I little more than a year ago we relocated to the French Riviera. It’s a wonderful place to live and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

I couldn’t say I had anything close to a cultural shock but living among French people has left me “bouche-bee” quite a few times.

It seems that the customer is often an unwelcome irritant.

You must know I suck at bargaining over stuff and I usually avoid to to it if I can. I also consider myself a fairly reasonable person. But I find it difficult to deal with shop keepers who practically throw you out of the store 15 minutes before closing time, that being no later than 7PM. Not to mention their opening hours 10AM – 7PM. So for someone working the normal 9-6 schedule, those 15 minute are really important. I might have taken it more easy if it was at 10PM.

Calling a public service for information at 12:05 you will be greeted with “Spit it out quicker it’s already past 12!”. I wouldn’t have called if the opening hours on their website mentioned a noon break.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe the customer should always be right. The Chief Happiness Officer gives 5 reasons why this shouldn’t be your customer service golden rule. However, his point is that when dealing with abusive customers you should protect your employees at the risk of loosing the customer. This, of course is said in the context of a culture that knows the basics of commercial common sense and can distinguish between obnoxious customers and nice ones. Let me tell you France has a long way to go to make that the norm.

So I wasn’t surprised at the advice the leading actress gives to her British friend helping her as a waiter, in the movie A good year: “Remember, no matter what, in France, the customer is always wrong!”

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