Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Customer Dis-Service Industry

Dancing girl
Originally uploaded by Nyx
In general terms for Australians, the customer service industry encompasses any and all sectors of commerce where you're being inadequately served by a halfwit that's only doing the job to pay the rent/ their pot habit/ their car/ their trip around the world. Yet amazingly enough - in France, a country where these types of jobs are frequently regarded as career jobs - the service is even worse. I used to be one of those halfwits that worked these kinds of jobs while I was back at uni. I did an ok job, it wasn't very interesting but it had the advantage of flexible shifts to fit around my lectures and fed the standard female shoes/bags/clothes habit. However, despite the general indifference of the bulk of my fellow employees, there was still a basic level of service demanded from the staff.

My fellow expat friends and I have frequently been discussing the problem of the seemingly standard level of shitty service we've encountered in France. An American friend of mine summed it up perfectly while we were waiting many long minutes at a counter to be served by a non-existant employee (and half-heartedly considering raiding the till and fetching our own meals just to pass the time)

" I've become accustomed to the mediocrity"

She's doing better than me then, because I still have serious problems with it. There are two varieties in the bad sales technique dept. that I come across all too often;
1. Talkback tactics: where any complaint you might have is generally regarded as somehow being your fault
2. To stand and ignore: stand there and clear your throat all you like I'm not going to acknowledge your presence until I'm ready.

Though far from perfect themselves, in other anglo countries I've lived in or visited, the mantra of 'the customer is always right' (no matter how much of an arse they are) holds more sway. There seems to be a strange idea in France that it's not the person with the wallet that has the power but rather the commerce that has the goods. This possibly explains why - to buy my camera and pay it over several months, I was forced to buy a membership card with the shop in question and have had to pay 17% interest over the term of the purchase plan. This is about the same rate I'd expect to pay if I was overdue on my credit card repayments. In Australia, interest free terms on monthly repayment schemes are fiercely marketed and I've never had to pay to become a member when I've opted to pay over a set period. Not to say the credit issue is better in Australia, there are a lot of people who have got themselves caught in the big financial hot water soup that we call materialism. But still, you get the impression you're being taken for a big fat overpriced ride with a box of popcorn and premix coke that just cost you 10euros.

Still, the service at the restaurant where I took this photo was acceptably decent. It's the first Indian restaurant that my friends or I have come across in Lille that serves half decent Indian food. It's something of a perplexing mystery why - with a short hop, skip and jump over the channel you're suddenly swimming in great tikkas, whereas over this side of the pond they still don't know a poppadom from a naan bread. So this resaturant gets my ok:
Boulevard Jean Baptise Lebas

By contrast, I'll take a moment to mention the Indian restaurant 'Aux Indes' in Vieux Lille which gets my two thumbs down. Terrible service, overly hyped, exorbitantly priced micro portions of nouvelle cuisine and a crazily limited amount of choices on the menu.

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