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The (Lack of) French Ambition

Time and time again my partner and I are reminded of the roots of the French culture here in Montreal, and their appalling customer service.

This is not a bad or good thing (there are good points to their lack of ambition) but as a consumer it is FRUSTRATING.

It is particularly galling when you put it into contrast against American customer service. Everyone we have met (who has lived abroad) who visits, lives or has worked with the U.S., tends to simply rave about the customer service.

A French friend the other day recently said to my partner in wonder:

These Americans are amazing. Did I tell you what they did when I wanted to return something and complain?

They THANKED ME and HAPPILY refunded my cash.

WTF. This is like another world. They’re on another level.


It is one of their greatest assets and I’m always amazed at how far they will go to make you, their customer, feel welcome, happy, taken care of and to keep your business.

I have also worked with Americans and all the service reps have been pretty much across the board, the same way — totally focused on delivering the best service they can to their customers, no matter the business, industry, or amount of money.

Now, I am NOT saying that NO ONE but the Americans can do this but it is not as prevalent or as overwhelmingly consistent as it is with them.

It is something in their culture.

The bottom line?

Americans want your money in their pocket, and they are willing to hustle for it.

That is truly admirable in a way.


Just recently, I asked for a quote on something. It has been THREE WEEKS and the store has not gotten back to me, acknowledged my questions, NADA.

I emailed at least 3 more times.

Puzzled, I wondered if my emails back to them got lost or stuck in their spam folder.

I then proceed to go in person, ask lots of questions, in detail, for a quote. I get a range from $175 to $800 before taxes depending on what I want.

I go back home, we discuss, and my partner and I decide on the most expensive option. We don’t want to cheap out on something that should last forever to pass down onto Little Bun.

Fine. Great. Good.

So, I email them my detailed specifications and notes, saying I want a final quote, this is what I want, give me the price.

And I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Then I think: “I should call”, so I do.

She tells me: “Oh, I’ve received your messages, yes but I’m not the one who should reply to them, it is another woman who will do that.

Flummoxed, I said: “Okay……..”, wondering all the while why she didn’t at least REPLY BACK and tell me that.

I mean… this is a dance we have been doing for almost a month now.

My business is almost $1000. I want more details and notes, and I just want to get the process started.

It is like they DO NOT WANT MY MONEY.

I’m totally, utterly baffled.

I also mention that while I was asking for the quotes on things, she kept shooing me away from the most expensive option saying things like:

  • No one ever takes that option
  • I would say we have only gotten less than 1% of people who want to pay that price
  • It is really too expensive, ignore this example
  • Don’t look at this one

She was so reluctant to quote me a price, give me info on “the most expensive” option, that I wanted to tell her: “Let me decide on my own. I’m the customer here. Don’t assume I don’t want to pay and don’t have the money.

My partner, upon hearing this, bursts out laughing, and says: “I TOLD YOU. French people are some of the effing WORST PEOPLE for business and customer service.

He went through the same thing for something else quite recently, and he KNOWS what I am talking about.

They did the same shooing song & dance “oh this is too expensive“, “take this cheaper option“, “let’s look at some affordable options“…. instead of showing you THE BEST and then letting you decide.


Well, from what he has observed in general about the culture:


Who doesn’t?

For them, I’m trouble (my partner says).

I want details, assurances and RIGHTLY SO, because I’m about to drop a thousand bucks on this.

You better deliver, and I don’t actually see anything wrong with what I’m asking.

I’m, as they have said, the 1% of people who have actually wanted something like this. Most people go for the cheapest options.

Well I’m not most people and if you have business from someone who wants to pay, then take the goddamn money.


A customer, is a one-time thing for them. They’ve gotten your money, now EFF OFF.

The idea that you could come back? LOLZ.

Or tell other people how good they are, and recommend them? ALL THE LOLZ.


They.. really don’t. This is the good thing about the culture.

They’re not chasing the next buck, avoiding vacations, refusing to take a break, working until their eyes pop out.

They enjoy life, they take it easy, and these are all GOOD THINGS.

But… it sure sucks when you want something.


Oh yeah. You’re right.

Francophone Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault, owner of LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE) who also owns Sephora, is considered by many to be “American”-style.

He’s kind of the exception, not the rule.

*shakes my head*… in the meantime, I will see if anyone else wants my business.


  • Rafael

    I’m Brazilian and I was also very satisfied with American customer service when I was living there.
    I remember I lost my wallet with my credit card in a trip from DC to New York and I went to the bank (in New York) to request a new card. When the lady asked for my address (I was living in California) she told me it would take 15 days for the card and then asked something I couldn’t believe: “if you need the card now I can print one for you right now”. I almost kissed the woman.
    Now, back to Brazil, I’m waiting for a new credit card (because the previous one expired) for 2 months. I made a new request two weeks ago and they said it would take up to 30 days for the card to arrive…

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    My family’s culture is this way too! But it’s less lazy and more know it all. You can order precisely what you want with all the details and they will do whatever the eff they want instead. Even my most kind and tolerant friends familiar with the culture got fed up with it by the time we were 21 and said forget it! They only want to do things their way which isn’t what the customer wants so they don’t get my money!

    I will never understand that about my people. My brother was that guy too. No wonder we hated each other 😝

  • Sense

    Ugh–New Zealand, too. Coming from the US, it was a shock to get such TERRIBLE customer service. Nearly 10 years later, I still can’t believe how terrible it is sometimes. I think it is the attitudes that bother me the most, like, how dare you ask me to DO MY JOB?!

    /rant 😛

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