October 23, 2007

Telemarketing, French style

Posted in Daily life tagged , , , at 9:52 am by Lauren

Grocery shopping can be the pits without a car. I knew this before I had a car, but when you don’t have something you make do without the comparison of what could have been. (Similarly, using a payphone was never annoying before I had a cell phone, and that was less than three years ago.) But now that I am in France, without a car, grocery shopping is not fun. Correction: the shopping, the array of foods (especially the giant mushrooms I found last week)…those things are great. Bringing the groceries home – that is what is not fun.

Fortunately, somebody tipped me off about Telemarket.fr, an online grocery vendor for Monoprix (similar to how Giant grocery stores have Peapod grocery delivery). Through her referral, we wielded a 30 euros off coupon, so Allen and I decided to do some damage (to our wallets). On Sunday night, we put together a large order of the heavy, unwieldy, and non-perishable things: Fanta Citron (yum!), milk (non-perishable in France), shampoo and soap, couscous, toilet paper, and more. This way I’ll only have to pick up weekly fresh items like meats, vegetables, and yogurt.

We strategically planned delivery for Tuesday morning between 9 and 11 am, so that I would get out of bed early. So this morning I woke up to the alarm (hallelujah!), showered, and waited for the delivery man. He came in the middle of the window and delivery went smoothly. He dropped off 7 boxes, gave me the order details, had me sign, and went on his way. I started ripping into boxes; everything seemed in order. Then I looked at the list of what I’d ordered and realized it wasn’t mine but a neighbor’s on the island. Oh well. I could check the list I had in my email. I continued to rip into the boxes until I got to the box marked 1, the cold items (my Gervita yogurt!!), and realized with dismay that it was not my box 1, but the box 1 of Turrel family elsewhere in the 4th arrondissement.

What to do? I weighed my options. I could call Telemarket.fr and have them take care of it. That would require some manoevering in French. Or, I could try to chase down the delivery truck on foot; I had two of its other delivery addresses, after all. Because my fear of speaking on the phone in French defies all logic, I decided that the only reasonable course of action was to try to follow the delivery truck myself.

I threw on a coat, grabbed the cold box, and scurried towards 68 rue St. Louis en L’Ile, two blocks away. When I got there, a delivery truck was out front. Could it be? But it wasn’t. I dropped the delivery slip in the mailbox; maybe he’d want it. I then rushed in the other direction, across the bridge towards the St. Paul metro. I’d vaguely fixed the location in my mind from a glance on Google Maps. I passed the metro, continued back into the maze of ancient streets, and found myself circling blocks searching for 7 rue Caron. I wondered if I should continue farther east, but decided not to waste any more time and headed home instead.

Once home, I looked up the number for Telemarket and tentatively dialed. A woman answered, and I explained what had happened (leaving out my wild goose chase). She asked for my client number. Um… For some reason I couldn’t find it. For one thing, the man hadn’t given me my own delivery slip with my order on it. I frantically looked online for it, and she said, “Okay, give me your name instead.” So I told her and started to spell it. Unfortunately, I’d hyphenated it, which I sometimes do if I think people will be confused by there being two names. The problem was, I don’t know how to say “hyphen” in French! I was explaining in nonsense, “It’s two names, but it’s connected, but I don’t know the name of the connection.” Finally, she took mercy and asked for my phone number, which I could give! She called the delivery man and confirmed that he would redeliver.

It’s exchanges like this that really make a person long for the familiar. Normally, I consider myself to be a perfectly competent person, but functioning in another language can be so difficult as to wear away at the confidence you need to keep to adequately continue to function in that language! Explaining myself on the phone to someone who is ultimately trying to help me is a very small thing, but think of Allen’s efforts at the French office every day. He is a very competent and hard worker, with specialized knowledge in the program they are implementing at the office. But there are times when the language limits or hinders his effectiveness. It is easy for me to understand how he would prefer to work in an English-speaking office (and thus leave the dream of living all over the world behind).

And there you have it. Musings on the mundane over a scrumptious yogurt that finally arrived.

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1 Comment »

  1. brandilina said,

    As I woke this morning, I thought, Self, check that blog of Lauren’s – and I am glad that I did! My mental image of your wild goose chance cracks me up – but the idea of grocery delivery for the non-perishables is genius! Gosap continues to live through Schmanz – loves it!


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