French salespeople have a reputation in America for being quite rude. Looking at it from their point of view: they know their job. You’re on their territory. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you mess them up unnecessarily. Even bearing that in mind, my cell-phone-buying experience seems exceptionally painful.
Buying a cell phone works something like this:
- Spend two hours on the phone company’s web site trying to figure out services, different phones, and where there’s a physical store so that you don’t have to have the phone mailed to you, since you need it by the day after tomorrow.
- Go to the metro station to buy a Passe Navigo (subway/train pass), since that’s cheaper than paying for a million subway tickets.
- Stand in line at the metro station cashier’s window. Cashier: “Good morning.” Me: “Good morning. I’d like to buy a Passe Navigo.” Her: “Do you have a photo?” Me: “Yes, here’s my ID card.” Her: “No, I need an actual photo. You can go to the Monoprix, or go across the street to the subway station.” (Go to the Monoprix. Get a photo. Return to the cashier’s window. Stand in line. Buy a Passe Navigo, which has your picture on it, in which you look like a criminal, because the instructions on the screen were very clear that you’d better not smile.)
- Take the subway to the Madeleine station. Slowly figure out the crazy intersection. Walk to the store.
- At the store, stand in line. Finally get to the attendant. Me: “Good morning. I’d like to buy an inexpensive cell phone.” Her: “Fine. Do you have service with us?” Me: “No. I’d like to subscribe.” Her: “You need an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible).” Me: “I have an ID card.” Her: “You need an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible).” Me: “Could Madame speak more slowly? I don’t speak French well.” Her: “No, I can’t speak more slowly. Do you have an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible)?” Me: “I have an ID card. I don’t understand what the others are.” Her: “Fine. Here’s a number.”
- Wait for your number to be called. While you’re waiting, pick out a phone and select a plan.
- Salesgirl: “What would you like?” Me: “I’d like to buy this phone and get the 15.99 Euro plan.” Her: “That phone is not available.” Me: “OK, this one.” Her: “Do you have an ID card, a credit card, and an (incomprehensible)?” (Show her your ID card and your credit card.) Her: “We have to mail the phone to you. What’s your address?” (Tell her your address.) Her: “Is your name on the mailbox?” Me: “No.” Her: “Then, what IS the name on the mailbox?” Her: “You have to know the name on the mailbox. I’ll sell you a SIM card and the service, and then you can go somewhere else and buy a phone.” (Follow her to the touchscreen to pay.) Her: “Where’s your credit card?” (Hand her your credit card.) Her: “That kind of credit card won’t work.” (Put the credit card in the machine. It works.)
- Leave the store, having purchased a SIM card and service, but without a phone.
- Go to the Monoprix and buy wine and cheese, because after that experience, you really need the wine.