My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

A Random Rant or an Open Letter – or the 1st draft of a letter

Infuriating. Infuriating. Have I said infuriating? For the nth time in the past three years the French Douane (customs office) has sent us a request for supplementary information on a work of art being shipped. Information that was all already readily available to them. This time I’ve decided they’re going to get a bit more than the information they requested. So I’ve started writing to Madam L., at the customs office in Toulouse.

Madam L. says “Comme indiqué dans mon message précédent, le service fait le maximum pour pouvoir libérer l’objet d’art le plus rapidement.”

My answer to that is a rotund no. No, Madam L. Let me explain to you, Madam, why you are not doing Your Maximum. You are not doing Your Maximum because we’re not in 1975. If a customs agent has a suspicion that a work of art could be stolen, there is a searchable database spearheaded by the French ministry of culture which is connected to a whopping 70 other databases of missing and stolen art works.

“Le moteur de recherche « Collections » indexe plus de 70 bases de données du Ministère de la culture et de ses partenaires et contribue au portail européen Europeana. Une recherche spécifique sur les « biens volés et disparus » a été mise en place depuis 2015 dans « Collections ». https://www.culture.gouv.fr/Sites-thematiques/Circulation-des-biens-culturels/Informations-pratiques/Rechercher-un-bien-vole-ou-disparu

It takes me as a dealer, literally less than 5 minutes to check if an item I’m considering purchasing is in the aforementioned databases. If I want to be especially thorough and check international databases like the Art Loss Registry, it would take me a further 10 minutes at most to sort through search results. I would not need to, as customs agents have done, send a written request to another government department in the wild hope someone is going to match the written description of an item they haven’t seen with another written description of a missing item they also haven’t seen. This is not Your Maximum, madam. It is slow, inefficient and hinders trade – it is the McDonald’s model of work, where people who know nothing and feel no need to think, check boxes on forms.

Your Maximum would be that packages are not stopped on the basis of mere technicalities that will not generate taxes nor protections for citizens. Your Maximum would be that customs agents have sufficient knowledge to differentiate between popular bourgeois art and a national treasure protected by the ministry of culture. Your Maximum would be that if customs already has all our information because we’re registered with customs for an EORI number/license, that customs doesn’t ask us to send them yet again all the same documents they already have. Your Maximum, Madam L., would be that if it takes 10 minutes to check if an item is stolen, 2 minutes to check its sale price, and 0 minutes to check our identity as we’re already registered with customs, that it not take ten days for an item to be cleared by your customs office at Toulouse Blagnac Aero Bureau

So let me say this very frankly, Madam, if this is Your Maximum, it is not good enough, it is not fit for purpose, it is a waste of tax-payer money, it is a waste of the time for a good  number of people. It does not help France be a better country and its citizens lead better lives. It does precisely the opposite. And the people who work within that system and do nothing to make it function and instead make excuses and call it their maximum, should be ashamed of themselves, Madam.


So there, that’s what I’ve been dealing with for the past couple of weeks, how about all of you? I can’t remember if I’d mentioned it but the house next door sold. The agent who sold it came to knock on our door to say he had a client for our place – I sent him packing as we’re not for sale and never have been. There is however a quite nice place, completely remodelled for sale here in the neighbourhood that’s just come on the market. They’ve done a lovely job.  https://www.century21.fr/trouver_logement/detail/2288798659/?came_from=/annonces/achat/v-mazamet/

40 comments on “A Random Rant or an Open Letter – or the 1st draft of a letter

  1. Steve Ruis
    January 30, 2021

    Give ’em Hell, Pink!

    Did you send a copy of your letter to Madam Lestrade (sounds like a character in a Sherlock Holmes novel) to her supervisor? I do not know whether that is an acceptable practice in France, but in the U.S. copying one’s immediate supervisor is always acceptable and also might get some supervision done.

    And, did you pump that realtor for an appraisal? You could have gotten one for free, possibly. (Always useful to have some information.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      I’ve thought long and hard about it and decided that things will only get better if I push my complaint forward, and all the way to the top if need be. We spent years in court against General Motors and won in the end and we’re part of the IRPH case against Spanish banks which has also been in court for years, so what’s one more to add to the list?

      Like

      • acflory
        January 30, 2021

        Good grief, Pinky. WHEN you send that letter higher up the food chain, I would definitely mention both General Motors and the Spanish banks. Corporates, and bureaucrats of all sorts, work on the basis that they can outlast any ‘individual’ claim brought against them. Given the cost of litigation, they are usually right. Luckily the times they do lose serve to give them pause, some of the time.

        Make sure to send all mail and other documentation via registered mail or whatever you have in France. So there’s a paper trail pointing straight to a /particular/ bureaucrat. Deniability is important to them. 🙂

        Bon Chance!

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 30, 2021

        Most corporates and bureaucrats rarely meet people with my staying power 😀 There’s enough spite inside me to outlive the human race. One day after global warming destroys the planet, all there’ll be is cockroaches, Cher and my spite.

        Liked by 2 people

      • acflory
        January 31, 2021

        LMAO! Oh…Cher? Please let me be around to see it. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kaian
    January 30, 2021

    “Le service fait le maximum” is one of those irksome set phrases that we (thankfully) see little of, here in la Romandie. It’s marginally less irritating than “On est débordés” when they know they aren’t, and you know they aren’t – and they know that you know, but care not a jot.

    I would tend to agree with the previous comments. Cut out the middleman, and have things expedited in top-down fashion.

    Du gros n’importe quoi…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      Not to mention that now every incompetent cretin in the world can blame their incompetence and cretinism on covid-19. At one point our bank had to open late because of Covid-19. How does that work? Is the virus more contagious at 9am?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kaian
        January 30, 2021

        It’s more contagious when it suits them, apparently. Must be a mutation 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jim-
    January 30, 2021

    Bureaucracy is alive and well. Sounds like a chapter from Panama customs, but worse. At least they still use rubber stamps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      At least in most of Latin America one can at least threaten or bribe people to get things done!

      Liked by 2 people

      • jim-
        January 30, 2021

        I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by pretending I don’t understand the bribery innuendos. Good point Pink. It’s a much more interesting cat and mouse than pure incompetence.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. makagutu
    January 30, 2021

    I agree with, Steve, give them hell and then more!
    That’s effing inefficient

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      This time I’m so angry that if I were a pit-bull I’d been the kind that locks his jaws against flesh and never lets go 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • makagutu
        January 30, 2021

        I feel you, Pink. That’s really frustrating. I hate government bureaucracy when it doesn’t work

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 30, 2021

        Systems are supposed to make life run better and more smoothly, this is the bureaucratic version of the morality police measuring skirt length in Iran.

        Like

  5. inspiredbythedivine1
    January 30, 2021

    Wonderful letter! Give ’em hell!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. foolsmusings
    January 30, 2021

    Although it sounds like they’re being unreasonable, it is possible they could become more unreasonable if you piss them off. Carefully crafted sarcasm often works much better 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      This is the, I believe, 6th information request – and in none of the previous cases was there ever even a comma in the wrong place, so even if I have to file individual civil lawsuits against agents, I’ll do it. When someone is pushed too far…

      Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      Well, I’ve been considering your suggestion for the past hour or so and I thought maybe I could sign off with “A plague on both your houses!” – which would be funny because it’s classical literature but also so current 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bizzy
    January 30, 2021

    Poor thing, you’re doing this yourself. I can’t. When I am spitting mad, I’m useless. I have a tax guy and two attorneys, depending on the type of case, to handle things like this for me. Yes I have to pay them, but an attorney gets their attention like we mere foreigners never do. They know clichés and buzzwords too, and aren’t afraid to use them. A guy who sued me for 3500 euros wound up paying me 1200. EDF hit me for an unjustified 6000 euros and got a judgement for 400. I love my lawyers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      The stress is excruciating. On one side you have a worried client who doesn’t see progress on the tracking, on the other you have the brick wall of “their maximum”. Our bread and butter sales are in the 2.5 to 4k range, so if I had to take lawyer’s fees out of that, it would be a serious hit 😦

      Like

      • Bizzy
        January 30, 2021

        I knew Helen would weigh in. With Helen in your corner, maybe you don’t need a lawyer.

        True, my legal fees run maybe a thousand per case, but I guess it depends on the extent to which these shits get under your skin. And in France it’s like everybody, public and private, plays Fleece the Furriner. Or so I thought until Jean-Yves started telling me what he went through at the Patents Office. Now I know it’s just what too many people here do. It still infuriates me. The legal fees are a serious hit, no question. I guess it’s a value proposition: your stress level against your bank balance. I can see making either choice but I’m all about reducing stress.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 30, 2021

        The rational side of me tells me you’re 100% correct and I should just leave it to other people; and wouldn’t it be wonderful if my rational side was in charge! 😀 Being unhinged in the way I am means I spend a whole lot of time unsure of what my reaction should be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 30, 2021

        BTW, have you seen this video? It won all sorts of prizes and applies to most Mediterranean countries:

        Liked by 2 people

      • Bizzy
        January 30, 2021

        “All right blondie, you asked for it.” I love that. When all else fails, patronize. My movers just tried that and basically, yeah, I pulled out the stapler.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 30, 2021

        Movers? What are you moving?

        Like

      • Bizzy
        January 31, 2021

        I’m staying in the house. But when Jean-Yves died I moved from the apartment. The contents came here. The amazing thing is, I have found room for almost everything.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        February 1, 2021

        Gosh, that can’t be a pleasant thing to have had to organise. There should be some sort of bereavement law that guarantees a pause so people don’t have to deal with anything for a while after a loss.

        Like

      • Bizzy
        February 1, 2021

        Legally I could have stayed for a year or more. And I’m pretty sure the apartment manager would have been happy to have me take over the lease and stay indefinitely. But the apartment was expensive and I prefer the house anyway.plus, family drama. His kids wanted immediate access, which would have led to fights over which things “really” belonged to their father. His siblings were totally ready to back me up but I just didn’t want the fight, plus I wanted to get home. This is home for me. So I told the kids to stuff it. Then I paid movers too much, but they packed everything that truly was mine and drove it down here. It was fast but I think it was the best solution.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Helen Devries
    January 30, 2021

    Their idleness and incompetence makes the blood boil.

    I know you can find these yourself…but just to encourage you to raise the roof at the top…

    Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects (DGDDI)
    11 rue des Deux-Communes
    93558 Montreuil Cedex

    Responsable(s)

    Directrice générale

    Isabelle BRAUN-LEMAIRE, inspectrice générale de l’INSEE

    Directeur général adjoint

    Jean-François DUTHEIL, directeur des services douaniers

    Cheffe du cabinet

    Sophie BESSON, inspectrice principale des douanes

    And while you are at it, have a go at the local Depute and Senator.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Anonymole
    January 30, 2021

    Nice place. What’s with the checkerboard floors. Looks like a barbershop.

    The French and their art, eh? When the apocalypse comes, I suspect priorities will shift. “I’ll trade you a Monet for a baguette.” – “Sucre’ bleu, no, mon-a-mi. Are you in Seine?”

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      January 30, 2021

      Checkerboard floors are a profoundly French custom. They were especially popular in the 18th century and in what most people recognise today as the French classical style 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. john zande
    January 31, 2021

    I’m applauding your restraint in using exclamation marks!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. midihideaways
    February 1, 2021

    I remember sending a frustrated e-mail to the director of the local CPAM – this was in 1999 before e-mail use was widespread. It got us a phone call, almost telling us off for using e-mail, but it also got very swift results! 🙂 Going to the top can work really well. That said, it can also seriously piss off the people who get passed over and who get ticked off.
    Good luck with it all, whichever way you decide to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      February 1, 2021

      Thank you. I decided to go with a version of the letter that shows how the process could go better and they liberated the item within the hour of receiving it. To be honest, at this point I’m ready to upset Brigitte Macron by having her dragged out of the bathroom to answer the phone if necessary. If I wanted to live in the third world, I’d do just that. Instead I choose to live in France and pay high taxes and so they’re going to have to put up with getting ticked off 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2021 by in activism, art, Mazamet and tagged , , , .

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