Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The other day, someone buzzed our apartment on the intercom. I thought maybe it was the mailman, so I answered, and had the following conversation:

Me: Hello?
Dude: Let me in
Me: Um, no.
Dude: Let me in! I'm here for the scaffolding that's going up tomorrow.
Me: No, sorry, I don't know anything about any scaffolding.
Dude (really aggressively): Yes you do! Just let me in already!
Me: I told you, I'm not going to let some random person in the building.
Dude: Aw f*ck, just buzz me in.
Me: *Hangs up*

The dude decided to continue ringing our apartment for a few minutes. I started feeling a bit nervous, not to mention annoyed, so I sent C a message. He wrote back saying I should call the police (who are just up the street). But then the buzzing stopped. A few minutes later I heard quiet footsteps in the hallway and I got all freaked out. C offered to come home and check it out. I declined, but decided not to venture out for a few hours just in case. I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly jumpy. (Hey, it's gonna take a while to get used to living in a place where I can't see the entire apartment at once).

When I finally did go outside, I saw that someone had posted a letter in the entryway saying that there is a "mandatory" inspection of the boiler the following day and that we should either be home or leave our keys out front. (ha!) First of all, boiler? We have individual heating in this building, so there is no boiler. And even there was, it'd be in the basement and they wouldn't need access to our apartments. Second of all, the dude clearly said scaffolding. The words are somewhat similar (échafaudage vs chaudière), but my French is definitely good enough not to confuse the two. And lastly, I remember our apartment agent saying that the apartment already had a contract with another company, so I knew there was no way it was a mandatory inspection.

Plus, C deals a lot with frauds, and I've heard enough horror stories from him to know how these things work. These shady companies go around and put official-sounding letters everywhere, and then they 1) either force their way into your apartment and do a fake inspection of something (water heater, heating system, TV, etc) and charge you a fortune for it or 2) they force their way into your home (especially if you're elderly) and then rob you (or they stake things out and come back another time).

C decided to call them and see what their deal was, and apparently they were just as shady on the phone as they'd been in the morning. They refused to answer any of his questions and didn't even have any clue we had individual heating. Since they'd referenced our building's syndic (tenants' association??) in the letter, he then called them. Where they hemmed and hawed and basically avoided answering any of his questions as well. So now we're assuming that they're in it together and that someone on the syndic probably gets a kickback from any money made.

These kinds of things piss me off, and I felt the need to post it in the hopes that it will prevent someone else from being taken advantage of too. So many people - be it foreigners, the elderly, etc fall victim to these kinds of scams just because they don't know any better. These people are so forceful that they make you feel like it really is mandatory and that you don't have any choice.

I had to laugh that night though because then C came home and immediately installed this on our door:
But he is right, at least this way no one will be able to force their way in if I do ever end up opening the door.



Blogger TN said...


I don't answer my buzz anymore either. We only have 15 residents and our HOA is run by the tenets. But i have had the conseierge and the guy who cleans the courtyard buzz. I don't know them yet and I felt uncomfortable letting them in. Plus my French is not that good esp on the phone. So now I am avoiding answering. Yesterday the mailman came and left the package with my neighbor. Boo! Not feeling totally comfortable yet. But i will get there.

But your situation freaks me out even more.

There is a lot of robberies in Paris so better to be safer than sorry!

Did anyone leave keys out? Did you speak to your neighbors yet? Did you take down the notice? Wonder how they got your door code...And if the HOA is involved that is scary! You should let your landlord know.

September 9, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger shannon said...

Okay, that kind of freaks me out. This is my first time living alone (the room at the lycee so doesn't count), so I'm going to be really jumpy at first. I would so not know how to react in that situation.

September 9, 2010 at 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you are doing a good thing by posting this! That makes me really mad too, because anyone can fall victim to something like that.

I usually lock our gate when I am at home alone with the baby too. I've also hear stories about the ferailleurs(?) doing similiar things, and I don't want to find myself in a bad situation....

Can you put up a sign for your neighbors? Or something like that? That would be awful if an elderly neighbor got taken advantage of or something like that, especially since you know that something not good is brewing.

September 9, 2010 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

How creepy! Right before we gave up our apartment our rental agency asked me to show it to anybody who contacted me and I naively arranged an open house. It was only later on that night did I realize how stupid that was to not insist on having an agent there with me in case somebody just wanted to see what we had inside and how they could get in, or worse.
Good on you for posting this because I probably wouldn't have thought twice about buzzing the guy into the building. i'm not dumb enough to leave my keys lying around though!

September 9, 2010 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Alisa Tank said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 10, 2010 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I used to hesitate to contact to the police about stuff, but ever since I've been having problems with my neighbors and discovered just how helpful that they can be, I've changed my tune. Call the police! Make a note on the note that if you see anyone in the building doing 'inspections', that you will personally alert the police that there has been a break-in. Be dramatic, like a real French person would be.
Also, the property management companies? They are absolutely useless, and this is coming from someone who owns their apartment and is on the board of the syndic. The people working there each handle so many buildings that they can't keep track of anything. If there is really an issue, you need to find out which of the residents is on the board of the syndic and call them. Then that person can try and call the property management company, and even then, its hard to get the right person on the phone to deal with your problem. I definitely would not count on them to respond to something like this, in any case.

September 21, 2010 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Thanks for the comment Nicole - that's all very good info!!

September 21, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...


You are SOOOO right to have NOT buzzed the jerk in! One of the first things Alex warned me of upon my arrival in France was to NOT let random people in when they buzz.... Okay for the postman, but their have been some shady characters so I'm really glad I didn't let them in..
However, I have NEVER heard of this scam before so I am REALLY glad you wrote about it b/c warning and informing people about things like this are our best defense against them...
Hats of to you for your reaction, and Cs...
I can't imagine someone actually saying to leave your keys for them... Zeesh!!!

September 22, 2010 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Steffi said...

Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

Odessa Apartments

November 10, 2011 at 12:19 PM  

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