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I sell things on eBay in France quite regularly.

It’s the same as in the UK really, except they don’t use decimal points, they use commas. This is a fairly easy thing to remember, but if you don’t know about it, you may end up nearly throwing your laptop through the window after your listing is rejected for the 12th time. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

This frequent selling has led me to get to know the workers at my local post office quite well, especially Pierre. Pierre is a lovely friendly bloke in his mid-fifties, and was one of the first people in France to ask me to change from the ‘vous’ form to the ‘tu’ form.

I’m still waiting on my mother-in-law to ask me to do that.

I told Pierre to call me Phil, as I don’t like Phillip. I think being called Phillip is only good if you are being called it by your grandparents and, as I told him, they are all dead.

‘Ah yes!’ He said to me when I made this request ‘Like Phil Collins?’. I nodded my head at him, yes, just like Phil Collins.

But with more hair.

I nipped in the other day with a couple of eBay parcels to send off, and he dutifully attached the postage slips that I had already filled out, while I babbled on to him in my approximation of the French language.

Then two days later I received a message with a photograph attached from one of my buyers.

Receiving a message from one of your buyers on eBay is, generally speaking, never a good sign. I can count on one hand the number of buyers who have messaged me to say ‘This item is great, thanks so much!’ or ‘Thanks for the speedy dispatch, five stars!’. However the ones who have messaged me to complain would require the use of my hands and several others to count them.

I’m not saying I’m a bad seller, just that sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of what they have purchased, regardless of the lengths you go to to accurately describe the item. Like if you list something as ‘A big pile of junk’ with photographs highlighting the low quality of said junk, and point out how junky the junk is. Then they message you after receiving their junk and query why their big pile of junk is a big pile of junk. You get what I mean.

Also if you receive a message with a photograph attached forget it – you have a serious problem. If someone’s gone to the length of taking a photograph, and attaching it to an email then it’s not going to be of them smiling and wearing the jumper you’ve just sold them with a message saying ‘I LUVZ THIS JUMPER IT IS SO WARM AND SNUGGLY‘, equally it’s unlikely to be of the PS4 you sold them, slotted in next to their Orange Live box, with a caption stating ‘She looks beautiful next to my Orange LiveBox, I am going to give you a five star rating and PS I love you‘. No, that photograph will be exhibit ‘A’ in their case as to why they don’t like what you sold them, and why they want their money back now, please (please is optional – some people jump straight to swearys).

Turns out item one – which sold for around forty euros – had gone to buyer ‘A’ and item two – which sold for nearly four times that price – had gone to buyer ‘B’. This was a problem.

Thankfully both buyers were more than patient and polite, and both agreed to send the items back to me so that I could then swap them over, and send the correct item to the correct address. I of course apologised to them both profusely.

This had never happened to me before. Maybe I was getting old and forgetful?

Then I received the items back and realised what had happened. You see I always write the address down on the packages twice, once on the actual packages themselves, and then on the delivery note that is attached to it, kind of an insurance policy in case one of them falls off/is made illegible in any way.

The parcels each had the correct address written on them, it was simply the labels that had been attached incorrectly.

By Pierre.

I explained this in a lengthy email to the two buyers, however I also stated that it was still my fault. You see I realised what the problem had been. It wasn’t that Pierre had mixed them up that was really the issue. Well, it was, but it wasn’t his fault.

No, the fault lay with the Englishman that had kept up an unending stream of French gibberish while he was trying to do his job, evidently causing him to become so distracted that he hadn’t been able to pay enough attention to what he was doing, and so had put the wrong labels on the packages.

I’ve re-posted the items and received the feedback and everybody is happy – albeit I’m out of pocket a few quid. I haven’t told Pierre about this mix up though, and I doubt I ever will.

However in future I’m going to wait to start talking ‘French’ to him until AFTER he has labelled up my packages.

I’m also going to buy him a bottle of wine for Christmas.

As well as a large box of headache tablets.