Two and a half weeks ago I bought the second pair of sandals in two days for my youngest. The first pair had not been properly stuck down and within 24hrs was falling apart seriously enough for me to stomp back to the Halles aux Chaussures to get them changed.
At about this time, Colin Randall on The Telegraph was reporting on his blog about a survey on service in shops. French shop assistants did not come out well. I, however, did manage to get the shoes changed with little argument, but then, I had just been in 24hrs earlier to buy them.
Two and a half weeks later, the second pair of shoes was in 4 bits: soles separated from the uppers. They were not crappy plastic shoes, oh no, they were leather sandals with toe bits to stop my youngest grinding up his big toe from running into walls, bits of sticks, stones and tarmac. Imagine my fury at the prospect of having to go back and buy him yet another pair.
I was determined that justice should be wrought, and went at a fairly busy time. I took the old sandals; my son was wearing wellies as the only footwear he had left as he'd lost one of his pool flip-flops. We went and found another pair of leather sandals and took them up to the cash desk where a manager was checking something.
I had decided that in order to get anywhere, I had to attract her attention because a lowly cashier clerk would be powerless to take action. I put the new sandals on the desk and took the old ones out of the bag, and in a slightly louder than normal voice, for the benefit of the others in the queue, started telling the cashier about the two-week old shoes. The manager woke up and listened, saw I was not over-reacting and that the sandals were indeed of the crappiest quality imaginable without being made of plastic, stepped in hastily before shoppers started pouring out of the shop and offered me 20% off the new ones.
SUCCESS! That was acceptable. I had made my point. They had listened, and done something about it. No gallic shrugs, no sulky comments, no telling me it was normal. In other words, good customer service.
So, there you have it, it can be done. What worked in my favour is easily identifiable, however.
1. I'm a regular there from force of circumstances in that there are no other shoe shops conveniently situated and I don't like going into town.
2. The manager was there - possibly the single most important detail.
3. The shop was busy and interested shoppers were watching what would happen.
4. I had a genuine complaint.
I will go back (phew!).