Customer service – as it is known in America – is virtually nonexistent here. You can go to a store and say “I just bought this and when I opened the box it was broken” and they will just stare at you, like “Why are you telling me this?” And then they basically tell you that is your problem, not theirs. Obviously this does not sit well with Americans habituated to being, as customers, always right. I have always appreciated good customer service, but living overseas has magnified this appreciation so I would like to take a few moments to sing the praises of some American companies that have recently made me very happy.

Altec Lansing: This is the maker of my speaker set. I purchased it (got a great deal too!) because it had good reviews and could handle both American and European voltage, traveled well, had a great sound, etc. I was really happy with this purchase, as I mentioned here. In August or September I noticed that the display was a bit wonky so I sent them an email, as it was still under warranty. After reviewing the pictures I attached they determined that the unit would need to be replaced, so they asked for my address and I have to say things went awry at this point due to my overseas address. The issue was supposed to be handled by their international department but that didn’t really work out. Anyway in April I sent a new email to their customer service department recapping the situation and expressing my disappointment with the way the situation had been handled. I was promptly answered by a lovely lady who apologized and explained they had, in the midst of all this, changed the company who was handling their international affairs (no wonder) and they would be happy to send me a new speaker set. She added that my model had been discontinued so they would be sending the replacement/upgrade model. I received it about a week later, and didn’t even have to send back the defective one either, which was the original arrangement. So, they kinda dropped the ball in the beginning but I am really happy with the way things turned out.

Maui Jim: my sunglasses. I already talked about all the reasons I love them here. I noticed a few tiny spots where it looked like the coating might be coming off so I contacted their repair department (still under warranty). I am the sort of person, in case you can’t tell, who will request the tiniest little thing to be repaired if something is under warranty; otherwise these spots weren’t bothering me (and the display on my speakers wasn’t bothering me either). I contacted the US repair department, since that’s where I purchased them, and they had their French repair center contact me immediately (in English! because they’re still American, just in France). And then – you’ll never believe this – last week I packed up my sunglasses on Tuesday, because the post office was closed on Monday, and on FRIDAY my repaired glasses were delivered back to me. Four days total. I would be amazed with that turnaround in the States but to get that kind of speed in France is utterly stunning. And I’m really glad, because this is an awfully bright city to be sunglassless in.

Charles Schwab: we have been banking at Schwab since before we came here, because they offer free ATM use – even internationally. Which makes it really easy to access our money. We each have a Visa debit card to our account. Now Visa – not Schwab – has had a really difficult time understanding that we are in France and we have had a few instances of them raising a fraud alert for legitimate purchases, but every time I call to explain to them that we LIVE here they say that Schwab wants to handle any problems with our account so they put me through to the actual bank. Whatever, that’s fine, the Schwab people are super nice and always act like you hung the moon. Today I got an email from a risk analyst at Schwab – not Visa – about some abnormal activity with my card and asking me to call or email about it. I logged into our account to check first and was astounded to see a $450 charge in Mexico City. So I called this lovely lady, who said she had reviewed the notes on our account and saw that we were overseas but was concerned as we were purportedly in France, not Mexico, and I confirmed that that charge was fraudulent. And 2 others as well that hadn’t posted to the account yet. Besides this quick phone call, all I had to do was send a letter with my signature requesting them to send my replacement card to my address here. And that was it. The whole thing, including signing the letter and turning it into a PDF, took about 30 minutes. Someone stealing your debit card number can seriously ruin your life but thanks to the vigilance of Schwab I am only out 30 minutes of my time and a piece of paper.

So, I may be far from home but these places are still taking care of me! Now THAT is what I call customer service.