Yesterday was a stunner of a day. I was stunned by both good news and bad news. The bad news came first — I heard it before I got home and learned from Walt that the roofing contractor I'd called, Monsieur Thépot (I'll be more respectful now...), had showed up at our front gate while I was out shopping for groceries. He inspected the damage inside the house. Outside, he stood back from the front of the house so that he could he could see the base of the offending chimney. He said it must be the flashing that has failed. (Why is that metal called "flashing" anyway?) Mr Thépot said somebody would be out to fix it by Monday at the latest. What a relief!
The photos in this post are purely decorative. This is a picture of our doorbell that I took a few days ago.
The first errand I had to run yesterday meant going to our bank. We needed to pick up a new check book. We write very few checks, but we had gotten down to just one check (that's a "cheque" in the UK) left in the book a couple of weeks ago. It had taken us years to go through that batch of 25 or 30 checks. Most of our regularly scheduled payments (electricity, satellite TV, etc., telephone and internet) are drafted from our checking account — those transactions are called prélèvements. We don't have to worry about them. They just happen.
I had gone to the bank 10 or 12 days ago to pick up a new book of checks, only to be told that the one they had been holding for us for more than a year had been, under bank policy, destroyed. "We can only keep checkbooks for three months. Otherwise, there would be so many of them waiting to be picked up by customers that we'd be overwhelmed," the clerk told me. The fact is, the banks, or at least ours, are stingy with checkbooks. They give out one at a time, and they won't mail it to you; you have to go pick it up in person and sign for it. As far as I know, they won't give customers more than one checkbook at a time.
A few days ago I cooked a batch of American
'field peas' (little black-eyed peas), below.
'field peas' (little black-eyed peas), below.
Why are the banks so stingy? I'm no sure. Maybe it's because checks here don't work the way checks work in the U.S. In France checks can't be canceled once they have been issued unless the bank authorizes it. You can't just change your mind. What do we call that in the U.S.? Oh yeah, a "stop payment" order. Payment of a French check that you have signed and sent to the payee can't easily be stopped. French checks are treated as cash, in other words. You can't post-date them either. They'll be deposited even if the date on the checks is in the future.
When you write a check to pay, for example, a deposit on a vacation rental (un gîte), the decision is, in a way, final. The owner of the gîte we've reserved for a week in April wrote me an e-mail to tell me that he will hold our check, without depositing it, until we arrive four months from now. I know of gîte owners who will take an American check and follow that same policy, thinking they are protected from the cost and inconvenience of a last-minute cancellation. Little do they know that the American check-writer can stop payment on a check that has not yet been cashed or deposited. They'd do better to deposit those checks immediately, given American customs and rules. Oh well... I'm not sure this actually has anything to do with the banks' checkbook stinginess.
When I went to the bank yesterday, there was only one clerk on duty (usually there are two) and there were half a dozen people standing in line ahead of me. I stood there waiting, and then I realized that the woman who was at the counter was our across-the-street neighbor, C. She was also picking up a checkbook. She told me that she had had her debit card "confiscated" by a gas pump at the SuperU service station a couple of weeks ago. "Getting old is pénible (for the birds)," she told me. "I forgot my code secret (PIN number) on my debit card, and even on the third attempt to remember it, I got it wrong again. The machine sucked in my card and wouldn't give it back."
I couldn't help but notice this big spider climbing up the wall in the loft yesterday morning.
"Senior moments..." C. continued. She is two months older than I am."When I got back home, I realized I didn't have any checks left. So I had to order a new checkbook. They said they'd have one for me in 10 days or so." I told her I knew that problem, because we also had run out of checks, and we'd had to wait 10 days too. (At least we still have our debit cards.) C. said she would for a time be one of those annoying customers at the supermarket who has to write a check to pay for groceries — show ID, wait for the check to be run through a machine that prints the amount and payee's name on it, etc. etc. It seems to take forever. We laughed about that.
In the course of our conversation, I learned the bad news. Pretty bad for us, but not so bad for our neighbor. More about that tomorrow.
Most US bank branches will give 2 or 3 temporary checks with your routing and account number on them. Sounds like this is not the case in France. I am sorry for your bad news, whatever it is.ReplyDelete
I'm glad the roofer turned up so quickly and is responding appropriately.ReplyDelete
Some monstrosity about to be built next door to you?
PS It took me years to convince our bank I didn't need a new chequebook every five minutes, and to only issue one when I ordered it rather than according to their ridiculously frequent schedule.Delete
I think our bank sees when checks near the end of the book go through and order a new chèquier for us automatically. Problem is, three checks can be all we need for six months or so.
I think there's an automatic checkbook renewal when only 10 checks are left. I try to remember to go collect the new checkbook in time and it sits, unused, in our check drawer for maybe more than a year before we need it.ReplyDelete
That's how I thought it worked.Delete
Banks are highway robbers! I'm sure they charged you for the checkbook they destroyed!ReplyDelete
Just like you, last night I prepared beans, but in my case it is red kidney beans with polish sausage in the slow cooker. They are still en train de mijoter. The'll be ready for lunch. I can't wait, but breakfast comes first!
We don't pay for checkbooks specifically, but we do pay one euro per month as an account maintenance fee. And we pay two euros a month, I think, for each of our debit cards.Delete
The bad news is you ran out of pepper for the upcoming steak au poivre this Saturday?Delete
Aside from Bank Cheques that you may use to pay for a new car or the deposit on a home, personal cheques haven't been used here for twenty years or more. No one would even trust them. Promise to pay??? I know folk in the US still use cheques, but I am surprised that are they still used in France.ReplyDelete
Everything I read says the French use checks far more than people in other European countries, and probably more than in the U.S. I haven't lived there in years, but it's hard for me to remember when I last saw anybody in the U.S. pay for groceries in a supermarket by check. In France, I see that happen every time I go shopping.Delete
Oh, heavens. We have to wait until tomorrow to hear your bad news?ReplyDelete
It's only minor bad news for us. Don't worry. And thanks for the Christmas card.Delete
Glad you asked Judith. The cliffhanger had me worried. And to Ken, I see people around here writing checks sometimes. They aren't young though. I try to pay everything I can with my credit card from Capital One that gives me 2% back for travel.Delete
Thank you, Judith.Delete
I hope the bad news is something like the neighbor is painting their house fuchsia.
I don't know I think living next to fuchsia would be pretty bad news...Delete
Happy to send it, Ken :)Delete
Evelyn, moi aussi... get those credit card points!
I assume there's a typo in the first paragraph; that "The bad news came first" should read "The good news came first"ReplyDelete
As for checks, they're used less and less frequently in the US. For example, almost all bills that I used to write checks for I now pay by my bank's on-line Bill Pay function, or have automatically charged to a credit card. In France, we've gone to wineries with our Burgundian friend, and when she's bought wine, she's usually paid by check. Almost no one in the US would do that, or write a check at a grocery store or department store.
I think Ken meant he heard of the bad news first and then the good news. At least that the way I understood it. We'll see tomorrow what really happened. It's interesting, though, to see two people with opposite interpretations!Delete
Now I understand.Delete