Don’t you just hate cold sales calls? You drop what you’re doing – normally on your foot – and rush to answer the phone only to find that it’s someone trying to sell you something that you have absolutely no intention of buying. This drove us mad in England; it’s no different in France.
All these calls have several infuriating features in common:
- They always come just as you’ve sat down to eat.
- Quite often, there’s no one at the other end since they call a range of numbers at once and speak to those who answer first.
- If there is someone, they speak so fast that you don’t catch up until they’re onto their 4th sentence and you completely miss the name of the company.
- They don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes you have to resort to putting the phone down to get rid of them.
There are certain times of year when increased numbers of cold calls are guaranteed. La rentrée – September back to work/school time – is the prime one. Then you are inundated with calls to buy double glazing or heating systems and have your house inspected for termites or other pests.
Living in a hard water area, we also get frequent calls from companies trying to sell water softeners. They don’t come straight out and ask if you’ve already got one. They start by saying, “We’re doing a survey in your region. Have you noticed how hard the water is in your area?” Knowing what’s coming, I always stop them there and say, “Yes, we have noticed and for that reason we already have a water softener.”
I do feel sorry for the people who have to do this for a living. I try not to be rude to them unless they are particularly insistent or bothersome. However, they themselves can be pretty rude. On one occasion, I explained politely to a woman that I really didn’t want to buy toiletries over the phone. She said, “You’ve really kept your English accent.” I put the phone down. On another occasion, someone conducting a survey told the SF, after he had admitted that he was a foreigner, that his French wouldn’t be good enough to continue! After all, he’s only lived in France for a total of 18 years.
The main point of all this, though, is that we shouldn’t be receiving this type of call at all. We have put our number on la liste orange with France Telecom. This means that a mark appears next to it in the phone directory, indicating that you don’t want to receive cold calls. It makes no difference. I have tried telling cold callers that we are on la liste orange. Some of them don’t even know what it is while others say we should take it up with France Telecom.
**2020 UPDATE: the Pacitel scheme described below no longer seems to work, if it ever did. But the French government has recently passed legislation to try to restrict the number of such calls. In particular, it’s now illegal for companies offering to insulate your home under the current government assistance scheme to make cold calls. Time will tell if this is effective or not. END OF UPDATE **
Help might be at hand. You can register your French number – fixed line or mobile – on a new website, Pacitel, to avoid getting these calls. Pacitel describes itself as:
Une liste regroupant les numéros de téléphone fixes et mobiles des consommateurs qui ne souhaitent plus être démarchés téléphoniquement par les entreprises dont ils ne sont pas clients.
In other words, a list of fixed and mobile lines of those people who don’t want to be approached by phone by companies of which they are not customers.
Fortunately, we don’t get much in the way of personal visits. Occasionally, though, Jehovah’s Witnesses find the way out to us. Once, I thought I was being really clever. They always come in pairs and normally carry briefcases. I had already marked these two down as JWs. They advanced and spoke in French. I said, in the most appalling accent I could muster up, “Je ne parle le français.”
“Oh, that’s OK,” said the man. “I speak English.”
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