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07/02/2008 - par Mark Tungate

This morning at my local swimming pool, I noticed that a cheerful new sign had appeared above the caisse. It said : « Mieux vous accueillir ici ! » Bearing in mind that this is probably the gloomiest swimming pool in the whole of the city, with possibly the grumpiest staff, I found this hilarious. After all, wasn't this the place where I almost got into a fight because I wanted to enter the pool at 8 h 15, when it officially closes at 8 h 30 ? Isn't this the place where every morning I say a cheerful « Au revoir ! Bonne journée ! » to the man behind the caisse, who responds 99 % of the time with... silence.

I had a feeling there might be a story behind the sign, so I went on line to follow it up. I was right ! Way back in 2005, the Mairie de Paris launched a campaign to make its establishments and staff more welcoming. A charter of politeness and good service was drawn up. After a two-year trial period (politeness takes a long time to learn in Paris, apparently) this programme will be extended to many more establishments in 2008. And so, politeness has finally arrived at my local swimming pool. Good service has no doubt been ordered and should arrive by the end of the month.

The charter is vague about what good service entails. The best it can offer is « attentive and helpful ». Personally, I hope the campaign is extended to every shop and facility in Paris. The ironic thing, of course, is that people need to be taught politeness and good service at all.

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