Friday, June 3, 2011

Courtesy Over Ignorance

We tossed one of our game channels this week. Susan has been itching to get HGTV.

Done deal!

The reason didn't matter, I used to dread calling our cable provider. The waits were stupid and, inevitably, the exchange took place exclusively in French. Not knowing all the technical terms in French, the phone calls were rarely pleasant. Now the calls to Videotron are positively peachy! Within four minutes of my placing the call, the new channel appeared on our television and the entire exchange was done in the language of my choice. Their customer service is exceptional; not only courteous, it's downright friendly!

Any other channels you'd like, darling?

Wednesday's train ride home began normally enough, pulling out of Central Station on time. One stop later, just outside the tunnel, we were told the doors were not opening. No passengers could board the train or get off.

We sat there about 25 minutes. Every now and then, they would announce that they were working on the problem. Finally, after forcing open some doors, they told everyone to get off the train, walk to the end of the platform, climb the stairs, cross over the tunnel and go back down the stairs to the other side of the track, where another northbound train would pick us up.

The train arrived, already filled with passengers. We boarded and resumed our commute. Six stops later, the train, again, sat motionless for several minutes before we were told there was a technical problem and the train would remain at the station for "un bon moment". About fifteen minutes after that, we were told that because of unspecified technical problems, the train would remain there indefinitely and we should find our own way home.

As I walked toward an exit, I spotted one of the train employees. I asked him in French why they didn't make their announcements bilingually. He responded, casually, "Y'a rien qui m'oblige de parler anglais." The concept of courtesy never occurred to him. Having noticed at least one woman ask a fellow passenger for a translation, I pointed out not everyone speaks French well enough to understand everything that had been announced. I went on to ask, "As long as you have our money, it doesn't matter whether anglophones exist? We don't have the right, as customers, to have this situation explained to us in our own language?" He smiled and stared at me. I asked his name, which he told me was Remi Poirier. I got off and began my improvised journey home.

Remi is simply a reflection of the crappy, arrogant policies of  l'Agence métropolitaine de transport. All literature handed out to passengers is unlingual French. When they do their spot checks, the self-important AMT "ticket checkers" make their annoucements and interact in unilingual French. All announcements on outdoor platforms are unilingual French.

As far as the AMT is concerned, anglos don't exist and they don't care that we might. If you, as a service provider, don't extend me courtesy, then you'll get no courtesy from me, as a customer.

When I'm walking and a lost motorist asks for directions in French, I happily answer in French.

When I sing the national anthem, whether it 's for the Alouettes, or whether it was for the Expos and Matrix, I sang bilingually. When I hear the anthem being performed anywhere in Canada, I demand  it be sung bilingually, so that it's an accurate representation of our country and to make it clear to francophones, "we know you exist, recognize, respect, value and appreciate that you exist."

A couple of months ago, AMT commuter trains were suddenly decked out with new, large, bilingual safety stickers. Whoever twisted AMT's arm, obliging them to put up bilingual stickers, thanks a bunch!

There are a few AMT conductors who make their annoucements bilingually and I appreciate it very much. It's courtesy.

I'm sufficiently evolved as a Montrealer, Quebecer, Canadian and human being that I happily conduct business in the language chosen by the customer. I wish it were that way across Canada and I believe that's what Pierre Trudeau always fought for. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's not only good business, it's brilliant business because it breeds a remarkable thing called customer loyalty - and that keeps customers from straying. These are helpful lessons the Jack and Jones store in Rosemere and the AMT could put to good use.

Perhaps our cable provider tutors.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that it is part of the STM's collective agreement that the only language to be spoken in the workplace is french and disciplinary action can be taken if this rule is broken? eg if drivers speak any language other than french over the radio. I met a dispatcher when I first moved here to Montreal a year ago who told me this. Therefore, pas d'anglais là...pure ignorance.