Hold the line, please!



Getting a phone

My 89 year old uncle, a delightful man, has just moved to an elder people home, or whatever you call them in your country. He had always lived in a house with his wife, who died two years ago and has just been pretty ill and does not want to live alone any more. So his children have helped him find a suitable retirement home. He has a nice room where they have brought his TV and some personal things and arranged it, ahead of time, with the phone company to provide him with a phone line.
The whole thing looked really easy on the paper. He was attributed a new phone number; when you called his old phone number, you got a female robot telling you to dial the new number and…
when you did, another female robot told you that the phone number in question did not exist.
However, if you looked him up in the phone book, that phone number was right there, under his name.
The peculiar thing was that when I brought a telephone to my uncle’s room, he had a dial tone, and was able to make phonecalls but couldn’t receive one.

Vicious circle

When you call the French phone company, FranceTelecom, it can take quite a long time before you get a human on line, you are asked to punch a numbers corresponding to the problem you have. Except that this particular problem was not in the list. After ten minutes, I finally manage to find a nice and willing lady who said that indeed, there was a problem because the phoneline that had been attributed to my uncle still belonged to someone else. And that until that person stopped their subscription, my uncle couldn’t get the line. I managed to get the name of the person in question from her and she gave me another phone number, where I could find specialists of this kind of case.
I called that second number, everyone there was very busy of course, but I finally got someone who understood my problem and repeated that until that person whose line had been attributed to my uncle resigned her line, he just couldn’t have it and there was nothing this employee could do for me.
Again, I explained that this person was old, it was important to him to have a link to the outside world, to keep in touch with his children and grandchildren, trying to strike the right chord.
So finally, he said the only people who could do something about this were the people at the retirement home. They should send him a fax saying that the lady whose line it used to be wasn’t there any longer, and the problem would be solved.
So I called the retirement home and after a lot of explaining, that’s what they did.
Meanwhile, my uncle’s son went through the same rigmarole and between the two of us, 48 hours later, my uncle’s phone line was up and working.
Can you believe that in our century, it is so difficult to get a phoneline working? Back in the sixties, I can still remember my mother trying to get a phoneline for our Deauville house, and having to bring a doctor’s certificate stating that my father was suffering from a heart condition and therefore needed a phoneline. In those days, phoneline were scarce, and a luxury!
And here we are, some forty years later, with no shortage of phonelines, but with people managing to make simple things complicated! Why on earth do they give you a number that is not available is beyond me.

And, yes, it makes me angry.

  1. While Crabby Old Lady at Time Goes By was trying to prepare her move to Maine and having hell from her phone company, my uncle had the same problem in a small town in Normandy. Just as bad on both sides of the Atlantic
  1. I’ve just created a new category in my blog. Why GrumbleLand? Well, when I fight reality, one of my friends always tells me I am in GrumbleLand.
    Sometimes, it’s healthy to get the grumbling off your chest 😉


8 thoughts on “Hold the line, please!

  1. Based on no evidence or knowledge whatsoever, Crabby Old Lady somehow expected customer service would be more efficient in France. Perhaps it is that unlike some Americans who complain about Parisians’ sense of superiority and snootiness if travelers don’t speak French, Crabby has experienced nothing but friendliness and helpfulness from storekeepers, waiters, museum employees, etc. when she has visited.

    But come to think of it now, there is also a general sense of impatience and “let’s do get on with it” that is similar to that of New Yorkers. Perhaps that leads to the problem of poor customer service on both sides of the Atlantic, but doesn’t explain the shared incompetence.

  2. at first “Grumbleland” sounds like something adorably childlike. on
    second look–and sound–it seems a perfect designation. “You’re
    taking me to Grumbleland!” you could warn the phone fools. you are
    definitely on to something, claude. does it work in French too?

  3. Glad you finally got your uncle’s problem resolved – I must say that the problems are not unique to France. We have similar problems here in the US.

    Love the concept of GrumbleLand I wonder – does one have to get a passport to go there? 🙂

  4. I think it’s a matter of who the phone companies hire. In the application form, there must be a section that
    they use to weed out the people who are reasonable, helpful, or kind. How else can this be so widespread and
    pervasive? And just imagine the ones who qualify for a raise!!

  5. Dear Claude,
    Grumbling is good—if it’s cathartic and not indulgent. However, I know I enjoy it either way.
    I was smitten with the vicious circle. I want one. No wait, I probably have one lying around here somewhere. Anyway, very clever, Claude! I visited our new photosite and loved it—espcially the shot of the blue and white pots on the table. Very easy to anthropomorphize. I want to be the blue one.
    I need to get a post up instead of blog-surfing so adieu for now.

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