Wednesday, 24 January 2007

A bunch of gripes

I’m still working on the guide to Provence I started updating back in November (see Being rude in an email is... being rude). No, it doesn’t take several months to do that job: I got delayed.

Anyway, after writing to all those tourist offices and plundering the brochures they sent me for information, I have to phone millions of people – from hotels to museums to night-clubs to candied fruit factories... It’s not rocket science, as they say, but it’s time-consuming, tiring for the voice, and sometimes trying as well.

There are the hotel/B&B owners who let their tiny kids answer the phone to potential customers. I’m not one of them but I might be and, in an indirect way, I represent them. Does a tiny child know how much the hotel charges for a double room in the summer? No, they don’t, and therefore should not pick up the receiver when the phone rings. When I hear a little voice go, ‘Hullo!’, followed by a giggle, my heart sinks. My calls are not refunded by my employers and I know that I’m now going to have to persuade the tiny child to go and fetch their mummy or daddy so the ADULTS can have a meaningful conversation – hours later! I always feel like removing those places from the guide. I don’t, of course, but it’s very tempting.

Then there are the museum officials who don’t know where the museum they’re working in is situated. ‘Could you confirm your address, please: is this correct.....?’ ‘Erm... hey, Nicole, what’s the address here?’ I sometimes say, ‘How did you get there this morning?’

And then there are the museum officials – sometimes they’re the same ones – who don’t know what their opening hours are. ‘Hey, Claudette, when are we open?’ I have to resist asking, ‘How did you know what time to get to work this morning?’

Not to mention the restaurateurs who don’t know how much their menus cost.

And no one in France knows the difference between a website and an email address!

Ah, the joys of dealing with strangers on the phone!



  1. Makes you wonder how these people function in their day-to-day lives, doesn't it?

    I'm often on the receiving end of the phone inquiry - and it makes me want to scream when someone who calls me is completely unprepared for what happens next. A client phones and asks for contact information for a support group, for example - then when I begin to give it, I hear "Oh, wait, I need to get a piece of paper to write this down." Uh, what did they think would be the next step when they asked for the info?! And just yesterday, an attorney phoned, asking for information about a client. I asked if he had a signed release from said client - there was a pause, then, "Well, no, uh ...." An attorney - who else should know better that there's no way info will be released without the client's authorization! I'm afraid I was not quite able to keep the sarcasm out of my voice when gave him my fax number and advised him to get back to me when he was better prepared.

    So, I join you in a hearty SLAP to all those who seem completely flummoxed by simple telephone communication.

  2. Oh, you really made me laugh this morning! But, sadly, this stuff is so true.

    I'm off now to catch up on the post below.

  3. I'm back! I enjoyed the post below very much. We share some of the same tastes, but you're of course more sophisticated than I.

    Since you enjoyed Kazuo Ishiguro's The Ramains of the Day, you might consider reading his Never Let Me Go. At first these books seem very different, but the theme of duty above all, and station in life, is somewhat the same. (I realize that you referred to "Remains" the movie, but that movie is very faithful to the book.)

  4. I agree with TLP, Remains The Book is very much like Remains The Movie. Amazing really. Must have had a good adapter.

    Never Let Me Go is the one about clones being bred for transplant surgery, isn't it? I loved the way he made it seem so normal to the cloned people themselves. But I read his book about Shanghai and didn't like that.

    Re the info on the phone, I loathe and detest children on the phone. I had one who said indignantly, when I said 'Is Mummy there?', 'I don't have a mummy, I have a mum. And her name is Xxxx' Sigh.

  5. I don't think I could do your job - I would yield to the temptation to leave those places out of the guide! I have very little patience for my fellow man.

  6. It must be difficult to connect with someone on the phone. Lacks that personal touch.

  7. This is the first day in ages that I have not felt grumpy.
    I just thought I'd mention it.

  8. RQ, I wonder all the time how some people function in their daily lives.

    Of course, what I do amounts to cold calling and the people I phone don’t have to answer my queries, although it is in their interest to do so, since inclusion in the guide is free. I’ve had a couple of hotel/restaurant owners say that they were grateful to us; others have said they would offer me ‘l’apéritif’ if I dropped by. Mostly people are nice, but there are always a few who are a real pain.

    TLP, I don’t know about ‘more sophisticated’: I admit I have some rather highbrow tastes, especially in literature. I can happily watch silly films or series on TV, but I can’t read rubbish.

    The Remains of the Day is that rare beast: a wonderful novel that got made into a wonderful film. There are very few of those: I’m thinking of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Shipping News, for instance. No film could have been more faithful to Ishiguro’s beautiful novel. I haven’t read Never Let Me Go. I remember thinking I probably wouldn’t like it: this kind story is really not my thing. I will have a look at it, though; I’m probably missing out on something fascinating.

    L, Children have no business answering the phone. I don’t find it cute to be greeted by a child when I call someone; I find it irritating.

    T, it’s either that or starving to death. LOL! I am not allowed to swear at people, slam the phone down and cross out the name of their establishment: I represent the publishers and they are a respected company, etc. etc. and also it would create gaps in the listings, which would not be a good thing.

    L, it’s not that difficult: I’m very polite; I apologize for disturbing them and once they’ve said, ‘No, not at all,’ they have to be patient with me; I allay any fear they might have about being asked for money; and usually they’re fine. I don’t actually like the phone; I’d much rather talk to people face to face any time.

    J, I am delighted to hear that. Thank you for telling me.


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