L’enfer de Numericable

Today, I stood in the middle of my apartment and screamed.

It’s not something I normally do. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Being fifty, I’d say my life is roughly half over and I hope to never have to do it again during my last half. (I’m sure my neighbors would be pleased if I never did it again as well.)

I’ve been dealing with my internet provider, who also provides—or is supposed to provide, phone service.

Since signing up with them last year, my service has been hit or miss. Since the beginning of August, it’s been all miss, and I’ve been missing phone service and internet access since then. I do remember the days before we have the internet, so while it’s a major inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world. (Unless you have a blog. Then it’s pretty close.) But not having phone service for nearly ten weeks is pretty crazy.

There’s a lot of grousing about French customer service. I’ve seen the good, and I’ve seen the bad. Usually the trick is to find someone who will help you and once you do, they’ll do what they can to help. And then the service is top-notch. You just need to find that person.

So far, I haven’t found that person at my cable company. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I’ve called them repeatedly, and when I finally get someone on the line (after paying 34 cents/minute, and being on hold for 20 minutes), they tell me they can’t hear me because of a bad connection. When I yell into the phone (so they can hear me), they fail to see the irony in the fact that they’re my telephone provider. When I ask them why they can’t hear me, they fail to see the same irony in it that I do. I may have lost my mind, but at least I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

Because I was going broke paying to tell them to fix the problem that they’re causing, last month I went into the the cable company office. It’s always a mob scene, so I got there fifteen minutes before they opened at 10am. Finally, at 10:20am, someone arrived to unlock the door and let us in. And I got a highly-coveted appointment with a service person.

The technician finally came, and the first thing he said was, “There’s a problem in the secteur.” Since they’ve been telling me that for the past ten months, I figured they’d had enough time to iron out any problems in mon secteur, so I wasn’t buying it.

The technician told me that I needed a different kind of technicien, which is the local lingo for, “I don’t want to deal with this.” But did offer some advice on the way out, “I wouldn’t pay anymore.”

And the last time I was without service, when I asked for a refund on my bill, I had to send a certified letter (recommandé), to request one. They did grant it, but the price of sending that letter was greater than the refund. So I’m not exactly inclined to do it again.

So if you’re wondering where I am, I’m trying to get out of l’enfer (the hell) of Numericable. I sent them the required certified, signature-required letter that I wanted to end my service, which they told me that they’d never received, and I needed to send it again.

Of course, I was holding the receipt in my hand, with their signature on it.

The funny thing is, tomorrow I’m supposed to speak to a group of newly-arrived Americans about how to cope with life in a foreign country.

I’m thinking of standing in the middle of the room. And screaming.

Never miss a post!


  • October 5, 2009 10:47am

    Oh, my dear, you have my deepest sympathy. You know my long tale of woe (12 months of lettres-recommandées-avec-accusés-de-réception, visits to the office, phone calls and whining to anyone who would listen). Personally, in your place, I would ask the bank to stop all payments to them. You have the hallowed French proof that you sent them a request to cancel your contract. If you want to be extra-special-sure, send them a second (LRAADR) letter informing them that you are no longer going to paying them with effect from three months after the first letter. But seriously. Stop paying them.

  • Chistr
    October 5, 2009 10:49am


    and wellcome to the club, i see that you have had same kind of entertaining year with Numericable than we have had. Im the lucky part cos i dont yet speak french, so its not choice that im dealing with them, i do speak my native and english. But multi language customer services are not really up here. But, back to the internet/phone, they have now send 4 times tech in our, of course problem wouldnt be in their end, everything was depending our end, wrong kind of cable and box. We changed, suprise, no improvment, and service was sure we did again something wrong, tech came and see and look like hi had eaten sour lemons and sayed(this time able to speak english)
    ; everything is ok here. Then we back from holiday, 3 days fluent working of things and then it crashed again on saturday, wich lead wf nice drive thru Convention and Montparnasse, to find their shop, wich had ability to test our box. I didnt anymore screamed, i started to laugh. But, we have now on and off internet.
    I really wanted to thank you for your nice blog, but then i saw your writing of internet service. Your blog has helped much of my settling down in Paris past year. Thank you and i wait to see more of your blog.

  • October 5, 2009 10:55am

    Hi Meg: Yes, they make you sign a contract since they know the service stinks and then you can’t leave. Another reader, Krysalia, sent me a translation of their lengthy terms of service which states that if you send two certified letters (providing they don’t say they lost…er, I mean…lose one of them) you can get out of the contract. Of course, there’s all sorts of clauses, but I never did the automatic bank payments (I know better…) they can only get me for the the decoder.

    Which they’ll have to pry from my cold, dead hands.

  • craigkite
    October 5, 2009 11:02am

    At least your “customer service” people on the phone are in France. Any problems that you encounter on the phone that stem from your inability to understand them are your fault and not caused by “farming out” the service calls to a country involving ANOTHER foreign language. I always have difficulty understanding spoken French through a phone connection. I can only imagine how much more complicated it would be if it were routed through India and another accent. The cell service in Europe is so much better than here in the states, but when the phone land line, television and ISP are all on one cable, and it doesn’t work… WTF! I always snoop around for unsecured wireless networks when traveling with my laptop. Are you calling the “provider” from your cell phone or just camping with the “in-laws” and using their land line to try to get reconnected to the world?

  • October 5, 2009 11:05am

    Yes, it sounds like hell. I wouldn’t wish this kind of problem on my worst enemy.

    Maybe you should go stand in the middle of their office and scream. I’m sure there would be other customers there who would happily join you.

    My sympathies….

  • October 5, 2009 11:09am

    Ugh this is so incredibly annoying. And frustrating!

  • Jeff Stoffer
    October 5, 2009 11:16am

    dude, you are 50?!?!?!? you don’t look a day over 49.5. i enjoy following you on twitter. you certainly have not lost your sense of the ironic over the years. made some chocolate ‘crack’ cookies recently and thought of you and MJ.

  • October 5, 2009 11:34am

    craigkite: Actually, any problems that I’m having are directly related to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to call them and speak to anyone, regardless of their ethnicity. And usually I hand the phone off to Romain, who deals with them in that “uniquely French” way that I so admire.

    And yes, the cell service is better here. But I’m paying €20 ($30) for 60 minutes of talk time with France Telecom, and I just saw that in the US, you get nearly 200 minutes for the same amount of money. Thankfully the city of Paris has free WiFi hotspots so I use the connections there. It doesn’t help with the phone, and it’s hard to keep my phone time to less than 1 hour/month. (And I can’t change my plan until January, since I have one of those infamous contrats and they won’t let me upgrade to a higher plan, even though I’d be paying more money. Go figure.)

    Mr. Stoffer!!!: Who’d of thought I’d ever be older than you?!

    LouLou: When I was last in there, I told everyone who was waiting not to sign up. People had warned me about Numericable, but I was enticed by the fiber optics they advertised. Little did I know that it’s only in very specific parts of Paris. And, of course, not mine. (Even though I was am paying for it.)

  • October 5, 2009 11:42am

    I keep biting my tongue when I hear folks just arrived signing up for Numericable in part because of your continuing problems. I went with Orange, which was more expensive than all the other options, and have had zero interruptions in service in two years. Maybe I’m just lucky but I’ll take that. Still it does irritate me that you have to pay those damn 34 centimes a minute to call any business when you have a problem.

  • October 5, 2009 12:00pm

    My full sympathy, we have been through this so many times during the 11 years in Paris. We are frozen with Orange for fear of change. We always lose service when it rains. I thought this was a country of superior engineering.

  • Heather
    October 5, 2009 12:29pm

    Anyone that complains about North American (in my case Canadian) utilities customer service should read this.

    That’s appalling.

  • just_visiting
    October 5, 2009 12:35pm

    FWIW, I’ve had Free.fr since 2004, in several different cities (but not Paris) and I’ve never had a problem with it at all. Maybe worth investigating….

    They have customer service in English, but I’ve never used it:

  • October 5, 2009 12:42pm

    Love this post. Really, really funny. I feel for you!
    Good luck.

  • October 5, 2009 12:44pm

    I work for the government in Canada and recently declared my intention to quit, move to Paris and attend pastry school. One afternoon, after feeling especially provoked by workplace bureaucracy, I informed a colleague (who has spent a good deal of time living in France herself) that “crap like this is why I am moving to France!”

    She laughed and laughed and once she recovered herself, asked me “and you think that’s going to solve your problems with paperwork and bad service?!”


  • Elanor
    October 5, 2009 12:44pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your troubles David! May I suggest a double dose of those so yummy anti-stress chocolate bars? Chocolate always helps me!

    My internet provider is Orange and so far (**knocking on wood**) I am very happy with the service they offer. It’s a bit more expensive because you have two phones lines: the Livebox/ADSL one (for internet, illimited phone and often TV) and the good old regular one. So, if there is a problem with the Livebox/ADSL, you still have a phone since you can use the goold old line, which can also be used for dial-up internet connection if the need arises.

    A few years ago, I have had some troubles with my ADSL line (it was before the livebox) and an Orange tech explained me how I could connect my laptop to the regular line for a dial-up connection. Sure it was slow, but it was also pretty handy while they were working on my ADSL line. Which took them some time… But I didn’t have to pay for the dial-up connections in the end: the problem was their fault and I got a complete refund on all those dial-up connections (no fancy letters required, just a call to the right service).

    I hope things get solved soon for you!

  • October 5, 2009 1:04pm

    Screaming seems a perfectly reasonable response. Doing it in their office would be even better.

    This morning I suddenly lost internet and phone service but still had TV, go figure. Fooling around with the Livebox did no good. I assumed it was caused by the rain (thanks Debra Healy for confirming my suspicion) but panicked that it would continue not to function after the rain stopped. Yes, I too remember life without technology, but I don’t know how to live it anymore.

    The internet and phone did come back after the rain stopped. I wish it were as easy for you.

  • Erin
    October 5, 2009 1:11pm

    I live abroad too, and I remember having to call the Secretary of State in my state back home to iron out how to fax my ballot in for the election in November, and bracing myself for getting the roundabout we usually get here, but the woman was incredibly nice, solved my problem right away, and even made some small talk about traveling and the election. I remember hanging up the phone with a smile on my face thinking ‘Ahh, how I miss American customer service.” No, the customer isn’t always right, but at least they get a little respect!

  • Audrey in Oregon
    October 5, 2009 1:28pm


    Sorry about your phone/internet issues….at least France got their health care right.
    I think I would trade your frustrations for a single-payer health care system here in the US.

  • Haley
    October 5, 2009 1:50pm

    This sounds a lot like my family’s experience with our cell phone company in the US. It all started when our fairly good company was bought out by a larger company. We went in last fall to get a new phone for me because mine had died, and at the same time tried to get my sister-in-law transferred to my family’s contract. I did get a new phone but it didn’t work at all- every call was dominated by static, so I had to finally get a new one months later, for which they made us drive to an out-of-the-way office and wait an hour for the guy to say he didn’t see anything wrong with the phone, but that he’d give me a new one. So, problem pretty much solved there. But about getting my sister-in-law transferred from her family’s plan with the same company… They gave us a very long list of steps we had to follow to get the other contract terminated and have her transferred. And most of them made absolutely no sense. So much so that I can’t remember them now. And she wanted to keep the same number, which, being that she was already with this company, shouldn’t have been a problem. But they said they couldn’t just transfer the number, they had to let her number go into the pool of available numbers for a month and then she might be able to get it back. About 70 phone calls later, my sister-in-law was on both her family’s plan AND my family’s plan. All without them getting any certification from the holder of each plan, by the way. They put her on my family’s plan without getting my mother (the holder’s) permission, which wasn’t a problem for us, but could be if anyone walked in and asked to be put on someone’s plan.

    Then, my mother looked at our bill to discover that they had us signed up for a bunch of random services that we had to pay for. They had me signed up for roadside assistance at a monthly charge. I do not own a car. I do not even know how to drive. My mother asked them to take us off and refund any previous months they made us pay for that. They said they couldn’t do that without certification from some corporate person who probably doesn’t even exist.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Sorry for complaining. Your situation sounds infinitely worse and I hope it gets resolved soon.

  • October 5, 2009 1:59pm

    Ugh, I totally sympathize! I remember well the customer service in Europe (and even in Israel, where they actually tell you what’s good for you… “This plan, eh, it’s not so good, you want to go for the other plan – actually, you want to sign up with the other company.”). I love many things about living in the States, but great customer service is definitely up very high on my list.

  • Lindy
    October 5, 2009 2:43pm

    Bless your heart! I hate, detest the internet/phone companies of the world…yes..said it..meant it! Live in the middle of no where America…have same problem……..stupid people…one has very hard time with stupid people!!!!!!

  • October 5, 2009 2:44pm

    is your internet company associated with ComCrap (ComCast)? Because they have been nothing but a bother with a lot of people over here in the US. It took months before our service was up and running. We had no phone or phone when it wanted too. I can’t tell you how many tech’s were on this job. The reason it finally got fixed faster was because we are on the same street as our town hall, and since they started having problems, well, of course they had to get fixed fast. Had that town hall not had problems, I wonder if we would be fixed? You know? But I complained so much, and so loud that I finally got thru to a ‘supposed’ manager and she was overwhelmed by me and finally gave in and gave me 4 months free service. So make sure you get reimbursed!!

  • October 5, 2009 2:46pm

    I’m having the same problems these days, so I totally feel for you!! And my company only accepts emails, not phone calls, but of course I can’t email them when my internet connection is down! I’ll scream with you: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

  • October 5, 2009 3:15pm

    well …
    sadly David, I’m afraid that the 4 internet/telephone providers in France are going worse and worse :(
    Ask anybody in the street, I bet everyone will answer that they had a huge problem and could’nt have a highly capable hotline/after sale service :(
    And it’s absofunckinlutely unbearable !

  • Frenchfoodie
    October 5, 2009 3:18pm

    They are not also known as Misericable for nothing http://www.misericable.org
    I am a relatively resigned if not happy customer but that is because the periods of hassle free service are always long enough for me to just about forgive and forget. Now my expectations are simply very low having suffered service cuts that last weeks and hassle over non existing outstanding debts. I also love the technicians that always promise all you need to disconnect and rebranche just long enough so you have to call again (from mobile) the next day to say it didn’t work.

  • October 5, 2009 3:44pm

    Oh, my. I don’t know whether to smile or cry at the absurdity of your situation. Sending good thoughts your way. Bon chance.

  • Peter (the other)
    October 5, 2009 3:51pm

    For once I feel better for starting with and staying with Orange (your post will stop this week’s wondering if it would be wiser to go elsewhere, anyway). Hey Lindy, stupid people have to work somewhere, and we represent about 50% of us. Do you know where we are on that graph? :-)

    But your wonderful blog makes me wish I had designed a real, gas oven into my miniscule kitchen. I kick myself one time less, one time more, sheesh, what a life!

  • Ruby
    October 5, 2009 4:24pm

    That sucks.

    Hope it all ends soon and you’ll find sanity again in an antique store or farmers market somewhere :)

  • October 5, 2009 4:51pm

    I think you should write a letter (recommandé) with all the problems you’ve had with them, and send a copy to 60 millions de consommateurs.
    Don’t forget to look at the laws you can force them to apply, a counselor could help you…
    Otherwise, you could also just drop it, get out as fast as you can, and take orange, or maybe free (it works well for me…).

  • October 5, 2009 5:10pm

    Loved your whining post today.Sounds like our cable service here in the US. Take yourself out for a nice hamburger and take a deep breath.

  • Martha in KS
    October 5, 2009 5:11pm

    Sorry you continue to have problems with the phone company. Things aren’t much better in Totoville. Today I FIRED my cable company (keeping phone & internet with them for now) because they pulled a bait & switch on me – I never got the price that I signed up for – they said they didn’t lock in prices! So now after 10 months Directv has a great deal on satellite & I jumped on it, saving $25/mon. I then realized that I’ll lose the Obama inauguration on my DVR because I don’t know how to transfer them to my vcr. Oh well…

  • Sarah
    October 5, 2009 5:22pm

    I know this won’t make you feel any better. But you are not alone, and this is not a Paris/France specific problem. Right here in the land of great and cheerful customer service I was subjected to many years of crap service and rotten customer service repeatedly.

    My phone company/internet provider/filthy lying robbing bastards/satan tortured me for years. It took countless hours and endless screaming and crying to rectify the mess they made and get most of my money back. (In reality, it took all that and just over six months to end it all officially.)

    Looking back now, I might have been better served by entering witness protection and starting a new life under a new name and identity.

    Bonne chance David, or should I say Pedro? :-)

  • terri
    October 5, 2009 5:24pm

    i suppose it makes me a horrible person, since my first instinct was to laugh at your impossible situation.

    sorry you’re going through this. if you decide to go with the “screaming in the middle of their office” route, i suggest taking a toddler along with you. (my 2-1/2 year old nice has a shriek that would probably make a good instrument of torture.)

  • MamaLana
    October 5, 2009 6:25pm

    We lived in Rome (and later Paris) some 25-30 years ago and suffered the same problems with the Roma electric company. But that was in the previous century! I would have thought that things had improved. So sorry they haven’t!

  • peachydeva
    October 5, 2009 8:54pm

    feeling for you David and your frustration with internet services… boy have I been there. Just returned from Paris with fantasies of living there too… your real life experience keeps me grounded and brings me back to all that I’m grateful for. Love your blog… wishing you the best, particularly the best internet service, otherwise we may not hear from you again and that would be simply unacceptable.

  • Charlotte Caldwell
    October 5, 2009 9:26pm

    David, I really feel for you and hope you can keep your sanity over this one. This is so frustating and it shouldn’t haveto be like this.

    I had very similar problems with British Telecom and ended up writing directly to the CEO and the problem was fixed (well, I got all my money back at least, but I wouldn’t touch their service with a barge pole and ended up cell only as you HAVE to BT for a year if you are getting a landline for the first time) That is called sods law in Scotland!
    Please email this chapter of your blog to the CEO of the phone company and s/he can see the power of numbers vis a vis the amount of bad publicity they are getting because the shit they are serving you.

    And keep ironic, witty and wonderful and remember – you have a legion of fans who love you – all over the world!

  • Bernadette
    October 5, 2009 9:38pm

    Oh David, I am so sorry. I have to say though, this entry gave me a good laugh. Please when someone makes a movie about your life, make sure this is in the screenplay! I don’t know what your apartment looks like but I can almost picture this scene! Maybe you should have: a.) bribed the tech with some of your great baked goods/sweets or b.) strangled him or at least held him hostage with the cable wire.

    Good luck!

  • BarbF
    October 5, 2009 10:14pm

    It’s pretty amusing the amount of commentary on this non-food-related entry. Jeff Stouffer’s “dude, you are 50?!?!?!?” comment — hilarious!! The good news — you are a mere pup at 50 (& I’m glad to hear you’ll live to 100).

    I can clearly see you, in your space (whatever it looks like), screaming at the top of your lungs. Go for it!! But do make them fix this issue — I miss the food pics!!

  • Sheila
    October 5, 2009 11:07pm

    I like Charlottes comments, go to the top! In the US I do not have problems with internet or phone (olive green jealousy permitted) but with health insurance companies. After f**king around with them for a year I called a U.S. Senator and all problems were solved that day.
    You are an excellent witty writer. Publish your travails in the International Tribune or Washington Post or other power space as a “love the food but wish I were in the States for phone and internet, but oh by the way health care is better in France (maybe?) story.” You would get action rapidement sans tarder.

  • October 5, 2009 11:27pm

    I hate to laugh, but this is so ridiculous that I can’t help it! It’s just such a typical story of the way things are in France. We were always having problems with phone service, EDF bills etc….Bon courage!

  • Kathy Douthit
    October 5, 2009 11:51pm

    Hi David,

    I live in the middle of France (Allier-03) and I have Alice. I have not had huge problems……no major service interruptions……but it’s true that customer service is a joke, especially since they still have to use the equipment of France Télécom…..so you don’t know who to blame. I probably would have gone with Orange, but they do no offer unlimited calling abroad. As for cell service being cheaper in the US….it isn’t….because in France you don’t pay for incoming calls !! How do they get away with that in the States?!

    I love your blog, by the way, and it makes me homesick (I’m currently stuck in the States, and can’t come back right away).

  • October 6, 2009 1:21am

    Amazing. Did Time Warner Cable of New York take lessons from your internet provider or was it the other way around? I dropped Time Warner’s VOIP phone service like a hot potato after they left me sans phone for four weeks. Never again.
    BTW: thanks for teaching me how to make French Macarons!

  • October 6, 2009 1:37am

    SFR/Neuf is the way to go. It’s 30 Euros a month for impeccable service and connection – and I get to call more than 60 countries free, including the US and Canada, and cellphones there… you couldn’t pay me to switch!

  • suedoise
    October 6, 2009 2:06am

    The nightmare! David´s problem is a catastrophe and I wonder if changing operator can be the solution. If you have been told the problem is with the “secteur” find out what that means and have them show you a secteur not giving them problems in Paris. The verdict may well be that you might consider moving.
    My apartment building is a mere 12 years old and the block not burdened by old cables. I have never had problems with the Numéricable where I live.
    I have also found it helpful to tell anyone whose attention you need and especially when speaking on the telephone that you are not French and will they please
    speak very slowly.
    That always works, they change personality altogether becoming very nice and helpful, suddenly in no hurry and never lose patience. You find yourself cuddled.
    Meaning you find yourself having the upper hand in the situation through admitting to your inferior position.
    This philosphy is called Upmanship by the British.
    Not being American I have found the method equally useful when in the States let alone in every country. When in your own country it works (assuring the person you address that you are just a trifle deaf).
    I am all for having the upper hand.

  • CarmelaB
    October 6, 2009 2:34am

    Oh, David. I know your blog is supposed to be about food… but this certainly turned me on! I have been living in Paris for a little over a year now, and being Asian, I simply cannot comprehend how customer service can be so blatantly dead in a First World city like this. In the U.S., you probably can also get into the same situation where the service sucks, but at least (I think) it’s more an exception than a rule. Here, the absence of customer service is the norm.

    Why is that? Is it because they just refuse to be service-oriented? Are the French playing dumb? Or, are they hoping that the rest of the world will follow in their footsteps and lose this concept altogether?

    OK… it’s 8.30AM, and perhaps this is not a good way to start my day! I hope you solve your woes vit! :)

    P.S. Your blog rocks. It’s the only one I truly enjoy reading! :)

  • October 6, 2009 2:40am

    “The funny thing is, tomorrow I’m supposed to speak to a group of newly-arrived Americans about how to cope with life in a foreign country.
    I’m thinking of standing in the middle of the room, and screaming.”

    Bwah hah hah!! :D Irony and absurdism in action! Oh maaaan. That whole story/situation just sucks. It doesn’t surprise me, but sucks all the same. I saw a comment up there about ComCast (ComCrap) and have to say that, yes, when I had them in the States the story was similar! Still, to do this all in one’s non-dominant language is horrific. I also put a vote in for Free! We have had it for a long while, it’s reasonable in pricing, works over 95% of the time (there have been a couple of glitches, but *nowhere near* what you describe up there), AND it has Free Home Video and I can watch series like “Gossip Girl” in English! I like them quite a lot & there’s a lot of bang for one’s Euro with them. Best to you in getting extricated from the contract, etc. ::::good vibes::::

    One more thing, while cell phones are more expensive to buy and use in France, the whole thing with the package internet/worldwide calling/digital TV is about 1/3 the cost of what it would be in the States for a similar package. I think it is a little bit of “six of one, half a dozen of the other” when it comes to stuff like this. To really compare is like “mélanger les torchons et les serviettes.” I just learned that idiom the other day, so I wanted to use it. :) But it’s true. Some things in France/Paris suck. Some things in the States do, too. And vice versa.

    Good luck with it all, go self-soothe with some lovely butter, and I hope it all gets smoothed out *very* soon!!

  • stephanie
    October 6, 2009 2:46am

    OMG I cannot believe you are still sans internet!

    I have been with Orange for two years and while we did lose service a few times for various reasons, they were always quick to come fix it (quick being 2-3 business days). And I have only heard good things about Free but I am scared to change because of stories like yours.

    And maybe you know this but all McDonalds here have wifi.

    You next book….how to deal with the French on their terms. Your perspective, Romain’s advice and wisdom.

  • October 6, 2009 2:47am

    “go self-soothe with some lovely butter” Uhhhhh, I meant this in the normal “put it on some bread and eat it” kind-of-way. *blushes* Nothing untoward or anything… ;-)

  • October 6, 2009 3:12am

    suedoise: Hmm, usually if I tell them I’m American, they have even less-interest in my plight! I usually put Romain on the phone, but even he has to tell them to talk slower because he can’t understand them.

    But the best part is when he tells them off. There is nothing like the fury of an angry Frenchman…and I hope he never directs that at me!

    stephanie, et al: Yesterday I did switch to Free. Most people are happy with it, and some friends of mine have the cell # of a technician that they like. I have to wait a few weeks, and may still have to extricate myself from Numericable (and have 2 providers for a while…although Numericable isn’t providing anything–but a monthly bill), but sometimes you just need to buckle up here and just pay the price.

    Karin: Yes, it is great that the bundled services (phone, internet, and tv) are so much cheaper here than in the states. I just wish mine worked. So far, it hasn’t been much of a bargain.

    CaramelaB: Unlike America, people who work in shops, restaurants, or government offices aren’t considered in lesser-positions than clients and customers and customer service isn’t always their priority. (Nor is the drive to make money.) So while they can be very helpful, it’s not usually a requirement, so you have to give them a reason to help you. On my last trip to the states, it seemed everyone was falling all over themselves to help me. But often they didn’t know what they were doing; they were just being helpful because they were told they had to be. Here, if you get someone who wants to resolve the problem, they will.

    bernadette: Actually, when my electrician showed up the other day, the first question he asked, was “What flavor of ice cream do you have today?” He’s an example of great customer service that you can get here, when you have someone interested in helping you. True, I use ice cream, but I don’t feel like giving any to anyone at my cable company. They don’t deserve it.

    Mélanie: I’ve sent them 2 letters recommandé. Oddly, Numericable called me yesterday morning (on my cell phone, since my Numericable phone doesn’t work!) to tell me that they were fixing the problem that afternoon. So after I signed up with Free.fr, Although I yelled at the guy, afterward I felt a bit of remorse that maybe I was too rash in switching. After all, my service was finally going to be fixed.

    Well, last night and today, so far: Nothing. It still doesn’t work.

  • Lore
    October 6, 2009 3:22am

    If you go shopping for a new provider, I’ll just warn you that we have had similar sorts of problems with Neuf Telecom. Including the certified letter that they “never received” despite the fact that we had the receipt with their signature.

  • October 6, 2009 3:35am

    Ok so, just an information to make your life lighter…
    get out of hell, Come to our little paradise !!
    a New blog is born on October 1st

    A light turtle…en français…oui, but it won’t be hard to read, even in french….
    This turtle has wings
    elle a des ailes cette tortue.. and you are in her bloglist, of course.
    See you soon ! A bientôt et merci pour tout ce plaisir de vous lire.

  • lastic
    October 6, 2009 4:44am

    I’ve tried it all. Orange: l’enfer plus. I am presently stealing (with permission, of course) a neighbor’s signal. As his studio is leaking into my kitchen again, seems fair. The call centers here in France must double as S&M centers at night: pure pain and punishment. I’ve had the house call (two week wait) from the Orange technician who screamed: I don’t know anything about the internet! Then added I was treating him like a dog. And stormed out.
    No, I love dogs.
    Numericable: I slipped a tech 70 Euros to get the cable tv to work in the run up to the American elections. He stuck a new card in the decoder. Said he too supported Obama. Said in 20 minutes, it will be fine, Madame. Fist bump. He left. I waited. Zip. No, we can’t.
    SFR whom I never signed with for anything began debiting my bank account 30 Euros per month. That took a year and a letter from my banker to straighten out.
    My bank charges me 3 Euros a month for internet connection to my account. You guessed it.
    I have never been to a MacDo in my life so it seems puzzling I would make a first visit in Paris – for the internet. But if it comes to that…
    BUT – If you want real suffering, call France Telecom and order the new white pages phone book.

  • Jean-Luc Szpakowski
    October 6, 2009 5:07am

    Sympathies, I moan and groan about my Orange Livebox and how hard it is to connect other devices to the wireless –why doesn’t just typing in the password work like in the states? And why such a complicated “livebox” rather than a simple router? But your woes make me think twice about switching. Better the devil you know…

  • Ann
    October 6, 2009 6:20am

    This may be a last resort, and perhaps it only works if you’re female, but it may be worth a try. The only way I was able to get Neuf to back down and let me out of the contract was to CRY. I was literally reduced to breaking down over the phone and no one could accuse me of faking it -these were tears were genuine. But after 14 months of automatic withdrawls to pay for a service that was not being rendered, can you blame me? Not to mention all of the lettres recommandes, the various technicians’ opinions, and the ridiculously expensive phone calls, the breakdown was inevitable. Who wouldn’t go bananas after months of listening to the automated answering service, aka my nemesis, telling me to “appuyez sur la touche dièse”? Let’s just say that it got the rep’s attention, and I was finally able to mail back the Neuf box (not exactly cheap, but at least it got the thing out of my site). Seeing their commercials makes me feel like I’m going to break out into hives to this very day…

  • Marlowe
    October 6, 2009 7:01am

    David’s right: customers, customer service and most especially making money are not always the priority here … they just aren’t usually going to call another store to see if they have the item you’re looking for stocked or let you speak to their supervisor. Ca ne se fait pas. But as David also says, if you get someone who wants to help (incentive can be mysterious here, as it’s not always about customer service or money; I have used good chocolate in the past, or wine), they will usually go above and beyond the call to get things done, which may include – gasp! – breaking a few rules (always impressive when it’s a French bureaucrat).

    By the way, the Numericable call centers are in Morocco, which explains some of the comprehension problems when you’re speaking with tech help, but not the fact that the connection keeps cutting in and out like a 20 year-old trans-Atlantic phone call. Not a good showcase for a telephony company!

    This whole story reminds me of when Lily Tomlin appeared on Saturday Night Live as her Ernestine the Operator character in a parody commercial for AT&T … the tag line was “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

    From Season 2 of “SNL” (1976):

    Ernestine…..Lily Tomlin
    Technician in background….. (Senator!) Al Franken

    Ernestine: A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care!

    Watch this… [ she hits buttons maniacally ] We just lost Peoria.

    You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated — [ she hits buttons with her elbows ] even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it? So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string?

    We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.

  • giselle
    October 6, 2009 7:11am

    I live in the Cote D’Or (21), and our personal hell involves Alice. Normally, they are supposed to supply us with phone and internet access. We haven’t had a phone line that works for more than 8 months and before that it was extrememly flaky, and the internet access seems to have frequent seizures. Luckily for me its my fiesty french flatmate that rings up and does all the screaming, but even she has given up…its impossible. They insist that we ring from the landline, that, remember…doesn’t work, and refuse to help us if we use our mobiles. Or, they faltout insist that there is no problem. Nothing worng. Its us.
    Frequently, everything seems normal with the internet access, the computers tell us we have excellent signal etc…and yet nothing at all. Luckily wa have a friend with a local neuf signal that we hack into when needed. In our area, neuf seems to be the way to go. I haven’t YET heard anything bad about them from where I live.

  • Mariam.
    October 6, 2009 7:17am

    Dear David and everybody else with the same problem,

    thank you for letting us know !

    I thought this sort of service ( internet access- mobile phone – cable tv AND customer service ) was pretty damn BAD over here in Portugal, but had already made up my mind not to feel enraged because after all we are the butt end of mighty Europe, and butts are not something you want to see or speak about.

    I am so relieved to hear that nobody is pleased, worldwide so to speak !

    It is my current belief that demand for fast communication services is much quicker than the capability for building, installing and maintaining the necessary hardware – of course no company will confirm this. I think we will need a good 3 to 5 years for the whole situation to find its balance. Or for new thechnology to appear and be coveted by us all … neverending story.

  • October 6, 2009 8:06am

    Last night I finished your book “The Sweet Life in Paris” and have to tell you that it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. Anytime I had a spare moment this last week I would grab your book, curl up on the couch and read. I have to admit, I was sad to read the last page as I felt I had been reading a letter from an old friend. I enjoyed so much how you find humor in your situations and loved reading a book that made me laugh (sometimes so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks and my husband was trying to figure out what could be that funny). Thanks for sharing your story with the world.

  • October 6, 2009 8:28am

    Dear David,
    I love your blog, and I feel your pain. I lived in Paris for a year and it took me even longer than that to extricate myself from various utility contracts when I moved back to the UK: it seemed that whatever form I signed (there were so many) wasn’t enough for them. In fact, I might go and check my direct debits now….

  • October 6, 2009 9:29am

    David, you ain’t seen nothin’ till you’ve had to deal with Quebec Videotron who does my three-bie: internet, television and regular home land line. (yes we still have those).

    Especially when they refuse to speak English and only a street-wise kid can understand their French dialect….

    But I feel your pain, I truly do. The extra kink in my shoulder comes from a blog host who goes down every 3 days for repair…why I chose a host with the name of Fat Cow only my psychiatrist can tell me Friday….

    when ya moving here? I’ll pick u up at the airport.

  • Carole
    October 6, 2009 9:35am

    And after returning from San Francisco to this, you still want to live in Paris? Mon dieu!

  • john
    October 6, 2009 10:42am

    Dear David…
    You need to go to the most powerful/influential, hence connected publisher/owner of whatever business, you know in Paris (perhaps via New York?) and have his office lean on someone of comparable status at whichever provider you decide you want. Have Him/Her tell M/Mme Whomever The Big Lie and that they need to be connected in whatever fashion with you or they are going to lose money/time/face. Lived in Paris for some 9 years and It’s Who You Know that gets any ball rolling, especially when it comes to these infernal logistical problems. There wasn’t any internet et al then but am sure The French haven’t changed that much, thank goodness. Can only imagine what would happen if M Fabry @ Findus was having these problems….plenty of movement, Fire & Ash, that’s for sure. Time to get down and dirty A La Mode…whichever flavor of ice cream you choose….they don’t call it La Defence for nothing. Good Luck.

  • October 6, 2009 11:04am

    I don’t believe that the other suppliers are better… I have heard very bad feedback about Free for example…
    But here in Jersey City, I have had also to try and get a tech person from Cable Vision coming over and trust me, it was no better. I could have screamed in the middle of my appartment too… I think this is international…

  • dan
    October 6, 2009 11:54am

    When Sartre wrote “l’enfer, c’est les autres” he must have had a bad day with his telephone service….

  • October 6, 2009 12:35pm


    I rented an apartment for 8 weeks this summer in your neighborhood – I know b/c one of the boulangeries you mentioned you go to for croissants was the one we went to each day at it was on our block- anyway, when we got back from vacance the second week of August we found our internet pretty much in scraps on the floor. It was dead. It occasionally tried to come to life but those moments were brief. I had been trying to keep up a blog of our Parisian adventure for family and friends back home and finally gave up until we moved to another apartment with better service. I wonder if the first flat we rented had the same service provider you had. All I know is that when we moved to the new apartment in September by Parc Monceau we had flawless internet. It was I think from the company called Free.

    I am unfortunately home and going through Paris withdrawl. It is terrible.

    Good luck. It is so frustrating.

  • October 6, 2009 12:52pm

    UPDATE: Oddly, yesterday afternoon my provider called me on my cell phone to tell me that the service would be back in the late afternoon. Since it’s been a good 9-10 weeks, I found it strange that after I screamed and yelled (at them…and alone) that they could easily pinpoint when they were going to magically restore service. And what have they been doing for the past few months?

    I told the guy on the phone that I hated the company, they were the worst company I’d ever used, and worst of all, I couldn’t update my blog.

    So lo and behold, today everything seems to be working. I’d better get hustling on a new blog entry, before they shut me down again. Which will likely be soon…

  • korovka
    October 6, 2009 1:15pm

    i always read your blog but never comment. you’re kinda scaring me, especially now that i’m moving to paris for 2 years, haha. it sounds way worse than time warner cable in nyc…yay for your service being back!

  • Joan
    October 6, 2009 1:24pm

    My goodness … this post certainly seems to have struck a nerve with a lot of people (myself included).

    My experience with Numericable mirrors David’s — especially when asking them to speak more slowly. In my case, they’d hang up on me as soon as they heard my American accent struggling to find the words to explain the problem. And this is after PAYING to be on hold for 20+ minutes. Cauchemar.

    One positive thing came out of the pain. Since I was forced to go to McDo’s for the wifi, I made an amazing discovery … they sell beer and wine!

  • Julia
    October 6, 2009 2:32pm

    This is a very old, but lovely letter of complaint to the British version of Numericable, from an equally satisfied customer:

    Dear Cretins:

    I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your
    three-in-one deal
    for cableTV, cable modem and telephone. During this three-month period I
    have encountered
    inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as
    well as ignorance and
    stupidity of monolithic proportions.Please allow me to provide specific
    details, so that you can
    either pursue your professional prerogative, and seek to rectify these
    difficulties — or more likely
    (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you
    while away the working
    day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office.

    My initial installation was canceled without warning, resulting in my
    spending an entire Saturday
    sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did
    not arrive, I spent a further
    57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more
    annoying Scottish robot
    woman telling me to look at your helpful website. HOW? I alleviated the
    boredom by playing with
    my testicles for a few minutes — an activity at which you are no-doubt both
    familiar and highly adept.
    The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although
    the technician did
    forget to bring a number of vital tools — such as a drill-bit, and his

    Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone
    calls over four weeks
    my modem arrived, six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for
    it. I estimate your
    internet servers downtime is roughly 35%– the hours between about 6 pm and
    midnight, Monday
    through Friday, and most of the weekend. I am still waiting for my telephone

    I have made nine calls on my mobile to your no-help line, and have been
    unhelpfully transferred
    to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly
    skilled bollock jugglers. I have
    been informed that a telephone line is available (and someone will call me
    back); that I will be
    transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is
    available (and then been
    cut off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to
    an answering machine
    informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to
    someone and then been
    redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman. And several other
    variations on this theme.

    Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at least a
    thousand other dissatisfied
    customers to ignore, and also another one of those crucially important
    testicle moments to attend
    to. Frankly I don’t care. It’s far more satisfying as a customer to voice my
    frustrations in print than
    to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive me, therefore, if I

    I thought BritishTelecom was shit; that they had attained the holy piss-pot
    of god-awful customer
    relations; and that no one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested,
    less helpful or more
    obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That’s why I chose
    NTL, and because, well,
    there isn’t anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I
    discovered to my considerable
    dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you
    truly are. You are
    sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum incompetents of the highest order.
    BT — wankers though
    they are — shine like brilliant beacons of success, in the filthy mire of
    your seemingly limitless

    Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to
    receive any kind of
    service from you. I suggest that you cease any potential future attempts to
    extort payment from
    me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed
    to deliver. Any such
    activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief — and will
    quickly be replaced by derision,
    and even perhaps bemused rage. I enclose two small deposits, selected with
    great care from my
    cat’s litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for
    both you and your pointless
    company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during
    transit — they were
    satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable
    disappointment if you did
    not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the
    very embodiment
    of my feelings towards NTL, and its worthless employees.

    Have a nice day. May it be the last in your miserable short life, you
    irritatingly incompetent
    and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.


  • Joanna
    October 6, 2009 2:56pm

    i’ve heard that twittering about bad service sometimes gets fast results.

  • October 6, 2009 3:06pm

    Julia: Any possibility you could translate that into French for me to use?

    : D

    korovka: Just don’t sign up for a service that requires you to sign a contract, like Numericable, since it’s very hard to get out of them here.

    Joanna: That assumes that the company cares what their customers think. (Although when I screamed into the phone, “I hate you!!”, I think they got that message…)

  • Jason
    October 6, 2009 3:38pm
  • October 6, 2009 5:50pm

    David, I walked by a Numericable office yesterday in France’s 6eme, and it was crowded with waiting people who all looked absolutely miserable. I thought to myself: They must be having a sale or special offer and all these people have been waiting in line to take advantage of it!

  • Suzanne
    October 7, 2009 1:39am

    Glad you’re back from San Francisco.
    We use FreeBox and never have problems, ever. We’ve been in Paris for 2 years. Plus for the price of the service, our calls anywhere in the world to a landline are free.

  • Barbara Kelley
    October 7, 2009 9:53am

    How awful! And I thought my nightmare two weeks with Neufbox deserved an award. This happened during August and all I had left was my cell phone. When I finally talked to the serviceman in person, he made an appointment for a week away. I protested. His answer: a very gallic “Madame, c’est les vacances!”. I wouldn’t recommend Neufbox to my worst ennemy.

  • October 7, 2009 4:16pm

    Is it in the air here?
    I arrived in a rented apartment expecting internet & phone.
    Neither was working until a neighbor came by to tweek something. The phone – you must press the buttons REALLY hard or no go…and receiving calls is a joke. This is Freebox service. A friend recommended ORANGE as the best as have others here. I had to go to cyber cafe and throw away $$$, but now all is working, though I’m paranoid and afraid to turn of the computer for fear of losing everything again.
    I felt your pain yesterday – I just forgot to scream :(

  • Su Chiang
    October 7, 2009 6:53pm

    Bon courage! My husband just took a job near Paris, and he has several similarly new-to-France colleagues with whom he gets together on Friday evenings to do a collective moan in a bar. I’ve suggested that they name themselves the FIM Club, because they’re all going through variations on this theme of wretched customer service.

  • smita
    October 7, 2009 11:22pm

    On the bright side, you don’t have to deal with the USCIS (united states citizenship and immigration service) :-D Those guys take the care for pricey, eternally swamped, and heartbreakingly dysfunctional.

  • Peggy
    October 7, 2009 11:35pm

    It’s amazing how little has changed in Europe over the past twenty-four years (since I left). You just have to laugh!

  • Sheila
    October 8, 2009 12:39am

    David, That is hilarious because it is the exact story of my problems with my internet/cable t.v. provider here in the U.S. I guess we aren’t so different after all!

  • David
    October 8, 2009 1:59am

    Peggy: It’s funny, because when I moved here in 2002, hardly anyone had internet access in their homes. People were really surprised that I was scrambling to get it. Now there are lots of internet providers, although not all of them are good : (

    smita: I have to deal with the French bureaucrats for my annual visa renewal. I haven’t ever screamed at city hall, but one year, they told me they lost my entire dossier (folder) of paperwork that I sent in. (Luckily I’d sent it signature-required, and when I produced a receipt that someone there had, indeed, signed for it, it magically turned up.)

    Last year, the woman asked to see my phone bills. It’s normal for them to ask for something way out of left-field (like your third-grade report card, or the results of your mother’s pap smear), so I had to go home and get it. Am not sure why it was imperative for them to know that I had a phone, but since I’d already presented a copy of my lease and my electric bills, I figured that was proof that I was already living here.

    They want to see proof that you’re living here, in order to get a visa, so that you can live here. (And yes, it doesn’t make sense to me, either…)

  • Carrie
    October 8, 2009 5:23am

    Freebox is the way to go. I also live in France (Haute-Savoie) and I totally understand your frustration with French customer service. Freebox is the best though. I can even call the US for FREE (well, it’s all part of the cable/internet/phone package). I love it. It makes living in a foreign country much, much easier when you can call loved ones as much as your heart desires.

  • David
    October 8, 2009 7:04am

    Oddly, after I posted this, my internet came back and my phone service has been restored. Although it does keep dropping in-and-out. I think Numericable is playing with my head, punishing me for starting the switch.

    And, in the process, they’ve turned me into a paranoid maniac.

  • October 8, 2009 7:49am


    I was having such hell getting DSL service that I ordered the Orange 3G Cle. It’s expensive but it works in metropolitan areas. ie. it doesn’t work for me here in Colombieres sur Orb. So…I’m going through the usual hell of trying to stop my contract since it doesn’t work within a 20 mile radius.

    However, it does work beautifully in any small-large town. So…if you always want to have internet, then just get this as a back up.

    For free calls to and from the US, get someone to mail you a magicjack from BestBuy.

    This equips you with an american phone number that your friends in the bay area can call you locally from. It’s free but it only works as a phone when you are on line. To get an american number that is on all the time, you have to sign up for a Voip provider. I need it for business reasons.

    I’m in the process of doing that myself right now.

    ah….the joys. It took me 6 separate trips to straighten out my main DSL service.

    But I’m finally here!


  • Jean Marie
    October 8, 2009 4:04pm

    You and your commenter Julia (with the old letter) have given me my laugh for the day. I also offer my condolences to you. Am getting on my knees now to give thanks for Verizon Fios.

  • October 8, 2009 4:48pm

    I’m starting to understand why they have so much wine at their disposal…

  • Chloe
    October 11, 2009 9:58am

    I’ve got the same nightmare with SFR. It took me 3 months to get my internet-request fixed at my home.
    They called to make appointments to send technicien over, but forgot about all 3 rendez-vous!!! And when I called and tried to find out what’s wrong, they just said lightly that ‘we forgot’…

    And when the internet equipment is finally fixed at my apt, the line doesn’t work. Then I spent heap of euros to call them again and ask them to send a technicien over. They said they need to do a distant-detection to find what happened first, then send one over. Even I made it very clear that it’s a problem with the phone line… and it took another week

    I basically just don’t think there is even a word ‘efficiency’ in French…

  • December 3, 2009 1:22pm

    Round 2: I was able to finally disconnect from them. After a slew of paperwork that was responsible for toppling at least one forests-worth of trees. omg.

    One month later they send me a bill for hundreds of euros…to pay for service through the next year! Just spent 2 days trying to get through to them on the phone. The last time I was on hold for 20 minutes (at 34cents/min) until I got disconnected.

    I thought I was done with them, once and for all!

  • Ashley
    December 3, 2009 3:30pm

    Oh no, I just moved to Paris on a two year contract and immediately signed up with Numericable because a friend recommended it. Internet and phone service have so far been good, but I’m worried what will happen when I have to get out of the contract in two years (I’ll be leaving France). How am I going to get through the mess that you went through from another country??!!

  • December 4, 2009 4:09am

    Ashley: Best of luck getting out of it! Numericable makes you sign these contracts so that you can’t get out of them. I followed article 15.5 in their Terms and Conditions, which says that if you send 2 certified letters to them, you can get out of it. (Which they said they “lost”, so I had to re-send, even though I had the signed receipts.)

    After a boatload of paperwork, I was able to get out. But now they are billing me for all the time until my contract was supposed to expire.

    Oddly, they’d promised ‘fiber optic’ service, which I never had and the technician explained was not available in my area. (Hmm, then why were they billing me for that all this time?)

    If you move, I think if you get a letter from the prefecture that you’re moving, you can get out. But they don’t make it easy. Whatever you do, DON’T get the automatic prélèvement, where they can take money directly from your account. Not having done that, that’s the only thing that saved me hundreds of euros.

  • December 6, 2009 4:30pm

    david> je suis sur le küh, depuis que je sais pour cette facture. Ils sont gonflés ! And finally about the decoder ? Did they get it from your cold dead hands after all :z ?

    Ashley> there’s some rules to quit them smoothly : rule number one : DO NOT beleive a word of what numericable people will tell you, on the phone or in their shops. Always trust their TOS, because that’s what you’re linked to, according to french law. People on the phone have instructions to fool you in order to make you stay, and that includes plain lies and bullshit like “we lost the letter”, or “it will work tomorow, I swear on my wife’s head”.

    this leads to the rule number two : DO NOT bother to phone them at all, as it is very expensive for all the useless bullshit you’ll hear. And most of the time, they won’t even keep a record of your phone call so when you call two weeks later, they don’t have a clue of what you’re talking about :/. If they want or need to talk to you, they’ll call you. You don’t need to talk to them because anything you need to know is in the papers (the TOS).

    the third rule : ALWAYS remember you have the right to quit a contract if the slightiest change is made to the TOS, till 4 month after that change. You send a recommandé saying “I do not agree with the change, so I quit”, and they are forced to let you go without any fee.

    the gold pressed latinum rule , as david said, is crucial : NEVER give them l’autorisation de prélèvement .

    If you did give them l’autorisation de prélèvement anyway, here’s the way to quit them : just after the last paiement has been made, send a letter to your bank saying that you revoque *permanently* the authorization previously granted for this company. The bank then will not accept further money orders in favor of numericable.

    According to french law, this should be free of bank fees too, but usually banks take some fees for this :(, 15 to 25€ to watch your account for 6 months. after 1 year at worse, you will be able to stop this without further problems. (usually 6 months is enough but if you want to be carefull and the bank fee is cheap…)

    bon courage !

  • Ashley
    December 17, 2009 11:32am

    David and Krysalia:

    Thank you so much for your advice.

    Unfortunately I DID give them l’autorisation de prélèvement. I never had a problem getting out of automatic payments in Canada or the UK so didn’t even think twice about it. I had no idea that they would be authorized to take more out of my bank account than the €19,90 a month that I agreed to pay for their phone and internet service.

    I spoke to them on the phone and asked to change my method of payment to cheque. They told me that this will cost me €102 to change my payment method!

    When I leave the country in two years, I plan on closing my French bank account. How soon after I leave do I need to close the account in order to avoid Numericable from taking anything extra out of it? Do I need to return the modem-thing?

    Thanks again for all the advice!

  • December 17, 2009 4:26pm

    Ashley: Yes, I advise trying to get out of the prélèvment now, because it’ll take a while. I think you can go to your bank and block payments (faire un opposition, I think it’s called), but haven’t ever tried to do it.

    What’s funny (well, sort of…) is that now that I’m away from their greedy clutches, they are billing me for the time after I got away from them. And they sent me a message saying that if I just signed the form that they attached, which would give them access to my bank account, they would take the money directly out of it.

    Ok, sure!

  • Ashley
    December 18, 2009 10:28am

    Hi David, do you think it is worth the 102 euros they told me it would cost to change my method of payment? Seems like a lot to me, but if it will save me more in the long run…

  • December 21, 2009 8:23am

    I can’t advise, but I would seriously check and see if that €102 is really an actual amount. Or if the person on the phone was just making it up, which as Krysalia said, they are likely to do. It sounds suspicious to me, but I wouldn’t put anything against Numericable. (Which is why, if you even mention their name to almost anyone in France, you’ll see them wince…and they’re pretty tough people when it comes to accepting bad service.)

  • April 8, 2010 7:36pm

    ashley> don’t know if you still following this, but the advice at least may be useful to someone in the same situation :D : I would advice not to get rid of the prélèvement system right now. When you are their customer and if you don’t have any problems with the services, you can stay with that payment solution without worrying. They won’t suddenly charge something on your account for nothing.
    what you need to do is to follow very precisely the steps to be protected when you’ll be about to quit this company :

    first, find the date when you need to quit. send a recommandé 2 months before that date explaining them why you want to quit.

    in the recommandé you mention two things : your intention to quit the compagny services and why, then the fact that you warn them about the fact that you have closed the prélèvement authorization previously granted with your bank.
    then you say that you ask them to send bills for any amount of money they think is needed, and you say that you’ll pay this final bill, if necessary, with a check, as the law says it’s possible.

    then, it’s just a matter of timing :
    just after the last payment you think you had to pay was made, or even in the same time than you sent the recommandé, make a recommandé to your bank and ask for the cancellation of ANY payment to this company.

    warning /!\ : Do not ask for a cancellation for THIS automatic billing, because Numericable could ask for another amount of money and it would not be stopped by the bank !

    In the letter, be specific and ask for stopping any Numericable payment. If you can, sign this cancellation for one year. you may have fees to pay for this but it’s a small price for tranquillity.

    the recommandé is really important, because if you close the bank account and if numericable wants to make some trouble or is still asking money, you will be able to tell that it’s a problem between the bank and them, you’re not concerned, you asked to stop. keep copies of any papers and especially keep the signed proofs of delivery from the recommandés.

    and that’s all, because all Numericable could do then is to cut your service (great, that’s what you asked them to do anyway :D), and to send you some angry letters asking some shameful amounts of money (needless to say that you don’t have to pay this at all :) ).

  • Natalie Yasmin
    June 14, 2010 5:15pm

    David, while I realize that this situation is terrible (After scaling the walls, I would’ve attempted to secure a job within the company and then found a way to infiltrate the system and fix just my unit alone, rendering the rest of Paris without phone or Internet – a bit elaborate, I know), the fact that you propose “standing in the middle of the room, and screaming” as an explanation to “a group of newly-arrived Americans about how to cope with life in a foreign country” is truly the most amusing thing I’ve heard or imagined in weeks. I’m sitting in a university library in stitches, much to the dismay and confusion of the group of international students having a study group session beside me!

  • pierre
    January 16, 2011 11:49pm

    Oh yes Numericable is a joke of a company… You should try and go with Free they are very hot and (usually) work very well.
    NC is dying, slowly but surely because of all you metionned.