Friday, February 19, 2010

Le Client Pigeon

Our intention, my TWDB and I, had been to go out last night. Thursday night rocks in the centre of Montpellier, apparently, and we have been wanting to go out more, recently. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we want to go out, because, like Alice at the tea party, how can you have more when you have yet to have had some?

We made a brave start with restaurants recently, but want to widen our going out with café-théatre and café-philosophie. So far so failed what with work and weather, but never mind, the intention is there...

Yesterday it was both work and fatigue that had us cloué au canapé. Me from my late night listening to the plumber's woes, he from a mind-draining day at work in a heavy week. So we chickened out from plunging into the drizzle and sat eating sturdy veggie soup and spicy chicken and rice.

We also watched Envoyé Spécial on FR2 which was all about the customer-fleecing techniques used by shops such as Darty, Boulanger, and Carrefour to sell televisions, washing machines and other éléctroménager. It made hairy watching because unless you know how they function, or are very careful about doing some research before you buy, you really are at the mercy of a bunch of cowboy salespeople.

I'm not naive, I know that businesses have to make a profit, I know that customers are manipulated and that marketing techniques are designed to get us to spend more, but to take the client for a pigeon (an idiot/mug) with no concern for what s/he wants or needs is going too far.

A salesperson in Darty gets a fixed salary of around 500Eur/month. That's not much so he has a lot to make up on commission. Each day, items are designated a commission rate so one tele might yield the salesman 2.20Eur while another might give him 5.20Eur. Guess which one he'll do his utmost to sell you regardless of what you want or need?

In Carrefour, the commission rate is even displayed on the price tag, bottom left in yellow. Unless they now change it...

Guarantee extensions are designed to increase the profit margins of the company. Very very few products (about 1.5%) break down within the first 5 years so it really is a waste of money. The exception being my laptop which my eldest crashes on a regular basis and has been repaired for nothing several times.

After-sales repair services now barely repair a thing. You pay, often up front, (at Fnac) for an estimate which is based on nothing - they don't even open the item - and is very expensive; the price being, funnily enough, roughly the cost of a new version of the item. If a repairman comes to your house to repair something like a dishwasher, he'll probably declare it good for the tip because he has a lot of people to see and is paid  commission on the number of people he sees in the day rather than whether he actually repairs anything.

Naturally, he'll charge you around 65Eur for this 5-min assessment.

Manufacturers are building into their products a lifespan that is limited to a maximum of ten years, and make them impossible to repair. All, of course, so that you have to keep buying, and they have an easier time predicting purchase trends.

The lesson is, of course, to know what it is you want before you go and buy. Or they'll take you for an idiot and treat you like one, lying through their teeth with comments such as 'I bought this one and I've had no trouble with it!'

Research, research, research.


  1. When we were letting holiday cottages, we had a load of stuff from Geant. We always dealt with the same guy and we knew what we wanted. Their repair man was super too. Whatever the holiday maker could bust, he could fix!
    We didn't take extended guarantees either.
    I once bought a super fridge from another shop which continually broke down...French power surges and a mother board do not make a good combination.
    On the last occasion it was taken away for repair, we heard nothing for weeks. Descending on the repair shop, we found it had been scrapped, without a word to us!
    The shananigans of getting compensation were horrific and, if you didn't live in France, unbelievable.

  2. Good grief! The cheek of it!

    One of the funniest moments of the report was when they asked the head of Fnac after-sales if Fnac always opens the items that need repairing. Of course, said he, you can't find out what's wrong if you don't open it up. So then then showed him a videocam that they had fixed so they could see if it had been opened and it hadn't, and he had to do a volte face scrabbling around saying things like 'well, sometimes by our experience we know what a problem is so we don't need to open it'. HAHAHA that had 'im!!!

  3. Whatever kind of contract are the Darty staff on to allow that kind of compensation to be legal in this country?

    I normally watch Envoyé Special but had child related issues yesterday and missed it. It is one of the very few programs that make anyone's life uncomfortable in France and is to be appluded.

    BTW - The Darty heiress is married to Prince Jean of Sarkozy.Funny old world.

  4. I was shocked, Jon, to see the evidence on the pay slip of the former Darty employee. It's way less than the SMIC so I don't quite see how it's legal.

    Capital on M6 on Sundays can be good too.

    Thank god for Sky, I say!

  5. Ha, now I know why sales staff are such liars in France, they really do just tell you anything, it is unbelievable.
    A couple of years ago a fuse went in our electricity box, MG took the fuse to the electric department of our local Bricomarché and was sold 'something similar', he was assured it would be fine, the sales assistant told MG, he used to be an electician! Yes you have guessed it, it was not fine, not only that it was dangerous, MG went back to complain and the sales assistant 'Frank' tried to beat MG up, the manager had to intervene. At least MG got his money back.

  6. Good grief, Dash! The stories get evermore disgraceful!

    I was in Carrouf last night, and the commission was still being displayed - 0.20Eur on a mini laptop, for example.

  7. Yes, I watched that programme, Sarah. My mum was right when she used to moan about her new Hotpoint washing machine that kept breaking down...the old one lasted years and years, she'd say.

    I'm reluctant to buy a new washing machine (my old one was too big for this flat) so for the moment I go to the laundrette which is rather nice as I get to read my book without feeling guilty...

    CD players are the worst, though. None of mine have lasted 6 months!! Grrr...

  8. Yeah, Gigi, the days of 'built to last' are over it seems. But then with technology advancing so rapidly, would we really want a 30-yr old tele that couldn't get Sky in France?


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