Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No boîte auto for you

So I just got off the phone with a rental car customer service rep. I should preface this by saying that I rent cars through this company for at least 2 weeks per month for work - so I've got a lot of fidelité points built up. I was thinking about rescheduling our trip to Reims for February, when Miss Leyla will be here, and thought I'd use my points to rent a car (to spare her from C's driving).

But everytime I would connect to their website, it said I didn't have enough points. People, after two years of regular rentals with them, I have about a gazillion points, so I'm thinking - how is this possible? I finally decided to suck it up and call their "customer service" line, at the low, low price of 32 cents per minute.

So I start explaining my story, saying that I want to use my points to reserve an automatic car for a few days in February. She cuts me off and says "Oh la la, that is SOOOO not possible. You can't use your points to rent an automatic car".

Me: What? Why not? You guys are certainly happy to rent them to me and to take several hundred euros a month from The Company, and I don't get any benefit from that?
CS: Sure you do Madame, you can rent any of our manual cars.
Me: Do you think I'm just renting automatic cars for fun?*
CS: Who on Earth doesn't know how to drive a manual car?
Me (thinking: "Um, practically my entire country, but whatever): That's really none of your onions, is it?

We go back and forth for several more minutes, with me insisting that surely there must be some way for me to use my points for an automatic car. She finally admits there is, but that it would require me to call her back each time. (Oh joy!)

Me: So every time I want to use my points, I'm going to have to pay 32 cents per minute to do so.
CS: Well, yes, but it's normal, we're a business, we have to make money.
Me: I'd like to remind you you make plenty of money off of your rentals....
CS: But every company IN THE WORLD charges, how could we not?
Me: I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's not actually payant in a lot of other countries.
CS: I don't believe you - companies could not survive without doing that.
Me: It's true - customer service numbers are free in the US. And in Canada too. (And then I throw in a whole bunch of other random countries, without really knowing if they have free numbers, but I figured she'd never know that).
CS: Hurrumph. Well whatever, in France, c'est comme ça.

Me: Okay, well anyways - can we get on with my rental?
CS: But I told you it wasn't possible to use your points with an automatic car.
Me: Sigh. (Do we really have to go through this all over again??) Okay then, well let's use the extremely convoluted, roundabout way you suggested earlier.
*tappity tap tap tap*
CS: Oh la la. We have another problem - you are wanting to rent during les vacances scolaires. This means it is going to TRIPLE the points needed. There is no point in proceeding.
Me: Well, can we just try it and see?
*tappity tap tap tap*
CS: Oh la la, there is a third problem. The reservations for February are not open yet.
Me: What do you mean they're not open yet? I just reserved a car this morning for work.
CS: Yes, but we're talking about the fidelité reservations. Those only open up a few weeks beforehand. Try calling back 10 days before you want to leave.
Me: Ten days before I want to leave? You want me to plan my vacation only 10 days before I go? Book the hotel and everything at the last minute, etc? Your fidelity program kind of sucks.
CS: Well it's not me that makes the rules - it's been like that forever. (The standard French excuse - even though something is dumb, we can't change it because it's always been that way).
Me: So basically what you're saying is that I have no chance of ever using any of the points that I've accumulated in the past two years?
CS: Sure you can....for a manual car.
Me: (Mental argghh!!!!) Really then, there's no point in me renewing my card and staying chez vous? I might as well go with another company who will let me do that.
CS: Whatever. (Can't you practically hear the shoulder shrug??)

So 30 minutes later, I was out almost ten euros and I still did not have a reservation. The funniest bit of all was at the end, when I said "Thank you for your help (grrr)" and she replied "No problem" and then we're both like "Bonne journée, au revoir". It always cracks me up that people can spend all this time arguing with each other, but you still almost never see someone storm out without saying good day and goodbye. It might be an angry goodbye, but they will still say it.

The French - polite, even in the face of rudeness.

*And yes, I realize I could just suck it up and finally learn to drive a manual car, but 1)I'm gone so much for work that I don't really want to spend the little free time I have learning to drive a stick shift in Paris, 2) it would cost a fortune and 3) at this point, I plain just don't feel like it.

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Blogger Anne said...

So classic. I tried to use my Orange points gained from our home telephone/internet account to get a free mobile phone for one of my kids. Pas possible.

UGC requires you to convert your points in advance by Internet; they won't do it at the register even though the card has a magnetic strip.

Actually, I hate the whole fidelity points thing in general. Just give me lower prices please.

December 16, 2010 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll teach you! It is really easy... You'd have to come out to Seine et Marne though... :)

I also hate the fidelity program things. I hate feeling like they are tracking what I am buying. The only place where it seems to always work fine is Leclerc. When I can remember my damn secret code... ;)

December 16, 2010 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Linds & Dee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 16, 2010 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Do you think it would help if you went to an rental office and got an actually person actually standing in front of you to make the reservation?

Especially if it's a man, they are suckers for a pretty girl. No probs!

PS my wv is 'gratbqz' - how appropriate!

December 16, 2010 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Why would it cost a lot of money to learn to drive a stick? Just have a friend teach you.

December 16, 2010 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Pepe Le Pew said...

It's nice to know that bureaucratic stupidity knows no international boarders.

December 16, 2010 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

@Allison - because I've tried the friend (and boyfriend) route several times now and it's always ended with both parties being extremely frustrated. I would like to keep my friends. :)

Plus very few people actually have cars here and, like I said, I don't really want to learn how to drive one in Paris.

December 16, 2010 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

OK so a few things here:
1. Be French: COMPLAIN! I'm sure it's nowhere written that you can't rent an automatic car with your points fidelité, so complain. Write to their customer service, threaten them that you will write to the magazine "60 millions de consommateurs", etc.
I'm pretty sure it could work.

2. Could you make your company change the rental company they use? If so, you could also put that in the letter you're gonna address this rental company's customer service!

3. In the meantime, I'm sure your friend will be absolutely deliiiighted to have so much time to admire the landscape between Paris and Reims. With C au volant, it's gonna take like 8 hours, right? :D

Keep up the fight! And bisous ;)

p.s.: why do I have to input my google account information now? Before I could just use Name/URL :(

December 16, 2010 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

ask for her responsable next time (if there is a next time). oh and pierre's suggestions are good, too.

December 16, 2010 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

@Pierre - Actually, she says it is written in the contract that only certain classes of cars can be reserved with the Fidelité points. I still need to verify this though...

And I decide who I rent from - I chose them because I thought they had the best combination of okay prices and a decent fidelity program. Looks like I thought wrong! lol

December 16, 2010 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Sharon @ Real Estate Resuscitation said...

I bet you were really missing the ability to "" a rental car during those phone conversations!

December 17, 2010 at 3:48 AM  
Blogger oliviadog said...

oh just reading this makes me homesick. It is so absurd and made even worse by the fact that most of the French have no idea how much easier life COULD be if... if.... if....

I wonder what they say about Americans. If only the Americans were .... life would be so much easier.

December 17, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Jennie said...

I don't blame you for not learning to drive a stick in Paris. I still haven't learned either!

December 17, 2010 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I would never, ever drive a stick in Paris! Having learned in Lille was bad enough and that's nothing compared to a real city. This sounds absolutely ridiculous and I agree with the above suggestions to write angry letters, if you've got the energy for it.

December 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hate to say it, but I think everyone needs to know how to drive a manual car. Imagine you were stuck in the middle of nowhere and the only car was a stick shift.
And yes, I hate the French faux-politeness. You write a letter berating their service and then its "Veuillez agreer monseiur blah blah blah." I refuse to do it.

January 7, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

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