If you have a problem with Orange, the main telephone supplier in France, and want to phone for help, you have to be strong, patient and have no other urgent appointments in your diary.
Or you have to travel 50 miles to Montpellier, take a ticket and sit patiently in the queue at one of their boutiques.
The Orange problems are compounded by an awful website, which is frequently down, takes you round in circles and is a little thin on actual phone numbers.
That’s the bad side of phone support. The good – most of the time, is that provided by Apple.
For some time I have had two Apple iCoud entities (my fault – an early error). Yesterday I decided to sort this out, transferring my cloud information (essential for synchronising my embarassingly large collection of Apple devices) from the cloud space starting francesallen to my second, starting computing.
This is not straightforward, so I went online and booked to be phoned by someone at 12.15. On the dot I received a call from a helpful Irishman, who got me through stage one: to transfer data from francesallen to my Mac. This was taking so long that he told me to have lunch and then tackle stage two, to transfer the data from my Mac to the cloud computing in the afternoon.
This was supposed to be straightforward -except it wasn’t, and I did not have a phone number for the Irishman.
So I rang Apple France. This is where I hit problems starting with waiting ages for someone to pick up my call (bad luck, or are help systems in France intrinsically problematic?).
The first man did not understand my problem at all and I don’t think this was just a question of language. He eventually passed me to an English speaker, who turned out to be a Dutchman.
Things got worse here, as he quite clearly understood less than me about the problem, kept consulting documents – and coming up with obviously faulty information.
I was losing my patience and then at last, thank goodness, he passed me up a level, to an English supervisor called Andrew. Phew, all was going quite well – until I lost the telephone connection. All this abortive talk had used up my (fixed line) phone battery.
I phoned again (on my mobile). Once again a long wait, more inane music, and then another Frenchman who insisted on trying to understand the problem. I kept asking for Andrew, but presumably he was elsewhere. Finally I was put through to another supervisor, Dawn.
My saviour! Dawn, originally from Dunfermline in Fife, but now in Greece, turned out to be intelligent, knowledgable, easy to talk to, have a good sense of humour and was determined to solve my problems however long this might take.
We finally cracked it minutes before I had to leave for a cello practice. And Dawn emailed me her contact details should I hit more problems today.
Wow, now that is a telephone support system worth having.