I took my new chain saw back to Brico Depot on Monday, as planned. I don’t know whether the marketing concept and the role of customer service within it has taken root in France as a whole, in fact I have my doubts based on my own experience over the past 18 months, but if it has, it certainly hasn’t permeated down as far as this region of the country. Actually, that’s not true, the one exception that I’ve encountered being the Point P builders’ merchants in Montignac where the lady in the showroom there has always looked after me superbly. But to continue, things initially started well at Brico Depot when a door security man, seeing me walking in carrying the chain saw, said that he’d call the relevant person on the telephone. But when the latter arrived, things immediately began going downhill. I showed him how the saw’s exhaust system was hanging off and he immediately slipped into French ‘customer service’ mode, suggesting that this was not covered by the machine’s two-year warranty. My hackles rose on hearing this, so I immediately slipped into ‘awkward English customer’ mode and said that there was no way that I was going to accept that, on a machine less than two months old.
He said that this was the result of my not providing the machine with general maintenance and I said that a machine that had only been used ten or fifteen times should not require such maintenance and that in any case, I had tried to tighten the securing nuts but had been unable to do so. So he again tried to fob me off with his ‘not covered by the warranty’ ploy and again I said that I would not accept that, and stood my ground. By now several other customers were beginning to take notice, so he said that although they do not do repairs at Brico Depot, he would have a go himself in response to my demand that therefore they would have to give me a refund. Sure enough, he was unable to tighten the nuts either and I could see by now that really he sympathised with my position. I demanded to know who was responsible for making such decisions and he answered that the person was ‘off sick’ that day, adding that he would call his more senior colleague.
The ‘more senior’ colleague strode over looking suitably grim faced and obviously thought that his ‘bad cop’ routine following his colleagues ‘good cop’ approach would do the trick. Once again, he tried the old ‘not covered by the warranty’ routine but was clearly thrown when I said that I refused to accept that and noisily, so as many other customers as possible could hear, told him exactly why not. So he once again tried the ‘maintenance’ ploy and this allowed me to set a neat trap for him. I told him that as I had tried to tighten the securing nuts without success, and his colleague had also had the same experience, if he was so certain, he should have a go himself. Then, if he was successful, I’d happily take the machine away, but if he was not, I’d want a refund. Well, what could he do? This suited me fine, because if I’d caused damage to the machine while trying to tighten the nuts up, I’d have no come-back, but if it happened while he was doing it, then I’d be covered.
We ended up in the middle of an aisle with both Brico Depot assistants working on the machine using spanners etc that they’d taken from the shelves and with customers walking past and watching what was going on. For me, that couldn’t have been better and to my surprise and delight, eventually ‘more senior’ colleague managed to get the securing nuts undone and the exhaust system off the saw. From then on, it was a fairly simple matter to get it back on again and the nuts tightened up, but when I asked for another screw to be fitted to replace one that had vibrated off and been lost, ‘more senior’ collegue, while standing with his back to racks and racks of nuts, bolts and screws looked back at me with a jaundiced eye and told me that they ‘didn’t have one’. Anyway, after they’d finished the job between them, I offered them my thanks with a jolly smile and strode back out of the store clutching my now-repaired chain saw and the little heat shield that they’d left off, for me to re-fit later when I got home.
In recent weeks, I’ve been looking on the small ads web site (leboncoin.fr) from time to time for a ‘commode’ (chest of drawers) to stand my television on. When my ‘sweetheart’ of a friend was with me last week, we visited several ‘brocantes’ (second hand shops, well, junk shops really) around the area, something in which she specialises 😉 to see if we could find anything suitable. I was astonished at how much old furniture is being sold for – stuff that would have been consigned to the tip years ago in the UK (you know, tasteless, badly designed 1950’s ‘utility’ furniture) often being up for hundreds of Euros! Blow that for a lark, I’d rather buy good quality ‘rustic style’ furniture in the UK and have it shipped out than pay exorbitant prices locally for usually well-used, marked and frequently damaged tat, so I’d ended up not buying anything so far. Then on Monday, I spotted a ‘commode’ on Leboncoin at a much more reasonable 40€, of a colour that matched my existing furniture, in Floirac, a suburb of Bordeaux, so I phoned and arranged to go over to see it on Tuesday.
I went via the ‘payage’ leaving quite early. As for all of the days recently, we had sub-zero temperatures the night before and a heavy ground frost which left the local roads in a very dangerous state. On my way to Brico Depot on Monday, as I climbed the hill up to Rouffignac, I came across a VW people carrier in the road-side ditch and on Tuesday, I noted that at the same spot, the temperature was -6 degrees Celsius on my car thermometer. So I decided that I’d take things easy, much to the annoyance of the local French drivers who still insist on driving everywhere at maximum possible speed despite the conditions, much of the time right on your back bumper if you’re holding them up, as of course I was.
But I arrived safely at Floirac, decided to buy the ‘commode’ and after the lady seller’s son had helped me to load it into the back of my car, started the drive back. This time I thought I’d avoid the ‘payage’ and take the cross-country route home, not just to save the 9.70€ toll but to take the opportunity to drive through the stunning Bordeaux ‘vignobles’ (wine growing region). Many years ago, while working in the wine trade, I came to Bordeaux for a week long wine buying trip with Conal Gregory, a then colleague, Master of Wine, the wine buyer for the company for whom I worked and later wine correspondent for The Times and Member of Parliament. We had a stunning, memorable week visiting merchants and ‘eleveurs’ in the region, although I must confess that my tongue felt like sand paper at the end of it, and I wanted to see the region once more after all those years. And so I did, seeing iconic place names like ‘Pomerol’ and ‘St Emilion’ and row upon row of vines as far as the eye could see. What a pleasure it was.
I’ve now got the ‘commode’ in my lounge with my TV and Freesat box standing on it. It’s a bit high but is fine and will do the job until such time as I can tackle the decor and furnishing of my lounge properly in the future. It has three large, full-width drawers and it’s nice to at last be able to hide a lot of paperwork etc away from sight, that’s been standing on my dining table and gathering dust for far too long.
Today I’ve been out sawing wood for my wood burner yet again and I hope that I’ve now got enough stacked up in my fireplace to last for at least two days. The reason is that Wim is coming over on Friday afternoon to help me cut down my last, and largest, dead tree, so if I can get through until then, I’ll hopefully at long last be able to get a flight in tomorrow. We’re expecting above-zero temperatures overnight and a day-time high of around 13/14 degrees Celsius, so I’m hoping that the conditions will be better than recently with the ground unfrozen and minimal mist. Now I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.