France Telecom aka Orange, you're making me nuts. Yes, you've got those cute little ads with origami and you send me lots of e-mail offers telling me about all your swell new services and you've got Iphones and other eye candy in the window just begging me to come in and sign up. But go and try to recharge your pay-as-you-go phone? Simple right? Oh wait. I forget that I'm in France where the customer is never considered right.
So to back up. Yesterday, I had to put more money on my older child's cell phone, a cell phone that is carried primarily so said child can get to and fro in Paris without Mom. But what I didn't realize until I tried to recharge it, was that my French bank card had expired since the last time I recharged it, creating a problem apparently unsurmountable by the geniuses who have 45 percent of the portable telephone business in France. Oh sure, I got a new bank card, same number, just new expiration date. But tell that to France Telecom.
I figured the only way to clear it up was to go into the store itself (naturally, the store where I bought the phone in the first place and first bought minutes, not just any old branch, mind you.) Wrongo bongo. After a fractured explanation on my part, the clerk tried to recharge it herself using the same technique I had tried. And guess what? She couldn't! Ha!
Only not so fast. Her explanation: Madame, there is a problem with your bank card. You must go to your bank. I protested that the card works fine in all the other shops and ATMs, that the problem must be the expiration date logged in the France Telecom system. Plus, I'm thinking: what am I going to tell the people at the bank? My card works everywhere but Orange? I can pretty much predict what they'll say: go back to Orange.
Time was late and I had places to be. I left without looking her in the face, simply saying I'd be back when I could be more calm. I'm just hoping that when I go back for round 2, that gal is nowhere in sight.
Update:24 hours later and everything is cool. I went back to the store, phrases rehearsed and ready to be polite yet firm. The lady who "helped" me yesterday tried to pass me off to a colleague but they were all busy with new clients. So she took me in the end. And, so it seems, she had done a bit of homework too. She found a way to enter my bank card information so the system would accept it. The phone is recharged through the end of the year. 2010, here we come.
Truth be told, I had two equally frustrating experiences with T-Mobile in the U.S. Maybe it's an industry thing?