“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.

Good-Bye, Chili Pete!

Callaghan finally changed his name on Facebook. His old Facebook name had been an inside joke between us, but the joke didn’t translate well in French (I’ve written about this before… people in France thought that his name was “Chili Farts”), and he’d wavered between keeping it and changing it because on the one hand, he liked it despite the confusion on the Gallic side, and on the other hand, who wants to be called Chili Farts?

He finally decided to change his name after conversing with one of his cousins in France. He ended the phone call and shuffled into the kitchen looking mildly perturbed.

“Once again,” he said, sighing and laughing at the same time.

“What?”

“Ambre just asked me why my name on Facebook is ‘Chili Pète’,” he said. “I told her that it’s not ‘Chili Pète.’ It’s ‘Chili Pete’.”

Ambre is his cousin’s daughter. Their family had visited with us for a few days in August. And language is an interesting thing. “Pète” and “Pete” are spelled the same, but that little accent above the first ‘e’ makes the critical difference between a bodily function and a boy’s name.

I’m guilty of omitting the accents in my French writing online because I’ve yet to memorize the alt codes for the different ones, and I’m too rushed to look them up. (I know, I know!) In such cases, the French usually visualize the accents where they should be, since they know the word, itself.

Because that’s what people naturally do when they recognize a word, but it’s missing its accent. They assume the accent.

The French don’t readily associate “Pete” with a name, though, being that it’s short for “Peter” – their counterpart to “Peter” is “Pierre” – but they recognize the word. So when they see it, they visualize its accent: “Pète.”

“The French all pronounce it like that,” he said. “Chili Pète.”

And so he changed it. I changed mine, too, since my fake Facebook name made a matched set with “Chili Pete.” We decided on a new set of inside-joke fake Facebook names with equal (if not better) amusement value.

 

Meet Jack Chirac.

 

The moral of this story is that when your social media audience of friends and family encompasses groups of people who speak different languages, interesting things can happen. Stuff gets lost in translation. Your French-speaking friends will mispronounce your name and you won’t even realize it because you’re bilingual with dual citizenship and you’ve spent years in the States, so “Pete” is self-explanatory to you. It’s all fun and games until the hundredth person asks you why your name is “Chili Farts.”

Jeepers Creepers

I’m not big on practical jokes. I don’t usually enjoy being on the receiving end of them, and it almost never occurs to me to play one on someone else. I guess you could say that I’m an opportunist when it comes to practical jokes, because the only one I can remember playing was in Nice two summers ago, and it was totally spontaneous. An opportunity presented itself, and that opportunity was just too good to pass up.

The joke was on Callaghan, of course.

First, some background: Jeepers Creepers is one of our favorite cheesy horror movies. Not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but in order to get the joke, you should know that a psychic woman calls the two (sister/brother) main characters on a diner pay phone and issues a warning about the classic jazz song “Jeepers Creepers”:

When you hear that song you run, and I mean run! ‘Cause that song means something terrible for you, something so terrible you couldn’t dream of it… not in your worst most terrible nightmare!

Then she plays the song for them. It’s the original Louis Armstrong recording from the 1930’s, which I can imagine would be a suitably creepy thing to hear over a pay phone.

We spent the summer of 2012 helping Callaghan’s father renovate three apartments in an old building in Nice. I should say “creepy old building” because it really kind of was (creepy). (I mean that in a good way. I like creepy. I like old buildings. Creepy old buildings = Good). One apartment was downstairs, the other two were upstairs, and there was a small, dusty old radio that seemed to float around the building, usually ending up with Callaghan’s father, who always had it set to a jazz station. Maybe the radio was his. I don’t know. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Anyway.

One morning, Callaghan and our friend Jean-Mi were working together in one of the upstairs apartments while Callaghan’s father and I were in the downstairs apartment. At some point, he – Callaghan’s father – stepped out for a little while, leaving me alone in the creepy old apartment with the radio, jazz music blaring away.

Well, when Louis Armstrong came on singing “Jeepers Creepers,” I couldn’t believe my luck. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity! I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Callaghan’s number as I ran to the radio. When I got there, I held the phone up to the speakers. I was cracking up laughing, but I managed to stifle my hilarity while Callaghan answered his phone and heard:

 

 

Hahaha!! He was up on a ladder at the time, too, he later told me. Ha! Just envisioning him standing up on a ladder listening to “Jeepers Creepers” on his phone cracks me up all over again!

Ahem. Maybe this is another example of me being too easily amused, but you have to understand that thanks to the movie, that song had become one of our inside jokes. We’d say things like, Oh, well… the day could get worse… we could answer the phone and hear “Jeepers Creepers!” Because in the movie, hearing that song was the ultimate Bad Thing that could happen.

A song portending the arrival of a horrible latex monster would make everything so much worse.

And cheesier.

Happy Friday, all!