Monoprix: where customer service comes to die.
Unfortunately, as Monop’ (as it is not so fondly known) is the only supermarket located within striking distance of my office, it is a place I must reluctantly visit to buy supplies of Covent Garden soup. The other lunch options in the vicinity of my office are so fiendishly expensive (€ 10 for a sandwich and dessert, anyone?) that I have little choice in the matter. And so it is that with a heavy heart, I find myself once again in the Monop’ foodhall, searching for an oh so elusive shopping basket.
Five minutes later, laden with cartons of spicy Thai chicken soup and garlic naan bread (when the lover’s away…) I take up a queuing position. Not in just any queue, mind. Over time I have acquired an intimate knowledge of the relative merits of the motley crew that are the Monop’ cashiers. There are those who are painfully slow. Those who are efficient, but have a habit of chatting to local pensioners at great length. Those whose French is unintelligible. All, without exception, look thoroughly miserable. The pay must be terrible, and I doubt I’d be able to muster a smile if I were in their shoes, but, even so, my sympathy has its limits.
I opt for a young, but oddly toothless, cashier. My turn finally comes around, and I unload my week’s lunches onto the conveyor belt. Prompted for my carte de fidelité I proffer it, wearily. I have tens of thousands of points, but have yet to qualify for so much as a free cinema ticket. Unlike in England, where my parents jetted off for an all expenses paid week in the Channel Islands courtesy of their Tesco Clubcard, loyalty is not a quality for which you are handsomely rewarded in this country. Quite the opposite. My S’Miles card’s only function is to serve as a painful reminder of the fact that to amass that number of points, I must have spent an awful lot of euros in this godforsaken place.
Next, I insert my bank card into the chip and pin reader. It beeps in an ominous way, and I sigh inwardly.
“CARTE MUETTE,” reads the screen.
The checkout lady takes out the card, and rubs it on her grubby uniform, before shoving it unceremoniously back in the card reader.
“CARTE MUETTE,” repeats the screen, unimpressed with her polishing abilities.
In the interests of clarity, the checkout girl states, in a monotone voice: “votre puce est muette, Madame.”
This could mean one of two things:
- My flea is a deaf-mute; or
- The chip in my card is not working.
Out of the corner of my eye, I am aware of fidgeting in the ranks of shoppers queueing behind me. It is only a matter of time before the low, discontented muttering starts.
“That’s odd. It worked just fine in the bookshop down the road two minutes ago,” I venture, trying to maintain my composure.
“Well it isn’t working now.” comes the helpful reply.
Rifling through my bag, I sigh inwardly as I note the absence of my chequebook or sufficient cash to pay for my purchases. Dentally challenged checkout girl rolls her eyes and suggests I go and withdraw money from the cash machine on the ground floor of the shop.
I start to feel more than a little flustered. And cross. I am convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it is her card reader which is malfunctioning, not my card. We are surrounded by tills and card machines, but rather than offering to try a different machine, the onus is on me to go on a cash withdrawal mission. It’s ludicrous.
Leaving my half-packed shopping bags behind, I stomp resentfully upstairs to where the cash machine is located. It’s not working. A presentation rack of cheap, no-brand Christmas chocolates has been placed in front of it; the screen is blank. The nearest hole in the wall is 100 m down the road.
I wanted my Thai soup. And my naan bread. But not that much.
Time for a € 10 sandwich from Lina’s.