Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Customer is Sometimes Right

I had always heard that the term customer service in France was a joke, and that the latter was never offered to the former. Horror stories of standing in long lines, of being sent from one person to another to a third, of being told that it was impossible to do whatever it is that needs doing are part of the folklore. I'm hoping writing this won't jinx us, but we've had excellent service so far.

We bought a teapot at a little shop in the neighborhood last week and the first time I used it all the water leaked out onto the counter. On closer examination there was a hairline crack where the spout met the pot. We decided to take it back to the store and see what the response would be. It wasn't very expensive so the expected "nothing we can do" wouldn't be too painful.

The man behind the counter listened to my "petite problem", took the pot, got another one from the shelf, went to the back and returned with the new pot filled with water. He tested it for leakage. None. He poured the water into the old pot. It leaked. He took both backstage, returned with the new one, wiped it dry, and then said the first thing he had said to us during the entire process. "Excusez-nous, madam, s'il vous plait." He then wished us a good day and said au revoir.

Sure, it could have been a fluke. But we've had two occasions to go to the Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville (BHV, as it's known) to look for some housewares and each time we met pleasant salespeople who directed us to what we needed, took time to tell us the name of the thing we were looking for when we didn't know it, explained the options, pointed out pros and cons, and wished us a good day. Yes, there were one or two perfunctory folks, but this is BHV, people, this is the place I'd been told was especially designed to make you crazy. The French must be losing their touch.

There's a bus that runs only on Sundays and holidays called the Balabus (in Yiddish this would mean the head of the house, but somehow I don't think that's why they call it that...just a guess.) The route covers a lot of famous sights. It happens to stop in the Place de la Bastille and we took it, just for the ride. Sitting up high, looking out at the gorgeous monuments and the Seine sparkling in the sun was a hell of a way to make up for the missing Sunday New York Times.

You find lots of interesting things right in our very own neighborhood, too.


Jo said...

The Balabus sounds like a fun ride for a Sunday. Did you take it all the way to La Défense? From the RATP site, it appears to run only from April until end September, unless I'm missing something. Rats!

Shelli said...

Jo, we took it to the Musée de l'Art Moderne, where we caught the last day of the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit.

And yes, I think it's meant to be a tourist route and goes back to normal in the fall.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Une balade in French is an excursion, a walk, a drive, a sight-seeing trip. So the Bala'bus takes you to see the sights. I'm glad to know about it -- never heard of it before.