We are in the process of buying an apartment in the French Alps, and in anticipation of getting the keys sometime in late February I visited an outlet of one of France’s largest bed suppliers. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello, I’ve chosen two very nice beds for a total of 3,000 Euro and I would like to place the order right now. But can they be delivered in 3 weeks?
Salesman: 3 weeks?! Merde, that is too short! We don’t have the stock!
Me: Okay. So when?
Salesman: I don’t know. Maybe 5 or 8 weeks.
Me: Okay. Not ideal, but this is France and not the USA, so I guess I’ll just have to wait. So, see that bed there? Two of them, please.
Salesman: Oh, that one? Oh, that is an extra delay. We have problems getting that one.
Salesman: I don’t know…we would need to see. It is complicated.
Me: Okay, whatever. Complicated. As is everything here, it seems. So can we at least agree that it can be delivered on a certain date once we know it is available?
Salesman: Sure, yes.
Me: On a Saturday?
Salesman: Mais, merde, non! C’est compliqué! We have the transporter, and many deliveries, and you are not in Paris but a province, and….well, it’s complicated.
Me: So here I am with 3,000 Euros ready so spend *right now* on a product you have right there, and you can’t tell me when it will be delivered, you can’t deliver it on a Saturday, and everything is too complicated?
Salesman: Bienvenue en France, m’sieur.
To be fair, the salesman looked about two stages away from full-on suicide, and I did feel sorry for him. And I did place the order, because there was a sale on and anywhere else would have given me the same story as it was exactly the same when I bought a sofa last spring. On that occasion I ended up buying the one in the shop in order to avoid a 12 week wait. Only you must pay the full amount up-front, naturellement.
The bed salesman called me back a couple of days later. He surprised me by telling me they’d managed to find some in stock (seriously, this nationwide company is unable to check stock in real time from its sales outlets; they need to send a special request and wait a day or two) and could deliver them whenever I wanted. But only on Mondays or Wednesdays. Why only those days? Because “you don’t live near Paris” and “the transporter needs to do other deliveries” and “it’s complicated”. Bienvenue en France, indeed.
I am comforted by the knowledge that it would be no different in the UK.