People often say to me 'Oh, you must miss living in France'. Well I don't. The cheap wine and summer sunshine was never quite enough to make up for hair-wrenching frustration that is dealing with just about any French company or institution. Their job application forms must surely have a box to tick whereby you have to confirm that you will never, at any time, show any ability towards independent thought and joined up thinking.
Take EDF for example. I'm trying to change the electricity account at our house in France back into my own name. There appears to be no number to call from outside France so I've tried to do it online.
I typed in my name and address. It wouldn't accept my postcode because French postcodes only have numbers but I've got round that in the past by putting in a line of zeros then adding the postcode to one of the fields that allows numbers and letters. No problem.
I put in the address of the property. No problem there. I even managed to find the Point de Livraison which is absolutely vital to identifying your property correctly (apparently). I put in the name of our former tenants. Still going swimingly. The only teeny weeny problem came when it asked for a meter reading. The outgoing tenants, not content with not paying rent for the past 5 months and trashing the house, refuse to let me have the meter readings, so I left if blank.
EDF emailed me. (I've translated it into English for ease)
"Madame, thank you for registering your new account online. However, before we can create it, we need to have a meter reading'
I e-mailed them back
"Monsieur/Madame, thank you for your e-mail. You will see from my application that I live in England so unfortunately I can't supply a meter reading. Please could you arrange to one of your meter readers to visit the property and take a reading. Cordialement"
They e-mailed again
"Madame, thank you for your e-mail. However. before we can set up your account we need to have a meter reading. Please supply one"
Hmmm. I e-mailed back
"Monsieur/Madame. I'm afraid that I live in England and as the house is in France I can't supply a meter reading. Please arrange to have the meter read. Cordialement"
Another reply landed in my inbox
"Madame, thank you for your e-mail. Please supply the exact address of your future home as well as the name of the former tenants. Please note that we cannot set up your account till you have supplied us with a meter reading"
By now I was feeling slightly less cordial
"Monsieur/Madame, thank you for your e-mail. I have already supplied the address of my house in France. It was a mandatory field in the online registration form. Likewise, I have already supplied the name of my former tenants, that was also a mandatory field on the online registration form. Unfortunately I am still in the UK and my house is still in France so it is not feasible for me to supply you with a meter reading. Cordialement"
Bing, you have a new message......
"Madame, thank you for supplying the requested information. However, please note that we cannot set up your account until you have supplied us with a meter reading" (their bold). If you would like to discuss this with us please telephone on the number on the reverse of your bill.
So I replied again...
"Monsieur/Madame, thank you for your e-mail. There is absolutely no point in requesting a meter reading, even in bold letters. It will not alter the fact that I am in England and my house (and it's electricity meter) are in France. In between us is a small sea (La Manche) and a large landmass (La France), therefore I cannot supply one. Please would you arrange for the meter to be read. I am unable to call you on the number on the reverse of my bill as I do not have a bill. I do not have a bill as I am not yet a customer. That is what I'm trying to sort out now"
And guess what they said...
"Madame, we are unable to open an account without a meter reading. Please supply us with an up to date meter reading otherwise we will have to arrange for an operative to visit the property and read the meter"
Hoo - Bloody - Ray!
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