23 September 2008

Rip-Off Riviera

I’ve had one comment on my blog which says I must be brain dead (or bored senseless) to write my blog every day ….but I don’t (write it every day) and hopefully I’m not (brain dead). It’s a way of keeping me and my brain active and generally I do it when it’s absolutely bucketing down (like right now) and there’s nothing else to do, so some postings are more interesting than others but hopefully there are some little snippets in each of them which help people realise what life is like down here. Today’s posting is about the Rip-Off Riviera. 

I’m sure there are places all over the world where you get ripped-off but when you live in one which has made it an art form, it can become rather expensive....and frustrating. 

As soon as you arrive at Nice Cote D’Azure airport you see signs saying that it is the second biggest airport in France (in terms of passenger numbers) and probably because of that charges higher fees for a variety of services. Bollocks! That’s the first rip-off. Orly in Paris is the second busiest but in the best French rip-off tradition Nice says that all Paris airports are one big one (how logical is that ?) so Nice is second! 

Then you go outside and if you are a tourist you might get into a taxi. Big mistake! These guys are the biggest rip-off merchants going and will charge you a bras and a jambe (arm and leg) to get you to where you are going. The fact that they all drive Mercedes and can pay upwards of a £100,000 for their licences to rip-off the ‘poor’ travellers means that they must be raking it in. Passengers have found the meter conveniently switched off when they get to their destination so a negotiation is required which always ends to the taxi driver's benefit, or worse, the meter is switched on long before the unsuspecting holidaymakers get into the cab. 

Then you have the builders, electricians, plumbers and gardeners, who, upon hearing an English (ok Scottish) accent, suddenly see euros flashing past their eyes and double, or even treble what would be a reasonable quote. And how can one tell? It’s impossible when you first move down here to work out what a decent price is so it all takes time…..and money. You are introduced to tradesmen who, on the face of it are decent, nice guys but within weeks you want to strangle them, kneecap them and then disembowel them, not necessarily in that order. If they hadn't charged you so much money, you'd want to stuff it down their throats. 

Our first real experience of this was when J and I were introduced to, on the face of it, a really nice architect. He invited us to his house and his ex-wife’s house to witness his work and then we visited his practice where wine was served and bonhomie flowed over you like warm creme Anglais (custard). He drew up the plans for a new pool and a new house, which were perfect for what we wanted and presented us with an estimate. 

Never having built in France before we thought his estimate was ok (we’d had one other quote) and he set to work. Well, within a few months I was threatening to throw this guy into the hole he’d had dug and cover him with concrete which was a bad move cause he never returned, claiming his life was in danger and then he started to sue me. I thought he was probably onto a reasonable case as it was me who had arbitrarily cancelled his contract so I was a trifle worried. 

Anyway, as the dispute dragged on and I posted pictures of his crap work all round his village on lampposts, gates and restaurant walls, he discontinued his action and nothing was ever heard of the little shit again but out of the gloom and despair came light and hope in the form of Antonio, a 65 year old French Italian builder whom we met at a housewarming party. Antonio gave us a new quote which was half the previous charlatan’s (Michel Juillard was the name – don’t forget it) and he set to work. Five years later the work was completed, to a marvellous standard and to the original budget. We later found out that Antonio never advertises, he doesn’t need to. All his work is provided by word of mouth recommendations. 

So the moral of the story is – expect to be ripped-off down here but please ask for recommendations and more than that, if you see people like us holding a birthday party for their builder, you know he’s probably a good guy and not your typical French rip-off merchant.

1 comment:

David Parry said...

Tom, don't let the buggers get you down ! I personally love your blog, gives me a good chuckle everytime I read it. Also some of your comments are brilliant !