I went to Véolia’s Terrasson office yesterday with high hopes that there would at last be some light at the end of the tunnel only to have them dashed in a way that only the monstrous French public sector could be capable of. I don’t know where they find them from or if they are bred specially for such roles, but there was the now-usual unsmiling, hatchet-faced young woman waiting to ‘deal with’ my query behind the now-usual bullet-proof plastic shield.

I handed her the papers I’d brought with me and she proceeded to confirm every item that I’d written on them which seemed a bit pointless to me, as if I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to have the connection made and wasn’t sure of my own phone number. But I decided to just go along with her anyway in the interests of keeping the peace… after a mere 7 weeks. ‘So this is in Fleurac?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Lieu dit Labattut Basse?’ ‘Yes’ I almost expected her to ask me to confirm that this is indeed on Planet Earth but thankfully she did stop before then but still felt that she had to get me to confirm my mobile number and email address both of which were clearly shown on the paperwork.

Then came the crunch question. How long? ‘For a new connection, 6 to 7 weeks’, she replied. That’s when I hit the roof. No matter that there were by now other people waiting in the ‘salle d’attente’ outside. I told here that this was totally unacceptable as I’d already been waiting 7 weeks since I’d placed my connection demand on Véolia. She had the cheek to say that I should have made the demand when I bought the land and, infuriated even more by such impudence, I pointed out that that was exactly what I’d done 7 weeks ago.

With the ruckus brewing, eventually a young, wet-behind-the-ears manager (I guess) emerged at that point from his office. Hatchet-face began to explain what the problem was and I then told him how appallingly Véolia had been behaving, how in 7 weeks they had done nothing to action what was a simple request that I could carry out myself in about 2 hours (fit a water meter and stand-pipe to an existing supply) and that they by their incompetence were now intending to condemn a person of my age to yet another 2 months without water in a caravan in temperatures of over 30 degrees.

He tried to bluster his way out by saying how complicated it was, how they had to use a mechanical shovel and therefore had to liaise with electricity and telephones to ensure that no lines would be affected and I replied that this was total rubbish as the water supply had already been installed and it was merely a metter of connecting to it, that I knew what I was talking about and that it would still take at most 2 hours of work to do what was needed.

But there’s no arguing with such people here in France, not so as to get any form of useful response out of them anyway. He said that they’d get someone down to my land to take a look ‘as soon as possible’ and they’d give me a call to arrange a ‘rendez-vous’. The usual response, but that counts for nothing. In due course I’ll be seeking and making contact with the ‘Médiateur’ responsible for water and making a stiff complaint but that won’t help to deal with the present issues and I’m highly sceptical that anything meaningful will come out of it anyway, but I will do it nevertheless.

Luckily, although as I’ve found, there are those here in the private sector who have a similar off-hand and dismissive attitude to customer service, there are still others who treat their clients with respect and do things properly. Such a person is the young man who came a week or so ago to look at the small trees and bushes that I need to have removed from my land so I can make enough space to reposition my caravan.

On the way back from Terrasson I received a message from him saying could I please send him my email address as he’d got it wrong and hadn’t been able to deliver his ‘devis’ for doing the work. I accepted it as soon as I got it shortly afterwards and after thanking me for my ‘confidence’ in him and his business said that he’d be able to start the work next week. So that’s good and how refreshing to know that there are people like him here and that not everyone treats their clients with the utter contempt that the likes of Véolia and Enedis do.

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