I Can't Get It Right Since I Met You
I like to say that in France I am a walking Murphy's Law. Everything bad that can happen, does happen to me. I've since learned that I'm not the only one. Thankfully I am apart of a woman's group that has thousands of other expats who all have similar stories. I don't know if it's because we're in a place where we can't communicate the way we usually would, or if the French really set out to make life as miserable and as hard as possible, but here's such a story.
I mentioned on another post all of the places you can furnish your apartment, but once you purchase that furniture there is a very dark side indeed. I found a rental in, not my favorite neighborhood per se, but the one I feel most comfortable in. That neighborhood is Gros Caillou. I've worked here for years, I've lived on Saint Dominique and Valadon, I suppose that it's a safe choice. I know it well, and I know what to expect. It's also one of the more expensive ones, so housing can be pricier than other areas of Paris. But it's valued for a reason.
My rental was technically non-meuble, but my landlord got around that by having a wardrobe and bed, in effect making it ‘meuble’, and meaning he could ask for two month's rent as a deposit (non-meuble can only legally ask for one). As it was basically empty, I had to furnish it.
I didn't necessarily mind. I loved the idea of making it my own. However I soon realized that non-meuble is the worst for a reason.
I had purchased a sofa before, when I lived on Valadon. I made the purchase through Conforama, which is a big company in France. The delivery people delivered it to my living room, despite me not having an elevator, and I had no issues. Lucky first try I guess.
This time I went to Maisons du Monde. They're a little trendy so you question whether the furniture will be outdated in 2-3 years, but the price was good (not great), and I thought they were a big enough company that if I had an issue there would be a sense of security.
You see, after so many years of being fucked over I've gotten used to the idea of being suspicious of everything. Something always goes wrong. In France you must always have a plan b and a plan c, and this time I didn't because my previous experience was fine.
I purchased my canape and waited for a delivery window. After I made the purchase I was told it could be between 1-2 weeks. I was offered one option for delivery, and I made sure to check and recheck that the option included "delivery to your room". Imagine my surprise when I got a link from Mobifret, the company doing the delivery, that it was early, and I would get it on a Saturday. I was so happy. I had this big giant empty room and finally there would be something in it.
When Saturday rolled around I got 4 calls telling me my delivery was on the way. My window was 12-3p but it was 11a. They blew up my phone so much I got angry and was in a pretty bad mood (insomnia will do that). They showed up and they kept ringing my interphone. I had already let them in, I had let them in again, and by the 4th ring I decided to just go down and see what their issue was.
When I got down to the ground floor I saw the box and I saw the two men. Actually one man and a boy. I guess he had brought his son? The box was placed on the stairs and they were standing on the outside telling me no. The box was heavy, so I understood they didn't want to carry it. But also you're men? I asked them if they could open the box and take it out piece by piece. They couldn't understand so they got their manager, or someone, on the phone. The man proceeded to tell me they can't deliver it and if I wanted it I would need to pay 150€ to have it delivered through my window.
In Paris that is a thing. Because stairways are narrow, and elevators are small, a lot of the time you will see people moving boxes and furniture out of their windows. However I was not happy with the added fee (I had already paid for delivery), and I asked why they couldn't just take the couch out of the box and take it up piece by piece. The man asked me to give the phone back to the delivery man. They exchanged some words, and the delivery man refused. To be fair I could tell that this guy was really lazy. He came all dressed up like he wasn't spending his Saturday delivering furniture. I could tell he was going to be an asshole.
So he refused. He dragged the box into my buildings entrance, left it there, and walked off. He really threw a tantrum like he was the one having to schlep it and not me. I had to push it back into my building and leave it on the ground floor, hoping no one would get angry (my ground floor isn't big).
I opened the box, and tried to figure out what I could take myself. I'm not made of glass, I can usually fend for myself, and if I have to I will do what needs to be done. I figured fuck it, I'll do it myself.
I proceeded to survey the contents and realized that I couldn't move it. It would need two people at least and there was no way. While I was standing there, on two days of no sleep, anger and frustration unable to be held in any longer, two (male) neighbors walked past me. One was like whatever, the other just stared. No 'can I help?', nothing.
At that point I had no idea what to do. I couldn't move it. The box couldn't stay in the communal area. I felt out of options.
My first phone call was to my agent. When I rented my apartment I had a lot of trouble finding a place, but my agent went to bat for me. He pushed for the owner to accept my application. When I moved in he called EDF and the insurance company to set it all up for me. He's the most un-Frenchman I've ever met. He is that helpful.
Unfortunately he wasn't in town, and would not be able to come by until the next day. He did offer though, and called me the next day to make sure I didn't still need help, which was kind. He then told me that it would be okay for the box to stay there, I just needed to leave a note. He then wrote out what the note needed to say.
Next I went to my women's group to ask them if they knew what I could do. My first thought was to find movers. But it was a Saturday and nothing works on the weekends. I knew that would be a huge problem.
After posting my story other women then came out with their own horror stories. Most agreed that IKEA was the only reputable company that could be trusted, but some had issues with them too. One said they put a mirror inside their elevator, hit 7, and the delivery guy booked it. It arrived broken. Another woman said she had delivery men turn up from another company. They never took the couch off the truck, refused to deliver it, and then wouldn’t refund her because they said it had been delivered. Another said that she had a bed delivered (different store), the delivery men refused to take it inside, she offered them 100€, they refused, and left it on the street. In center Paris. She was alone and no one could help her. She had to leave it there. Most were shocked that it happened at all. Knowing that I was not alone went a long way in making me feel better.
Next I tried to call Maisons du Monde. I couldn't get any help through phone. I tried to email them, no email. I messaged them on Facebook previously when I asked about their return policy (after all I ordered this without seeing it in person), they had never replied. They only list Facebook in their footer. I realized if they can just leave this on the floor of my building, having them pick it up would be out of the question.
Next I called Bank of America. If the expats were shocked, Bank of America was speechless. They initiated a chargeback, but not without a lot of questions. They could not believe something like that had happened. Because it would NEVER happen in America. If this was America a nice man walking by would have said I'll move it for you. Men in America just don't do this. I don't think it's in them to refuse a woman. They see a female in distress and their Americaness kicks in "must. help. her.". It made me really miss American men.
Eventually I was able to find a man to help me. We carried it up my 3 flights, and the whole time I thought "wow, two men couldn't do this?". Me and a man in his 60's could, but the company I paid couldn't?
Later on I was introduced to a service. It's called Lulu Dans Ma Rue. It's offered by the city, or in partnership with the city, something with the city. They do little things like cleaning, moving furniture, they even had the option "big strong arms". I signed up online, gave them my information and they contacted me back within an hour. They were a bit pricey (40 an hour per person and I needed two), but in a pinch I wish I had heard of them sooner. Since I had contacted the man who eventually helped me first, I stayed with him (I am if not loyal).
Will I ever order from Maison du Monde again? Hell no. And worse I hate the color of the couch. It looks nothing like the more expensive one from Habitat. But as this thing was a nightmare to get in this apartment, it can rot in here. I don't even plan on taking it when I leave. They'll probably have to take a sledgehammer to it.
If you ever find yourself in such a predicament know that you're not alone. The overwhelming consensus to my tale was "Welcome to France". Because this is really the kind of shit you have to deal with. It is their way. You cannot fight it. You just have to deal with feeling demoralized, beaten, and having your spirit crushed if you plan to live here. They're nothing if not sadists. And me? Well I have the annoying habit of getting back up when someone beats me down. I never give in. I'm stubborn like that.