Monday, May 4, 2009
The Wondrous BHV
BHV is an institution here in Paris. It is really just a big, rather dumpy department store, but it is also something else. I mean something surprising and vexing at once. For example, BHV has a huge hardware store in its basement. While we were finishing our apartment we made weekly trips to the basement of BHV to get saws and paintbrushes and then would stop at the perfume counter on the ground floor on our way out. Surprising. In the very middle of the city, a Home Depot of sorts - with high-end lingerie and perfume.
Vexing: Nothing new. This revolves around the simple fact there isn't customer service in France. The French would agree with me here and would pride themselves on that fact. No need for the capitalist customer to decide how an employee should do her job. OK. Fair enough. Fresh, new perspective, right? Except when you want buy and return something at a large store like BHV. Simplicity become complexity.
I wanted to buy some paper products (because, yes, BHV has a huge arts section as well). I chose my paper and approached the cashier. Nope. Apparently there was a "paper counter" I had to go see first, who would quantify and package my paper products before they could be purchased. Over to paper lady. She was busy. I mean, really busy. She had four other paper orders before mine to fit into plastic BHV bags - I mean, her task was, as it seemed, overwhelming. After a long wait, during which my eyes were opened so wide that they started to hurt - I was shocked that she would be so staunchly inefficient without even a glance in my direction - paper lady eventually gave in, counted my paper and gave me a ticket to take to the register. There was that.
Later on in the day, I realized I had purchased the wrong size paper for the project. Oh, no - I really thought to myself, BHV twice in one day with a return involved. This spells trouble. To the register. I present my receipt and explain that I just need to exchange the paper bought earlier for a different size.
"This is becoming complicated," the dear cashier-ist pronounces.
"On the contrary, this is very simple," I retort, trying to just keep it cool, bracing for what is next.
"But, no, Madame. You see, you have to go back to the original person who checked you out," she clarifies.
"You have to find the cashier who performed your original transaction."
"I don't even understand how that is possible. I don't know the people who work at BHV," I am lost. What is she talking about?
"Well, let's see. Here is her name on your receipt. Adeline," she says.
"Who is Adeline? Where is Adeline? What does Adeline have to do with my exchange? This is not personal," I try to reason with her.
"Let me get my manager."
...10 minutes later...
Manager appears and these words float out of her mouth as a definitive statement: "Adeline is on her lunch break."
How are we still discussing Adeline? "OK, but I still do not understand her role in this. All I need is an exchange for something I purchased this morning."
"Right, and Adeline was your cashier," she insists.
I concede, hoping she will move on: "Yes, Adeline was my cashier." It comes out like a confession.
"So, what do you need?" she asks.
"I just need to return this paper for paper of a different size," I say, losing hope that it will happen.
"Ehh, uhh, well I will need to void the earlier transaction and charge you for everything again. Yes, I will need to cancel the entire transaction from this morning and start all over again, since Adeline is at lunch. "
That is a non-sequitur. A real customer service logical fallacy.
"Whatever you need to do is fine," I reply.
The worst thing was that even after she figured out how she would manage without Adeline, she insisted that I go back to the paper lady to sort out the sizes and then come back again after all of that. Through the mazes of aisles, to the paper lady, who has at least 7 pieces of paper to put in 7 different bags this time, waiting waiting, and then I have to explain the mess to her. And all I could think of was, Where is Adeline when I need her?