vendredi, mars 16, 2012

Cultural Differences - Volume 23587

There are many things you have to adapt to when you move to France as an American, and one of the biggest changes to get used to is a very different kind of customer service.

I try to adjust my expectations of what I can reasonably ask for and I always, always remain polite. I have gotten angry, of course, and I don't tend to let myself get taken advantage of, but I do try to approach things from outside the American point of view. Which often means taking a deep breath and remembering that three weeks is an acceptable amount of time to wait for something.

But today, on a day when the worldwide airline reservation system futzed out, making it impossible for me (or anyone else) to reserve a simple Paris - NY round trip on Air France (what is up with all these worldwide outages, people? Facebook? Outlook? Amadeus? 2012, you are freaking me out) I had to adjust to the fact that I cannot perform a simple task for my boss. (He doesn't know yet. He will not be happy.) It isn't a customer service issue necessarily, but it is annoying nonetheless.

OK, I thought, to distract myself, I will just check on this order I made for some birthday flowers to be delivered to a friend.

I went to the website, put in my codes, and I got a message saying, "Your delivery date is too close to your request", which made absolutely no sense to me, so I called the customer service number. I got a recording that said - no lie :

"If you are calling to check on whether an order has been delivered, please be notified that confirmation is only possible the day after delivery has occurred."

That is truly fucked up, people.

I mean, really? A nationwide florist can't tell me my order has been delivered on the day it was delivered? A florist. You know, the kind of place where people like to surprise other people with gifts on specific days for specific occasions?

I give up. For today, I give up.

I think I'll go to a café terrace, soak up the shyly emerging spring sunshine and get terrible service from a surly Parisian waiter instead.

That should cheer me up!

jeudi, mars 01, 2012


Do you ever have one of those moments where you think you have completely lost your mind? Where you hear a rushing sound in your head as time comes crashing to a halt and your vision gets reduced into a fish eye while you are thinking, "Am I totally crazy? Or worse, really, really stupid?"

This just happened to me. I was on the phone with my company's new travel agency, getting flight times for an upcoming trip for one of my bosses. The conversation went like this :

Me : "Hello, my name is Penelope. I'm Mr. So-and-So's assistant and I'd like to get some flight times between either Paris and Moscow or Marseille and Moscow on May 1st."

Travel Agent : "What city will he be arriving to?"

Me (slightly perplexed, but overexplaining it as usual) : "He's not sure if he will be leaving from Paris or Marseille, so he'd like to compare the options to arrive in Moscow on the evening of the 1st."

Travel Agent : "Yes, but what city does he want? There are several."

Me : (briefly wondering if she is asking me whether he wants to arrive at Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo airport, but wonder why she didn't say 'airport'. Rushing sound, fish eye vision. I swallow hard.) "Moscow?" (I search in my head to find if there even exists a way I could mispronounce Moscow in French so as to be incomprehensible. I also wonder why on earth we changed agencies.)

Travel Agent (very huffily) : "Fine." (commences typing)

Me (can't help myself) : "Excuse me for saying this, but last I heard, Moscow was a city."

Travel Agent : (more furious typing, followed by a deafening silence) "Oh. I don't know what I was looking at."

Me (relieved to be actually sane) "That's okay. So let's start with what you have arriving in the evening from Paris."

Why oh why did they change? American Express Havas, I miss you!

Plus, when you get huffy because there are a bunch of words you don't know how to pronounce on your screen? Maybe you shouldn't be a travel agent. Just saying.