Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End

Here's a little story about just how annoying France is.

I have a 'French' rental. That means I pay building fees, my lease contract has flood plans and building history, and I have an apartment with no utilities included. It's so legit that if I take it to the Prefecture my application passes muster because I rent just like any other French person (flood plans!). But utilities not included means you gotta sign up for them.

I have Free Mobile as my cell service provider so naturally I went to Free first. It’s pretty well known that they are the cheapest carrier in France. Or they used to be.

Signing up is easy. With Free you can have service with or without an IBAN, but for without you will need to put down a 200€ deposit. I wasn't going to do that because I have Free and I know how shady they are, so I signed up for a European account at the easiest bank I could find. Obviously that's an internet bank. I have no plans to ever give up my American account. I then signed up for Free internet (separate from your mobile account), and was given an appointment three weeks from the day.

Three weeks is a long time to be without wifi. The day rolled around, and I was excited because internet is life. I eagerly waited for the tech to ring my interphone…

Well guess what, he never showed up. I messaged Free to ask them what happened. They didn't apologize, they didn't offer recompense. They told me I would just have to make another appointment. Like I didn't have to wait a thousand years for that one.

Being American I am not used to such shit service. I'm not used to being told 'tough shit' and companies taking no accountability. I am used to a company kissing my ass and doing everything in their power to make me happy. Since that wasn’t happening I put my money where my mouth is and told them to cancel the contract. They kept telling me I couldn't cancel it until I spoke with someone on the phone, but I reminded them that they voided the contract when they failed to show up for the appointment. They didn't care. I had to turn them down like 12 times before they finally let me out of the contract without a phone conversation (the phone call to woo me back I assume). 

I was away from Paris for a while, so I didn’t mind waiting until I got back to go with another carrier. During my time away I signed up for Bouygues. I know for a fact that Bouygues has English customer service because I used to have them. This might not be important to most people, but for me it is because if you ever need assistance you’re going to want someone who can help. And my last experience with Free illustrated that need more than ever. I knew it would be weeks before I got an appointment so I signed up while I was gone. I thought I was being smart by making the appointment for the day after my arrival.

Unfortunately the Bbox gets sent right away no matter how far out the appointment is. You need to be around to pick up the box at a Relais. This might be avoided if you pay the extra fee to have it sent to your home. I can’t remember if it was an option, but I wasn’t home so I didn’t want to attempt it. I contacted them to let them know I needed the box to be held longer than is usual (a week), and that's when they told me the box had been lost. They assured me three times that I would be sent another box in time for the appointment.

Well the appointment came around and guess what? Box was never sent. Tech never showed. Again no apology, nothing. So I decided to cancel their service and go somewhere else. If this is how they start a relationship it can only go downhill from there. Another reason it’s for the best? Bouygues charges 50€ to send a box to you, and 50€ to send it back to them when you end service. I didn’t know that. No other company charges that. By the way Bouygues is still sending me emails telling me to return the [lost] box 🙄 Yes, I have spoken to them to tell them. They tell me they know and it’s a mix up, but I keep getting notices. 

Next came Orange. I didn't actually sign up with Orange, I signed up for Sosh. The weird thing about these companies is that there is always a cheaper alternative under a different name You get B&You with Bouygues, Sosh with Orange, and Red by SFR. They're all no contract, and cheaper than going through the main, and you get the same service as their higher priced packages for less. France is weird.

Sosh was a little better. Their appointments were 2 weeks out, and because I didn't feel like going to an Orange store to pick up the equipment, they mailed the boxes to my house (it somehow fit in my mailbox). Usually you have to pay for this option, but I guess because I didn't request it during sign up, and instead asked a rep on Twitter, it was free. 

But guess what happened? Technician didn't show up for that appointment either. As per usual at this point right?

So I argued for about a week with Orange. I tried to get a new appointment, but they never gave me one. They kept telling me someone would contact me. The only reason I stayed arguing with them was because I had their boxes (they send 2) already sitting in my house. But they didn't care so what can you do? They even sent me a bill at one point. I wrote them back to let them know I would not be paying for something they never installed. These companies... 😡

Finally I went to Red by SFR. Their appointments were only a week out. After having 3 shitty companies fail to show, I was shocked when SFR actually showed up to their appointment. Granted they give you a 5 hour block, but he showed up on time, within the first hour. 

Of course nothing ever goes right so what happens? He told me he couldn't install the fiber because he needed access to my building's basement. I don't have a key, because I don't have a cave. I contacted my agent, and he didn't have a key. Finally my landlord answered, and he didn't have a key either. He said he's never even been to the basement and doesn’t know where it is (weird, since a cave is pretty standard when you own an apartment). 

The technician was really nice, and he went around to all of the apartments asking people if they had a key. Everyone told him no. He went to the two stores at ground level, and they also did not have a key. Finally he said (actually typed it on Google translate) "I can't install, I'll need to come back when you find the key", and he promised that he would help find an English speaker at SFR who could help with setting up a new appointment.

I was at that point frustrated. I had lived in a (personal) wifi-less apartment for months, I was using my mobile phone as a hotspot or SFR's hotspot (so slow). None of my smart devices worked because they required wifi, I was angry, and frustrated, and at my wit’s end. So I went down to my building's ground floor and started poking around. I decided to see if one of my keys fit into the cave door, and ain't this some shit, the door opened. It didn't require a key. It looked to be closed and locked, but it was in fact not.

It took everything in me not to scream.

So I texted the technician, who at that point had only been gone for 10 minutes, 20 at the most. I took a photo to show him, and he told me that was the wrong door, and it was in bad condition (?). I was like bro I'm standing in the caves, I see the boxes. If these aren't fiber boxes, I have nothing else to tell you because my building only has one basement. Even my agent was like "if that's not the basement where is the basement?". He was making jokes. Finally the tech wrote back that actually those fiber boxes were "good". [internal screaming]

This whole time I was messaging SFR (on Twitter because of the language barrier) because I was being told that I needed to make another appointment. I'm thinking I will have to wait more weeks. But then 1023 called me and it was a lovely English speaker (everyone else at SFR spoke French), and she told me it would be okay, she would have the technician go back, not to worry. Clearly she had never dealt with the internet service providers of Paris.  

Meanwhile the tech, who I had been speaking with through text, was like ‘nope, you gotta make a new appointment, I'm not coming back’. And I was pressed  because a) he was there and easily could have done it had he allowed me to go to the caves and see for myself (but he told me no), and b) no one at SFR spoke English, and they kept telling me to call the 800 to make a new appointment, but whenever I called 800 we couldn’t understand each other, and I was getting absolutely no help. Add to that that I was running on no sleep because I don't know why. I hadn't eaten either that week because I don't know why I wasn't hungry, and I had texted my ex-boyfriend in a depressed haze of frustration, severely missing him, being completely sure that he was the only person I can ever love, and absolutely sure that I needed him back if only we could make it work, because things were different now, money, an apartment, a better life, a job, everything he wanted, yada, yada. Of course he ignored me. 

So to say I was going through the most would be an understatement (but oddly enough I was absolutely slaying it at work. All that chaotic energy made me unstoppable). Big out of control energy. I would never recommend going through it. Heaven beware a depressed woman on the verge. And SFR was compounding that.

Finally someone at SFR called me back, again from 1023 (when I called that number I couldn’t get through). He was pretty creepy. He was like "hello Ashley" when I answered and then went silent for a beat like he was breathing on the line. It thoroughly creeped me out. I really hope he was just insecure about his English because Hannibal Lector vibes. He promised me that someone would be out the next day to install the internet. I let him know that I had already asked to terminate the line because it wasn't allowing me to make a new appointment, and I figured canceling it, and requesting another line would allow me to, but he couldn't give me any information on that (???). At that point I wasn't entirely assured, and wasn’t even sure someone would actually come back. But he promised it would get done, and we ended the call. Don't ask me why I forgot to ensure he sent that promise in writing. I really was overwhelmed by that point and forgot.

The next day they showed up. But of course this is my life so nothing goes right. The door to the caves was locked. The day before, when I was walking around down there, felt like a fever dream. The SFR guy and I went to the restaurant, the nail shop, and the estate agency, no one had a key. We knocked on the neighbor's doors, they didn't have keys. Finally we went to the school behind my building, and a lovely man listened to us, scrunched up his face, said I'll be back, and voila! la clé. The internet was turned on and life is beautiful again.

I have to say, having experienced every French internet service provider in the Ile de France region (Numericable and La Poste are now owned by SFR), SFR is the best at customer service. True you can't get an English speaker on the phone to save your life, and their social media team sucks, but they actually cared enough to ensure they got me another appointment. They went out of their way to find someone who could speak to me, and they very clearly didn’t want to lose my business. None of the others brought that energy. So I will happily pay an extra 10€ more a month (30€ for the fastest package of fiber) for their service, and sing their praises from the rooftops. 

And now I’m telling you dear reader so you now know too. I see so many expats asking about internet, and here’s as good as it gets. Don’t waste your time with the others. 

And the funny thing? Orange at some point messaged me (I wanted to be sure I had SFR service before I told them to go fuck themselves), to let me know, that they too would be out the same day to install internet (plot twist they never showed). 

I hate the French.