Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The customer is always wrong

I am loathe to trot out tired old generalisations about Parisians and their capacity for extreme rudeness, but sometimes it is so extreme as to warrant reporting. Here is an example. I will try to stick to the facts and not add my two centimes-worth of comment.

At 9.59 this morning - day one of an indefinite public transport strike in France - I was standing outside my local organic food shop with four other customers waiting for it to open. It was chilly; not razor-sharp icy but still cold enough to make your fingers feel brittle, and two of the other shoppers were elderly. The sign in the window said the shop would open at 10.00. The door was locked but the security grill was raised halfway and we could see a shop assistant inside counting money into the till. 10.00 passed and she continued counting. At 10.05 she was still counting as we shuffled a little impatiently outside. She did not pop her head out and explain that she was not allowed to open because she was alone - as she did later - but, given she was alone, perhaps it was understandable. At 10.10 she had finished counting and was shuffling pieces of paper. We were still shuffling from foot to foot in the cold. One of the elderly ladies stopped chatting with another would-be shopper and peered through the security grill. At that moment the shop manageress arrived. "What's the matter? For goodness sake, can't you see she's on her own," she barked, and I mean barked, at the woman. She then ducked under the security grill, opened the door with her keys, shut it and locked it again without another word. Not a "Sorry, we'll be open in a minute", or a "What a morning! I was held up by the strike." Just a bark and a door slammed in our faces. Even when the shop assistant, clearly no longer alone, opened the door a few moments later there was no apology. Instead, as I weighed out vegetables I overheard the manageress moaning about the waiting customers. The elderly woman who was barked at turned to me and said: "Astonishing isn't it? They really don't give a damn about us, the customers."

I will resist the urge to comment, except to say sometimes France reminds me of the Soviet Union.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kim!
I work with Ann and am thoroughly enjoying French life through your eyes. I had to smile to myself when reading your account of French rudeness, and I'll tell you why:
I stood waiting with two other would-be customers for a shop to open last week in our local shopping centre. The time on the window clearly stated 9:00am. Come 9:05, and we were all getting fidgety. We too could clearly see the shop staff fiddling around inside, ignoring us, their potentially paying customers. When the doors were opened at 9:07, I made a comment to the clerk about "Africa time"......I see now I have to review my ideas on time keeping world wide! I find myself (and others) so quick to fall into the trap of "But what do you expect, everything is going to the dogs now", it does me good in a weird sort of way to realise that it is not just in South Africa that standards are changing. Or have the French always been lacking in this regard do you think?
Best wishes

Parisgirl said...

Hi Jenny
Thanks for your comment and interest in the blog. I think there are rude people everywhere, there just seem to be more in some places than others, Paris being one of them!
Best wishes