Work

Record-breaking and wrong-doing

I seem to be surviving here in France, in fact its coming up to a month now so I thought I’d do a little update on my progress as an inept intern in a luxury boutique.

We established fairly early on that I was lacking in retail knowledge, specifically of the men’s-formal-wear-in-French variety, however, you’ll be pleased to hear that things have improved. Due to a collection of fortunate events I have inadvertently broken the store’s sales record, with a huge transaction last Tuesday morning (unfortunately I do not work on commission).

Basically a nice man from Kazakstan came in looking about as clueless and out of place as me. I was manning the shop floor alone so unfortunately he had no choice but to seek my ‘expertise’ in his shopping mission. I helped him find a nicely-fitted suit, he then went on to by the suit in another colour and found a winter coat to go with it. Four shirts and an overpriced pair of socks later and he’d wracked up 1650 euros! The nice part was that this customer wanted my opinion on every single item, he didn’t speak French so we communicated in a mixture of English and hand gestures, I nodded a lot and gave big thumbs up to express ‘wow that looks great!’ and it seemed to work. Anyway I was alone in the shop at the time and my boss was super-impressed upon his return to find me scanning through all these big items.

Unfortunately, I then rained on my own parade by making a huge numerical blunder on the till and overcharging the man by €200, however we soon sorted this out and he left the store about as patient and smiley as he entered – just with a few more bags. So maybe a career in retail could be promising! Except I don’t really like folding, or rude customers, or standing up all day….

And actually, as this little example shows, I still make plenty of mistakes. In fact I do multiple things wrong every single day. Despite breaking the sales record I am bottom of the league for the number of customer details I’ve taken (and I don’t mean chatting up the French men by asking for their numbers, although incidentally I’m terrible at that too). I’m supposed to ask each customer for their details when they make a purchase, in order to send them an electronic receipt, add them to the mailing list and all that. I hate asking as most people don’t like to give out that kind of information and I feel pushy. However last week 81% of my transactions were without customer details and apparently this is bad. I like to think I just respect people’s privacy more than the rest of the team, tant pis.

I also feel bad encouraging people spend money. Every person who enters the shop is obviously a sales opportunity and I’m told to try harder to encourage purchasing, but I find it hard to do this. Plus I’m secretly happy when people don’t buy things because it frees me of the pressure of operating the till and making an inevitable faux-pas (please don’t tell my boss).

Anyway, hopefully next month will be filled with fewer mistakes, especially as I can’t play the ‘sorry I’m new!’ card for much longer. I have a much-needed weekend off now so I’m going to explore more of Paris and catch up on sleep, à bientot!

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Back to France!

Remember that impromptu telephone interview I had whilst half way up a mountain in Spain? Well, I got the job and, after a lovely few weeks in England, I hopped on the Eurostar and I started work in my new temporary home – Paris!

I’ll be working as a sales intern for just over two months. The internship is at a men’s clothing retailer which specialises in workwear, bringing the ‘English Gentleman’ style to France. It’s a British company with a Parisien store and I’m the sole British ambassador so my colleagues seem excited to have me here.

My first day went about as smoothly as I could have hoped. I had to learn many new skills, such as how to take mens’ measurements in order to advise them on the correct size shirt. This is an intimate and difficult experience which I am frankly TERRIBLE at. I have told many customers a particular shirt size based on my measurements and more often than not the shirt they then tried on was either comically big or embarrassingly small. I have the excuse that i’m learning on the job though and the fact that my previous retail experience involved potted plants and garden furniture.

The store is located in a luxury shopping village in which the footfall is primarily very, very wealthy people, fortunately almost everybody so far has been patient and friendly to me despite my incompetence. I also get to wander around during my break and lust after designer clothes that I’ll never be able to afford based on my intern’s salary!

Whilst I’m here i’m paying ridiculous amounts to lodge in a very pleasant family home. I have a beautiful bedroom however the etiquette of the lodging situation is taking some getting used to; I don’t quite know how sociable to be, whether to eat with the family or not, whether I need to label my food – there are many unanswered questions. Also I keep speaking Spanish…

Anyway this is the third and final part of my year abroad! You’d think I’d have it all figured out by now but you’d be wrong.. So i’ll continue to record my mishaps here – à bientôt! 

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My accommodation – France

It’s about time I wrote about my living arrangements here in France. I was lucky enough to spend the first week in a hotel room (a novelty I could have gotten used to) but have since moved into shared accommodation with two other members of staff. Three of us, Marie, Sandy and I, live in one of the hotel villas. It is officially called a villa, but my roommates (who are French) refer to it as a gîte. In my opinion neither word accurately describes our little abode. While villa conjures up the image of a palatial holiday home, gîte suggests a charming farmhouse complete with shutters and a vegetable patch. Where we actually live is a small one bedroomed building. Sandy and I share the bedroom, and then there’s a kitchen/living area taken up by a sofa-bed, where Marie sleeps. The fact that the living area is effectively a bedroom makes it difficult to use any of the facilities without feeling like an intruder. It’s quite cramped to say the least but we only use it for sleeping, and we all work different hours so never really get in each other’s way.

Next week however, Marie has invited one of our colleagues to move in because his roommate is having his girlfriend to stay. This means there will be four of us sharing the one bedroom villa/gîte/house which is definitely going to be interesting. Due to my experience sharing bathroom facilities with boys at university, I have researched French vocabulary for telling him to put the toilet seat down. I am assuming that male toilet habits transcend international borders so I am coming prepared.

Overall though it has been a good experience. It’s obviously very convenient to live in the hotel grounds, we have access to the pool and it takes me approximately 15 seconds to walk to the restaurant for my shifts. As much as I loved the luxury of a hotel suite for one, it’s nicer having people to chat to in the evenings. What I have missed however, is the French TV. I became quite fond of watching those programmes in my first week but it feels too awkward to watch telly here because I would have to sit on Marie’s unmade bed to do so. I would also face judgement for my choice of programme (French wife swap or similar) so I have been reading books instead. Probably more educational anyway… Here is a picture of where I’ve been living!10460524_10203103117152928_503974044353524868_n