Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Télépéage? Non!

(This is a continuation of the story I started yesterday.)

I had looked into the possibility of using télépéage but found that I was expected to pay for the privilege of paying for the privilege of driving along a toll section of the autoroute.  Frankly, it was bad enough paying to drive on the road without having to pay more to use the automated system of paying.

But then a new stretch of autoroute was opened.  On this stretch of road the tolls were collected by a new company.  (Perhaps I should explain that in France, there are a dozen or more companies operating toll roads.  Each one offers a télépéage service, which can also be used on any other autoroutes.)  And Alis, as the new company was called, made no charge for the use of its télépéage system.  What's more, users of this system could nominate a section of the motorway where a discount would be allowed against the standard toll.  I applied and duly received my tag, or badge.

Wunderbar.  No longer did the Old Bat have to hang out of the window to use the machines.  No longer did I have to fumble for the debit card when we left a motorway.  And we were paying less as well!  As a committed miser, that was the best part as far as I was concerned.  No, not really.  The best part was having a car whip past me on the approach to a toll station, only for me to leave him way behind as I used the télépéage and he (the driver, not the car) fumbled for loose change.  Sometimes it would be another ten minutes before the same car passed us again.

This relatively painless procedure (painless until the charge hit my bank account the following month) was the case until we approached the first toll station on our latest visit.  As usual, we used the lane reserved for télépéage,only to find that the barrier stayed down.  What was more, the machine spewed out a ticket.  There was nothing for it but to take the ticket and pay at the exit.  But the same thing happened at the next toll station.  And the next.  For some reason, the tag had stopped working.  I checked to see if I needed to insert a new battery, but it seemed there was no battery in the gizmo.

Then, by chance, I discovered that Alis had a different contract available, a contract that was only for "seniors", people over 60, and that this contract allowed a discount not just on one section of the A28, but over the whole stretch operated by Alis.  Furthermore, the discount rate was greater than I had been enjoying on just the one section.  The downside was that if I used the autoroute fewer than 15 times in the first 12 months, a one-off charge of 20 euros would be levied.  Using a trusty spreadsheet program, I calculated that I would still be in pocket, even after paying the one-off charge.

I composed a letter in my very best French saying that I wished to cancel my contract and returned the gizmo.  I also told them the gizmo had stopped working.  Then, not wishing to confuse the situation, I allowed a week for that letter to reach Alis before I downloaded the new contract, completed it and sent it off.

Three days later, I received an email from a lady called Christine.

We have received a contract for the Liber-t Senior. As you have also a Liber-t Confort which is without charge, could you confirm me that you want to subscribe to the Liber-t Senior. This contract offer 30 % of discount on our section of A28 between Rouen – Alençon but there is a condition for the first year.  You will have to do 15 travels on our section in order to not pay the 20 € of charge the first year only.

In fact, this offer could be interesting for you if you take our motorway.

I look forward to hearing from  you.
Best regards.
I replied, telling her that I had returned the old tag (which was not working) and wished to cancel the old contract.  Within minutes, another email from Christine arrived.
If the problem concern the tag which had stopped working, we can send you a new one and this is free.
I confirmed that I wish to subscribe to Liber-t Senior and need a new badge/tag.
    Christine responded:
    In fact, you want to subscribe to the LIber-t Senior and a new tag on the Liber-t Confort ? In the case to change the tag, you will have to return the old one in the next 30 days.
    I tried to be more specific and confirmed that:
    1. I wanted to cancel the old contract;
    2. I wanted a new "senior" contract and a new tag for that contract.

    The response was an automated email telling me that Christine was on holiday and to contact Pascal.  I have yet to hear from him.  I had hoped to get this all done and dusted before France subsided into its annual August slumber . . .

    Watch this space.

    I did mention at some time how our English skies seldom have the intensity of blue that is seen in Mediterranean countries.  But it does happen sometimes, as can be seen in this picture of Brighton's Royal Pavilion.

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