This morning, at 4am my husband left for Nigeria again.
Barely had his plane taken off from the tarmac – if indeed it had, than I experienced my first set-back of the year.
At 8.30 my son arrived at my bedroom door declaring that a man was at the front door. Not quite ready for visitors I sent him back to tell the man to go away! The man, however was very persistant. Reluctantly I went to investigate to find the ‘homme de ramonage” at the door – the chimney sweep. Fortunately I was ‘up’ on the word having received the day before from the lettings agent a demand for the ‘certificate de ramonage’ along with the ‘attestation d’assurance’ with January’s rent.
The ‘sweep’ declared that he had been sent by the lettings agent, and since the chimney in question was the boiler flue, and it was under a ‘entretien’ or maintenance contract, and he had already gained access to the building which is securised by a locked access door he seemed to be legitimate. I asked if it was absolutely necessary and he assured me it was obligatory under a legal statute.
Accordingly he set to work. On completion he then suddenly demanded 80 euros to which I replied that as it was covered under the maintenance schedule he must direct the bill to the agent. This he persuaded me he was unable to do as in order to have my name on the certificate I would have to pay myself and deduct the sum from the rental charges.
He must have thought Christmas had come again when I first came to the door with my english accent. Of course it was only after I had parted with my cheque, and completely woken up that it occurred to me that something was not right. Immediately I drafted off an email to my excellent neighbour downstairs to ask her opinion regarding the need to pay for the maintenance. Her reply stopped me in my tracks: fundamentally i’d been ‘had’.
The ‘sweep’ had of course called on her before me, having been let into the building by someone else and she had refused to let him in to her apartment. She will be amused at my attempts for damage limitation – first a call to the bank to see if it was possible to stop the cheque – not so; and then a visit to the local gendarmerie to see if I could lodge a complaint.
I take my hat off to the gendarmerie who were excellent, contacting first the lettings agent to see if they had indeed organised the maintenance call and then checking the maintenance company was ‘bona fide’. The answers came out unfortunately in the wrong order, a ‘NO’ and then a ‘YES’, and reluctantly I had to return home knowing that a weasel of a man had just twisted his tale to relieve me of 80 euros and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it!
So the moral of this tale is – never believe anyone who hasn’t booked in advance with a specific service call, check and double check before you agree to any service, remember that in France, unlike the UK you cannot cancel cheques and finally if I never have my cheque returned, I shall reveal the name of the enterprise so others can avoid the same scam.
The outlook for the rest of the month – if it ‘s started off this badly, its time to turn my back on our gorgeous local patisserie, tighten our belts and bake my way out of a very meagre January.
watch this space!