“That would never happen in France.”

One of our most frequently used mantras is “That would never happen in France.” We invoke these enchanting words whenever we have a retail transaction/customer service experience that’s particularly brilliant. And every time it happens, Callaghan says, “You should totally write about this in your blog. ‘Things that would never happen in France’.”

These situations “that would never happen in France” occur so frequently, I’d never remember all 100+ of them. I’m finally getting around to relaying a few anecdotes here, because it happened again recently, and Callaghan asked for this post again.

(This post should actually be in French, since Callaghan wanted me to write it for his French friends. Demande-lui et il te dira.)

Below, I’ve got a few situations that would be hits on our “That would never happen in France” mix tape.

1). First time it happened upon moving back to the Land of AZ:

We transported a large, wheeled tool chest from Texas. Callaghan bought it at a Home Depot in Austin (Home Depot is the equivalent of Leroy Merlin in France). We got to Arizona and he decided he didn’t need it anymore. We took it to a Tempe Home Depot WITHOUT A RECEIPT, the guy working there looked it up and couldn’t find it in the system because their store DOESN’T CARRY THAT MODEL OF TOOL CHEST, examined the chest and found OBVIOUS SIGNS OF WEAR (scuff marks and f*cked up wheel bearings) from usage and moving… but he took it, anyway, and gave Callaghan a full refund. $120.00, CASH.

$120.00 in cash and a friendly, humorous exchange for a beat-up tool chest (from out of state, no less) that they don’t even sell there. No receipt.

Callaghan (as we walked through the parking lot): That would NEVER happen in France!!

Me: That’s called Customer Service. IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY.

2). Another time, I went to Target and headed to Customer Service.

Me: I ordered this sports bra online and only wore it twice. It was a sale item.

I showed the Customer Service Girl the strap that was torn almost completely off.

CSG: Oh no! Sorry about that! Do you want to go find a similar one on the sale rack and bring it back here to do an exchange, or do you just want a refund?

Me: I’ll go look for a similar one on sale.

I couldn’t find anything similar in the Active Wear section, on the sale rack or otherwise. I did find another sports bra I really liked, though. It was more expensive than the one I was returning. I took it back to Customer Service thinking I’d just pay the difference.

CSG (looking at her screen): Shoot, I can’t find the sale one. Oh well… I’ll just do an even exchange!

She cheerfully took the damaged item, and I walked away with the more expensive one at no extra cost.

Later, I relayed the story to Callaghan. He was nonplussed.

“No way.”

“WAY.”

“That would NEVER happen in France!”

Me: “It’s the American Way.”

We laughed, because by then, both his line and mine constituted an inside joke.

3). Most recently, we went to my eye doctor’s office to pick up my new glasses.

The Glasses Lady went to the back to get my glasses, which had just been delivered from the lab that day. She came back with a pair of glasses and all kinds of apologies.

“I’m SO SORRY,” she repeated. “The lab made a mistake. They put your lenses in the wrong frames. They’re the correct prescription, though.”

She handed me the glasses. The frames were from an Italian luxury brand. I’d ordered a Coach pair from the low end of the available line’s price range, the cheapest I could find that I thought looked decent.

At her urging, I tried on the wrong glasses. The clarity of the prescription was stunning. Also, the frames looked better on me than the ones I’d chosen. I’m not a status symbol inclined person, but if the glasses look better, they look better, and if they feel great and I can see almost perfectly in them, then I really don’t want to hand them back and wait even longer.

The Glasses Lady was still apologizing.

“I feel so bad that the lab messed up,” she said. “What do you want to do? Do you want to hang onto those while we wait for the correct pair to be made? Or do you want to just keep them? They do look better on you than the other ones.”

“Um…”

“It’s so weird that they did that! We don’t even carry (insert name of haute couture house) here.”

“It would take another 10 days for the correct ones to be made?”

“Yes.” She actually winced.

“How much extra would it cost if I were to keep these?”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll just do an even exchange.”

 

New glasses, correct prescription, not the frames I ordered, but they work.

New glasses, correct prescription, not the frames I ordered, but they work.

 

I walked out wearing them. Callaghan couldn’t believe it, and neither could I, to be honest. These frames cost at least a couple hundred bucks more than I’d paid for the Coach frames, and I got them at no extra cost.

Callaghan said, “Okay, this would NEVER, EVER happen in France.”

Now, for you Americans, such anecdotes aren’t all that fantastical. Incidents such as these don’t happen every day, but on a smaller scale, they’re commonplace, and it’s easy to take such customer service for granted. We haven’t kept track of all the times the cashier couldn’t find the price on an item, and either a). Gave it to us for a guesstimated amount that seemed less than it should’ve been, or b). Casually said something like, “Let’s just call it $5.00! That seems about right.”

All the times we returned stuff we’d used for which we had no receipt, refunds with no questions asked. (We don’t do that a lot, but the instances add up over the years.)

In order to fully appreciate our “That would never happen in France” observation/inside joke, you’d have to know, for comparison, about some of our “customer service” experiences in France. But that’s a topic for another post, perhaps.

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