Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bad customer services in SNCF (train station)

So far I haven't been experienced very bad customer services in France despite everyone telling me that they just don't exist.

Yesterday I met a very bad sales representative in the train station. I almost cried and was so upset for the whole journey home. It has been a long time I had not been so emotional.

So, I needed to go to the train station as they don't sell train ticket involving international destinations online. I was directed to this guy, who handles all international transactions. There are a lot of places we want to go so he had to check out the time table, the prices and the best deals for me. It was very good of him. Ended up I didn't buy any bcos the quotation was closed to 3k euros (yes, 10 of us are traveling). I needed to take time to think about it.

After one day of discussion with my family, I decided to take some of his deals. I went to see him again, but this time the prices increased. Since it involves 10 people, I couldn't decide on the spot. And his reactions:

Him: "You know, my boss is not going to be happy, you came in yesterday and today blocking my time and buy nothing."

(The fact was nobody was waiting behind me)

Him telling his colleague in front of me: "This woman is just wasting my time. Yesterday for one hour and today again. "

(I don't think we spent 1 hour on the first day and it was only 15 minutes on the second day. Plus, it was his system who slowed him down as he has to redo the checking sometimes due to system failure.)

Him:"You know you can't do this. You don't come in asking and asking and buy nothing. We are not a travel agent." (I don't remember what exactly he said but he literally meant that if I ever came in the third day, I should buy something else he won't entertain me).

I don't know why but the fact that he was speaking in French make it 10 times worst and upset me even more. I kept saying I'm sorry and just left while still hearing his complaints to everyone.

But, I want to thank him today. Because of his bad attitude, I gave up traveling by train. Instead, I found good deals with the budget airlines, saved lots of time and money. Since I'm living in France and the budget airlines is limited to very few destinations, I didn't know that one can travel so cheaply in Europe. For example, From Rome to Milan only cost 35 euros and traveling time is 90 minutes.

However, I couldn't find any budget airlines linking Milan with Geneva. So I might need to go to see him again. Anyone knows of any other way to travel from Milan to Geneva?


  1. Hi! not sure you do tags, just to inform you that I tagged you today!

  2. Oh dear - if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you should never apologize, that just makes them feel like they can yell at you more. You need to yell back (just a little bit) and then they back off and actually help you.

    And I doubt this will help at all, but Air Berlin does Milan-Zurich for pretty cheap.

    I often use to find low-cost fliths.

  3. I think that man was just being mean. That is no way to treat a customer. I wonder if he is being paid commissions because if he is, that must be one of the causes for his annoyance... and it is NOT your fault. You are enquiring for 10 people. Surely he can understand you cannot make a decision for 10 until you have discussed it.

    In any case, I looked around a bit for you and I too could not find a budget airline linking Milan to Geneva. Have you thought about a bus trip? I understand that bus will take a little longer but it is an option. How about getting a travel agent to arrange your connection between Milan and Geneva? They too have special deals with trains.

  4. Anonymous10:21 PM

    maybe try to book the train tickets online?

  5. Samantha,

    I have never yell at people before, do you mean I need to learn to stop being polite and be nasty like the French? :-)

    I have been trying to get bus schedule but I couldn't find any. Thanks for checking out for the budget airlines.

    I have been to the Italian train site but they don't allow me to buy the ticket, maybe bcos Geneva is outside of Italy.

  6. Bee Ean,

    You do not have to yell to anyone but you don't have to say sorry in your case.
    You do not need to be aggressive but you need to be appropriate assertive.

    I suggest you to write a letter to the train station department write down your incident and cc a copy to the train station manager.

    You can remain Anonymous.

    State fact but not emotion :

    Eg of letter :

    Date :
    Time :
    Section of department :
    Personnel handle the case:
    Issues of complaint :

    From reading my blog, this is not the 1st times you have unpleasant customer service in France. It is not a very customer friendly environment, it seems.

    1. the bank personnel
    2. the person who you deal with your apartment
    and many others I could not remember.

    This is a typical immigrant experience. You should no longer practice our Asian non confrontation kind of culture anymore in Western nation.

    When you keep quiet or apology, they think you are stupid and dump ! But, if you speak out your mind, they SHUT UP !!!

    Girl, stand up for yourself !!!!

  7. I think you'll bump into rude people wherever you go, especially when you fail to catch the intricate way another culture likes to run things. The question then becomes - How would you deal with it? If you're a non-confrontational person, then, don't be confrontational. For an assertive person, it would be almost natural to yell back or start an argument. For someone else, perhaps a single "Thank you for all your help" may turn out to be more of a disarming comment than speaking against that person.

    People will always be the way they are, and most of the time, they won't see how horrible that could be to the person receiving that treatment. Part of being you could be not reciprocating that treatment. I think you did right, Bee. And I admire you for not stooping as low as the French ticket counter fella.

  8. Anonymous12:04 PM

    I can't understand how some people can be nasty. I can understand why you were emotional - having someone be rude to you in French and when you're still struggling with the language, it's really hard to be assertive and rude back. I always used to get so mad when someone was rude to me, then when I went away, I always thought of 100 things that I should have or could have said. Then after a while, I learnt to talk back too - though sometimes I don't know if that's a good thing because it makes you snappy and grumpy and brings you down to their level.

    But hey, on the bright side, you found some better deals!

    Try - they fly out of Orly and go to both Milan and Geneva. If you buy tickets early, they're cheap.

    I also use

  9. Anonymous12:05 PM

    Oh, and the other thing is that you might be able to buy a Eurail/Europass train pass - though that tends to be expensive.

  10. Jamy,

    The experiences with the bank, landlord and the agent, they don't humiliate me, but rather they charged us or lied, and most of the time it was my husband who deal with them.

    In this case, I was badly hurt bcos I was alone and the guy was humiliating me in front of everybody. Words hurt most I guess.

    I will consider sending a letter, but according to the French this is normal, so I don't know whether it's going to be useful.

    Thanks Cirnelle,
    If I want to live in this country, I need to think of a way, to not be bullied, but not rude at the same time. I should think about a polite way to let him know how I feel.

    Thanks for the sites. I did buy 2 trips with easyjet and expedia flying between France and Italy. At this point the itinerary is fixed and all the tickets are bought, except the Milan Geneva leg.

  11. Anonymous4:11 PM

    It is normal to be intimidated when you are a foreigner in a foreign land. Don't be despair. If you think you have been treated badly, you should lodge a complaint. Rude people do not deserve to be serving customers at the counter. It is bad for the company and to the customers.

  12. Anonymous6:30 PM

    What an absolute jackass. I was going to mention never deferring to people like this by apologizing, but Sam already mentioned it...

  13. BEE, Cirnelle and colorcrazy,

    It is possible to be assertive and yet not rude ? I think it is possible.

    You won't believe I was send to a 'appropriate assertivenss class' here because I have the problem to say 'No'. Ya, and this Kuanhoong said I am a strong woman :).

    I have a coworker who is from India but lived here for many yrs, he is also a Buddhist monk (ordained by his temple gp). He is the kindest person you would ever meet but he is very assertives.

    We used to joke to him in our lunch room that when he is rude to our customers (in our case patients), they did not even realized it cos he is always so subtle ! and he only gives with choice 1 or 2 :):), both works to his advantage :)-.

    This America culture taught me a lot of thing. I have to relate this incidence to you girls and Cirnelle might come up with some funny jokes here :)-.

    One day, a coworker said infront of my face that my scrubs (our uniform) was so crumble , do I ever iron my clothes and she offer to come to my house to iron for me. I was a bit hurt that she said so loud among all the people. I smiled and said ok, you come next week :)-.

    One day while working on a new assignment on a new hospital. I overheard a conversation. Woman A said to woman B : Gee, don't you ever iron your clothes, they are full of wrinkle. Woman B said Ya, don't they remind you of the wrinkles of your face ?

    I thought what a mean answer to a mean question ! I would never come up with that :):):).

    Do you think that is assertive or just plan rude culture ?