Sales people are needed to make the world go around, and if you can't do it yourself, don't knock it!

I don't know about software sales. However, people selling both kinds of solar energy who call us 4 or 5 days a week take the pip. When told that we have solar water heating after they have gone at us as though we have nothing, without knowing what we have or how long we have had it, they try to persuade us it is out of date and needs replacement. As for PV, I have come to the stage where I am simply putting the phone down in most cases. Their sector is so aggressive in its approach that I suspect some people are being browbeaten into buying.

That is bad sales and gives people in sales an across the board reputation that is hardly likely to be the brush to tar all sales people with.

Jane, after over 36 years in the ITC industry I think software sales folk are the worst :wink: I’ve seen some rabid sales folk from multinational software companies stuffing unwanted licences for unneeded (normally systems) software into accounts. Of course, given your comments I’m sure you never did that. Even the licensing terms and conditions are often deplorable. No names no pack drill but a well known database vendor and a large vendor of PC operating systems would be top of my hit list.

I don’t think selling something you like is professional selling. If one is genuinely enthusiastic about a product it is easy to convey that to a potential customer. A real hard nosed salesperson will sell anything to anybody. Their singleminded focus can be frightening to behold.

It depends what vehicle the cam-belt is on, Tony, but yes, you’re right, there are fixed times and charges for most mechanical work.

In the building trade, to make something from new, with good access, etc, I’m sure you can get a set price; it’s not too difficult BUT with renovating old buildings there are ALWAYS unforeseen snags; add to that any whimsical, mind changing, client and you have a nightmare to price for.

Yes there are unscrupulous “builders” to watch out for and avoid - one needs to be a good judge of character - but there are also folk trying to make an honest living, with integrity, that get treated shoddily by mean clients.

In the end I used to say that I work by the hour, I don’t charge much because I like to not have to rush a job so that we’re all satisfied with the end product. If you don’t like that - I’m not the man for you - get someone else.

Precisely. In fact, worse... I couldn't sell DFS sofas to Thai brothels!

Dear Mark,

There is something called culture. Unfortunately, it is much more powerful than this brave new cosmopolitan world makes us believe.

I am Hungarian but I have spent quite a lot of time in England. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the English culture of civility and reliability.

I live in England on and off, depending on my means. In the past two years, I had to go back to Budapest, mostly for family reasons. But now, I am back in my Magic Kingdom, as I call it.

The difference is amazing. At Dartford Tunnel I had to get out of my large car to pay the fees -- I couldn't just reach through the other window. I was worried I was holding the queue up but the man said: Relax. And drive safely.

Then this morning, there was some electricity problem in the exchange flat I am staying in, which set the alarm on - and the woman from the letting agency said - after giving me the code to stop the maddening noise - Phew, isn't it lovely to hear the silence?

Now, that is England for me. People with empathy, civility and honesty.

Don't expect that to be the norm in other cultures.

And please, don't take it to heart.

kind regards


@ Jane -I hope you are less 'incensed' now as Brian has made it quite clear that he was just saying that he could not sell central heating to Eskimos!

@ Mark - your comment about DFS sofas and Thai brothels has just cracked me up - thank you!

Yes indeed, very true, Mark, lotsafun! When you run a small garage you don’t tend to get the swish and shiny new limos: it’s the Rolls Canardly’s: the bangers, which, by definition, always have some bit of rusty cack about to fall off.

A fair few tales of that ilk.