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Laura K. Lawless

Les numéros payants

By April 18, 2008

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Salut mes amis. Une chose étrange que j'ai découverte ici en France, c'est la multiplication de numéros payants. Aux USA, les entreprises ont toujours des numéros verts, ou au moins des numéros « normaux ». En France, c'est le contraire : les magasins, les banques, les entreprises de service public - toutes les sociétés ont des numéros payants. Sur les dépliants, les manuels et les factures, on voit les numéros de téléphone à côté du tarif par minute. Je sais qu'en général l'idée de « service clientèle » n'est pas du tout importante en France, mais faire payer les clients pour chaque minute de chaque appel (y compris le temps d'attente) est vraiment bizarre. Ma copine a téléphoné à sa banque pour fixer un rendez-vous, et elle a dû attendre (et payer) dix minutes avant de parler à la réceptionniste. Ce n'est pas normal !

One strange thing I've discovered here in France is the proliferation of toll phone numbers. In the US, businesses always have toll-free numbers, or at least "normal" numbers (i.e., not 900 numbers). In France, it's the opposite: stores, banks, utility companies - they all have toll numbers. On brochures, user manuals, and bills, you see the phone numbers next to the rate per minute. I know that, in general, the idea of "customer service" is not at all important in France, but making customers pay for each minute of each call (including time on hold) is really weird. My friend called her bank to set up a meeting, and she had to wait (and pay) for 10 minutes before talking to the receptionist. It's just not right!


April 18, 2008 at 6:38 am
(1) Sylvia says:

Hi Laura
In England we have the same sort of thing where businesses use 0870 and 0845 prefixed number that one pays a higher premium on. There is a website we can use to try and get a landline number its called saynoto0870.com. Maybe you can search the internet for such a site in france.

bon chance


April 18, 2008 at 7:40 am
(2) Jos says:

I found the same thing when I came to the UK. There is very little that annoys me more than having to pay to ring my phone/internet company to tell them that their service isn’t working or that they’ve charged me too much. Competition doesn’t seem to have worked, nor regulatory oversight so don’t hope too much for change in France!

April 18, 2008 at 8:00 am
(3) Munia says:

Malheureusement, ici en Espagne c’est la même chose. On devrait apprendre des Etats Unis!

And sorry for my terrible French, by the way.

April 18, 2008 at 8:14 am
(4) Kathryn Buchanan says:

Bonjour. Je n’ai pas un commentaire au sujet des numéros de téléphone. C’est au sujet de votre présentation du jour. J’étais surprise de voir « Aux USA …». D’habitude j’utiliserais « Aux États-Unis …» ou « Aux É-U …».

Bonjour, Kathryn

April 18, 2008 at 8:15 am
(5) Brent Cedarquist says:

Strange, i thought Europe was much more polite than in the states perhaps with a cost however. AOL put me on hold for virtaully a week without resolve. So, i had to cancel my credit card they were charging.:(

April 18, 2008 at 9:58 am
(6) Henry says:

Je suis d’accord avec Kathryn . Il faut utiliser “Aux États-Unis” .

April 18, 2008 at 10:09 am
(7) Laura K Lawless says:

Salut Kathryn et Henry -

On dit très souvent USA en français :

Échange ESJ Paris aux USA

Les STIC ont connu aux USA un développement exceptionnel

Vous pouvez trouver beaucoup d’exemples en cherchant Google France.

Laura K. Lawless
Learn French at About

April 18, 2008 at 10:15 am
(8) Joanne says:

I was just discussing this with my husband (who is French) and he says it’s not normal but that’s life in France (and always a bit surprise for the foreigner). Many companies use the “local calls” system and the client is obliged to pay. On the other hand there is a “800…” number that is free, but these usually concern help/information lines, government and certain administrative lines and so on.

In spite of the fact that salaries in general are lower than in the U.S., the French do get on with living within their means, even if it means sacrificing; they take life with a pinch of salt (ne pas prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre) and just life each day as it comes. Tomorrow is another day….

April 18, 2008 at 11:05 am
(9) s droopy says:

Aux États-Unis … Aux USA …
Comme on dit aux USA (États-Unis): whateverrrrr.

April 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm
(10) cris says:

salut, moi ça ne m’a jamais posé de problèmes, je n’appelle jamais les numéros surtaxés; par exemple ma banque et mon fournisseur internet ont des numéros locaux ou même gratuits. Il suffit d’être débrouillard.
ps: Et si vous voulez faire “djeunes” vous pouvez dire “aux States” aussi.

April 18, 2008 at 1:09 pm
(11) Will says:

Hi! I live in England and companies will often use ’0800′ numbers, which are free, to entice people into actually using the numbers. Otherwise people tend to be very cautious of calling companies!

By the way, my French teacher would definitely not be pleased with me saying ‘USA’ when writing or speaking in French!

April 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm
(12) Sandrine says:

Il existe aussi des numeros a tarif fixe. Vous payez 20 c quelque soit la duree… C’est ce que t’utilise ma banque… Essayez sinon de vous procurez leur numero direct et vous payerez le prix d’une communication normale. bon courage! S

April 18, 2008 at 11:58 pm
(13) Kinesis says:

I lived in Australia until two years ago and have lived in New Zealand since (with three months in France spliced in there about a year ago).

In Australia you pay a monthly fixed fee and then about 22 cents a call, regardless of time, for all standard numbers (there are 13 and 19 numbers that charge by the minute).

Businesses and government never have pay numbers for local calls and most businesses(and all of Government) have toll-free national 0800 numbers.

In New Zealand much the same thing, except all local calls (for very large call zones) are uncharged. The monthly fixed fee is higher though. A trap for Aussies and Kiwis in France are the Internet calls with charges both for Internet and the underlying telephone call. I assume everyone going to France knows about http://www.telerabais.fr/ ? If you don’t you need to.

Tell us about hotel/motel phone and internet charges in France some time, Laura. I love horror stories :)

April 19, 2008 at 1:43 pm
(14) Adriana says:

Glad to see that you are settling into France (Europe) and have learned quite quickly that we have to pay for everyting. The same applies to UK where I leave. I think the motto of telecom companies is “every single penny counts and adds up”. There is not such thing as a free lunch in Europe!

Good lunck in Franch experience and thanks for your great web page!


July 2, 2008 at 9:06 am
(15) lily says:

Yes, Will, I saw statistics from England and I saw how 0800 numbers are getting popular. However it’s just beginning, 0800 numbers usage percentage is increasing every month. Currently only 9% of the UK market uses a free phone 0800 numbers (see full statistics here http://www.smart-numbers.net ). But actually in USA it’s more popular, the figure in the USA is over 90% – up from only 5% in three short years!

November 25, 2010 at 11:26 am
(16) Josselin Guilloret says:

Hi Laura, you’re absolutely spot on! The French system is absolutely ridiculous: I just ordered a new phone earplugs thingy on a French website, but they sent me the wrong kit. I had to call them (on a very expensive line) in order to have the proper kit sent. They told me, sorry our mistake, send us the wrong kit back and we’ll give you your money back for the postage (they haven’t done so, but that’s another problem). When I said, thanks but no thanks, because IT IS YOUR MISTAKE and I’m paying nearly one euro per minute just to complain, I think you must be having a laugh! Answer? If you’re not happy, just f*** off. That’s the French for you!… (and I am French but lived over ten years in Britain). PS: Not quite sure what my English is worth, but your French is “tout simplement excellent, ça fait plaisir de voir des anglo-saxons qui font l’effort de maitriser une langue étrangère parfaitement!” Any road, keep on the goog job ;-)

November 25, 2010 at 11:42 am
(17) Josselin Guilloret says:

Nearly forgot, YES WE DO SAY USA very often in French, even though that “Etats Unis d’Amérique” might be preferable, but please get real guys! Trouvez moi un seul membre de votre famille (sans parler de VOUS même) qui n’ait jamais dit USA… Please come back to earth! It seems that not only you don’t live in France, but you live on another planet altogether!

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