Expats in France tale Laissez Faire in France. A very funny story from Dutch hotelier and author Peter Schoenmaker as he tells of an encounter with a too-successful French builder with a laissez faire outlook…
Jean-Pierre, our electrician, is keeping up with the times. He is the only one of our workers who we can send e-mail to and as a sort of bonus we get a ‘read’ receipt by return.
He was always so impressed by getting an email that within ten minutes he would arrive on our doorstep to tell us he had received it. Replying in writing though, was not his strong point; we never ever received a reply in our in-box. We often sent him more e-mails and after each one we’d invariably see him back on our doorstep. Once in a while we even got what we wanted.
For the few weeks it’s REALLY cold here in south west France we decided we needed some heating in the upstairs bedrooms. To avoid having vertical pipes all over the place we chose electric radiators. In April Jean-Pierre arrived to measure the bedrooms and bathrooms and to calculate what capacity was needed. Almost as soon as he was done with his measuring the sun came out and it was summer again. All thoughts of radiators and heating were quickly forgotten until September when we received an official invitation to visit his shop and attend his porte ouverte heating event, ‘Chauffage Electrique’.
It was on market day so we went along, we would be passing his shop anyway. Usually his store is so quiet, but that day it was bulging at the seams with prospective customers. We were astounded. Salesmen from various manufacturers were there and the whole event was given a certain je ne sais quoi by the attendance of employees of EDF, the state electricity company.
Jean-Pierre greeted us warmly and offered an apéro and food. It being just after breakfast we politely declined the charcuterie and red wine and asked for coffee.
‘What a good idea’, we praised him, ‘was this ‘Open House’ his first?’
‘Mais non’. His last ‘event’ had promoted his assortment of deep freezers.
We were so sorry to have missed out on that. ‘Was it recently?’
After consulting the staff, he concluded that it must have been about ten years ago. No wonder we had missed it.
So that had not been a success?
‘Beh oui, a mega success’.
Why then wait another ten years? They had got so many orders they had been busy for weeks and weeks. All that extra work! The order processing, the warehousing, the delivering, the installing… not to mention all the extra admin. It was dreadful! After that experience they just couldn’t face a repeat.
’Vous comprenez, non?’
No indeed we didn’t, but then we’re not French. So, did we want to know more about electric radiators? Not really, we had already ordered them in April – from him.
‘Desolé’ he apologised but it had escaped his memory. He promised that the next day he would come over to measure the rooms.
Hadn’t he done that already? Hmmm. Let’s do it again, just to be on the safe side.
It only took another ten e-mails (and personal ‘read’ receipts) before our upstairs heating was installed, on 23rd December to be precise. Perfect timing, for our family and friends arriving for the festive season; who were we to complain?
About Peter Schoenmaker: At 17 my mother decided that I had had enough schooling and arranged my first job at a chocolate factory, soon followed by a brief stint in IT but advertising became my calling. I loved the writing part but after 30 years decided to become a hotelier in France…. to end up as a full time writer. www.peterschoenmaker.nl