lundi 10 mars 2008

French Accounting, Part Deux

In January we compared French accounting skills to the Mayan math we experienced on our trip to Belize. We will not be doing so in this post because we figure there is really no need to drag the proud and noble Mayan people into this sordid tale.

Imagine our shock last month when we received an electric bill for 615 euros (that's over $900). It turns out, luckily, that the bill was based on a mistaken meter reading. Every couple of months, a technician from the electric company (EDF) comes to our apartment to read our meter. Our meter at that time read something along the lines of 71,000 units, but our bill stated that we were in the 74,000 range. So, somewhere along the bill processing line, someone must have confused the 1 in our meter reading for a 4. At this point, we were not at all alarmed by this seemingly innocuous case of numerical dyslexia. After all, who hasn't at some point transposed a number or two when jotting it down?

Actually, Diego and I were rather happy because we were able to solve the problem with a simple call to EDF's customer service. In that call, EDF assured us that they would send a fax to the bank and we would not have the 615 euros deducted from our account. But, alas, that was not to be and shortly thereafter our bank account showed we had a 615 euro debit. As soon as we saw our bank statement, trooper Diego called EDF once more to clear up the mistake (at least their customer service number is not a special rate number). It turns out that EDF had, as promised, sent a fax to the bank asking for a reversal of the automatic debit. Unfortunately for us, EDF sent the fax to the wrong fax number, which was off by one digit!

To add insult to injury, this Saturday, March 8, we received a letter from EDF stating we owe them 18 euros in transaction fees because our bank charged EDF to reverse the charges! And, as a final straw, the letter states we need to pay them this transaction fee and the new correct amount (which is still a steep 330 euros) by Saturday, March 8 or else we will owe them 45 euros in late fees and risk having our power cut off. In other words, EDF's letter basically states, "Pay us your bill today or we'll cut off your power." All this because someone at EDF confused a 1 and a 4 on a meter reading.

Diego had a second encounter with this odd numerical dyslexia on his recent trip to London. On February 27, Diego took the Eurostar to London and had to go through both French and English immigration at the train station. Mysteriously, the French immigration stamp on his passport states that he left France on February 26. I think the English authorities must be used to this because no one seemed at all concerned that Diego's three-hour train ride looked like it had taken 24 hours. Or perhaps the English public sector is suffering from the same numerical dyslexia.

Luckily, things seem to be looking up. For the first time in the seven months that we've been here, our bank finally charged us the correct monthly fee. There's no telling what the future holds for us.

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