Wednesday, May 10, 2006

vivi vs. la poste

It has now been six months since we moved to our little village, and I can say that we've settled into a comfortable routine here. Just about everything we need can be found here, with two grocery stores, a handful of restaurants, a couple of appliance stores and a shoe store and plenty of doctors' offices. I haven't had any problems at all dealing with the locals in any transactions, except for one: La Poste.

Now, first of all, I should say that the French Post Office does in fact offer many more services than its American counterpart. Not only does it perform all of the duties you'd expect from a post office, but it also serves as a bank, for many years offering checking and savings accounts, and since the beginning of this year, becoming a full-fledged bank with the ability to offer financing. Anyone who can handle all these intricate details certainly has my respect, and I can even report that, in our local post office back in Troyes, they even had service with a smile, and I never had a problem there.

And then we moved to Our Little Village.

This post is a bit long, so if you'd like to continue, please click "Tell Me More!"

The first time I went to buy a few stamps, I'd forgotten that the stamps cost 53 centimes each.

Me: "I'd like four 50 cent stamps, please."

Stamp Lady: "Are they for something special?"

Me: "Er.. no... just the regular stamps."

Stamp Lady: (as though she were talking to a small child) "Do you mean the 53 cent stamps?"

Me: (feeling rather like a small child) "Yes, please."

(Insert long diatribe from Stamp Lady about the cost of stamps.)

So I hurriedly left that place with my face burning red, but at least I had the stamps I needed.

The latest drama with the local post has been regarding having our mail forwarded from our former address. In France, you have to pay for the privilege to the tune of something around twenty euros, and it's only good for six months. However, you have the option to renew the contract for a further six months for free.

Since our contract started on November 4, we assumed the contract would end on May 4, so during the last week of April I took our copy of the contract and went to the post office. This time I was spared from having to talk to Stamp Lady, but I met her counterpart, Clueless Lady.

I showed her the contract and said that it seemed that it would end in a week or so and we would like to renew. She took a close look at the date on the contract and said, "I'm sorry, but in my opinion it's too close the end of the contract. It takes around ten days for the contract to be renewed, so if there's a pause the renewal won't work. Besides, you'd have to go to Troyes to renew it anyway."

Well I thanked her and went home, and then Steph and I started to worry that we weren't going to get our tax forms** (which are mailed out during May) and we'd have to pay a late fee. Just when we were wondering what to do next, we received another forwarded piece of mail. I took a closer look at the label and noticed that the first contract doesn't expire until the end of May, meaning our tax worries are resolved!

When I showed it to Steph at lunch yesterday, he realized that we could renew the contract anyway. This made him rather suspicious (shouldn't Clueless Lady have known that it wouldn't be over until the end of the month?) so we looked at the fine print on the back of the original contract. Turns out that not only does the contract run until the end of the sixth month, no matter on which date it started, but contracts can be renewed at the new post office! So, armed with the envelope and the contract, I went back to the office yesterday afternoon.

First, I had to talk to Stamp Lady and explain to her that I wanted to renew the contract. She went one step better than Clueless Lady and at least gave me the form to fill out (yep - exact same information, another piece of paper. I HEART bureaucracy!). After I filled it out, I got back in line (I suppose I could have gone back to Stamp Lady but there was a woman about seven months pregnant in line) and then ended up with Clueless Lady. First I explained that Stamp Lady had my first contract and then I gave her the new form and the envelope, showing her where it didn't expire until the end of the month.

"Yes, but you'll still have to go to Troyes to renew," she said, rather smugly.

"Oh, no I don't," I replied, trying desperately to keep the "Ha! How you like THAT, bizatch!" tone out of my voice.

"EH?" she replied, in wonder.

"Yes, my husband found on the back of the contract that we can do it here. If you turn over the paper, you can see where he marked it."

Clueless Lady stared at the forms in a state of shock, never bothering to look on the back of the first contract, but finally just stamped the second form, gave me my copy, and I wished her a nice afternoon and I walked out the door.

When I relayed the story to Steph last night with glee, his reaction was, "I hate rednecks like that, (yes, he said "rednecks," I have taught him well!) who think that if you don't speak the language you must be silly (read silly: an idiot)!" Man, if only I had a nickel for everytime I heard a story like that in America....

**You might be thinking, well why didn't you change your address with the tax office when you moved? Well, when we moved here, Steph made a visit to the tax office, and they told him to wait until we received the tax papers, and change it then, so we really didn't have a choice.

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