The French post office is a necessary part of life if you ever want to mail anything. Sometimes it’s fun. Usually it’s pretty pain free. A long line, sticker shock, and employees who don’t know the policies are nothing to bat an eye at. I smile. I meditate with my eyes open. I am patient. But I have my limits. Silly me, trying to save a few centimes, went online to take advantage of their discount for buying postage on their website.
Long story short, I’m out 70 euros with no stamps in sight. La Poste’s customer service department was as helpful as you’d expect. I need to rant.
A fine example of customer service in France… NOT!
I’m always quick to point out that you can have both good and bad customer service experiences anywhere in the world.
There are plenty of companies in the USA that are not customer friendly just like there are many in France who go out of their way to prioritize their customers’ needs. Generally speaking, you will find more companies in the US that are aimed at providing a positive customer service experience than you will in France. US companies go out of their way to do what the customer wants — sometimes to the extreme. In France, policies tend to be more rigid (think no returns without a receipt, product must be brand new in box, so forget about returning makeup that gave you a rash, etc.). I wrote more about customer service in France here.
This sort of thing can happen anywhere, so I’m not ragging on France. I’m ragging on La Poste’s online e-commerce portal and then my subsequent customer service debacle. There are SO many things they could have done better.
Let me take you on a quick tour of my customer service encounters in France that come to mind:
Trying to return a glass coffee pot that was damaged in transit
Grade: D — I called Amazon France after delivery and they wouldn’t take the broken carafe back, ship me a new one, or refund me. While I could have contacted the brand directly, it would have required a ton of back and forth including a trip to the post office and me paying to ship the broken carafe to them. Amazon could have just refunded me or sent me a new one and had someone on their team contact the manufacturer. But that’s not what happened.
Called customer service about free samples I never received with my online order
Grade: A — The woman I spoke with said there was no free sample code entered online when I ordered although I swore I did, but no worries because she mailed me a bunch of samples that day. NICE!
Bought the wrong flavor yogurt 5 minutes prior to speaking with someone (time stamp on receipt) and being told that once I’m in the self-checkout area, I cannot run back to the yogurt section of the store to switch my yogurt (even though I hadn’t yet purchased it).
Grade: C — Quoi? I can’t put yogurt back that I had in my cart? NOPE, apparently not. once I was in the self-checkout area, I was not allowed to leave and was forced to pay for something I didn’t want. Then I realized you cannot exchange yogurt even though the woman saw me buy it 30 seconds earlier when I realized I got the wrong flavor and wanted to exchange it BEFORE I had even started the checkout process. WTF.
I could go on with both good and bad customer service experiences in France but I’ll stop there since that’s not the focus of this post.
Let’s get to today’s story
I’m a reasonable person. I know people are just following policy and are just doing the best they can. But as I said, I have my limits when their resolution is so wildly out of line with what would be considered normal and fair.
This whole mess started when I purchased postage from La Poste’s website.
It’s a few cents cheaper and I assumed it would be easier than going to the post office. Well, you know what they say when you assume…
I wasn’t entirely sure if I was ordering postage online to print at home or if I was ordering postage stickers that would come to me in the mail. Either way was fine — same price and easy enough to print. I clicked what I wanted, put it in my cart, entered my CC number and the order went through.
Boom. Done. Easy.
I got a confirmation email saying I bought some online stamps (still not clear if they were to be printed at home or if they were shipped).
At this point, let me note there was no link on their site during checkout or at any point after which said anything remotely close to “CLICK HERE TO PRINT” or “DO IT WITHIN 7 DAYS OR YOU LOSE THE OPTION AND YOUR MONEY HAHAAHHA BECAUSE WE’RE EVIL.” Nothing. At. All.
So one would reasonably think that the confirmation email would include instructions, right, especially if there was a strict timeline?
Just to let the customer know how to proceed — either wait for stamps in their mailbox or attach instructions or a PDF for them to print, right? RIGHT?
NOPE. Nothing like that.
Here’s the only email I got from them below:
So I waited several days and got a little suspicious to see if maybe I missed a shipping confirmation email or something. I flicked through my inbox and nothing. I confirmed that the charge hit my card and that I did indeed receive a confirmation email that I had placed an order (above).
Again, nowhere on that email — the only one I received from them — does it say to click to print nor is there an PDF attachment with my file. I will note that they had me enter my shipping address (not just billing) at checkout.
At this point, I email customer service to help clarify what I bought and access the postage. I had a feeling I bought stamps I was supposed to print at home but I couldn’t figure out how to access them.
They take their sweet time replying and tell me very matter of factly that nothing will be arriving in the mail because I was supposed to click some link to generate a file to print at home during checkout (must have been tiny because I saw nothing)
BUT, and here’s the fun part, because it wasn’t done within 7 days from the date of order (remember they took several days to reply to my inquiry email), that the function to print is no longer available, and they can’t refund me.
They admitted that they see I never downloaded my stamps.
SAY WHAT NOW???
Are you kidding me? This has to be a joke.
Does that make any sense at all?
I bought something that is valid for whenever (not for use on a specific date like concert tickets or anything like that), paid 73 euros for it, and because I didn’t print the file online within 7 days (not clearly stated anywhere), I no longer can?
And they can’t refund me???
A refund had to be done within 9 days.
I was fuming. I wrote back and asked to have the case escalated. I’d like a refund, I said, if I’m not able to print my stamps at this point. But if it’s easier I’d still like access to my stamps.
Nope to both.
Four days later I get a reply basically saying sorry, ce n’est pas possible. Of course it isn’t.
Here’s what La Poste could have done better:
- In the confirmation email they sent after I ordered, they could have included a link or PDF doc or something explaining how I should redeem my purchase. In my opinion, it’s better to give more info than needed instead of too little. If they wanted to be extra generous, maybe put in bold that it should be done within 7 days or else. There was nothing like that. The only correspondence I got was an email showing what I ordered and the price, as I showed you above.
- On the 7 or 8th day, if their system shows nothing has been redeemed, send a reminder email to the client to take action before their brilliant 7-day deadline. They never sent anything.
- If the client emails them confused, reply in a timely manner and try to work with them. Reset the download link so they can print what they ordered. These weren’t custom stamps or anything that couldn’t be replicated on their end.
- If their system is so ancient that they can’t regenerate a link due to technical limitations, refund the customer. It’s not like I bought concert tickets and then forgot to go on the night of the show. These are STAMPS!
Moral of the story? Just go to the dang post office in person. 😉
Ever had a frustrating customer service experience like this?