Kati and I often joke that the funny stories of my life- several of which are featured on this blog- seem to coincide exactly with moments of pain, embarrassment, or misery on my part. This particular story is no different, and as usual, you the reader of my adventure will be all the wiser because it happened to me first.
One might also expect that a shopping guide to Paris would in fact be written by one of the two females in the family. This however is not the case because I am doing much of the housework these days and seem to be in charge of getting big purchases accomplished thus the beginning of my tale.
When you are abroad, communication is key to all you do whether you are talking about learning the language or staying in sync with family: communication needs to be good. The fact of the matter is with Kati’s schooling and other requirements she is not always around and keeping track of her without out a GPS is impossible. All this to say that we needed a couple cellular devices that would help us keep better in sync. So we purchased pre-paid cell phones. We could already tell that that solution wasn’t going to work when we ran out of 15 euros in credit the first day. (!!!)
Here’s a fast conversation we had while trying to save minutes:
That wasn’t going to last long. Upon arriving at this conclusion we decided that we were going to look into phone plans- a logical decision I might add. After much research on my part and some advice from people that have lived in Paris a lot longer than we have -AKA their whole lives- we narrowed this plan search down to two carriers virgin mobile and “BandYOU”. To avoid riots in major cities across the US coinciding with the cities in which the readers of this blog live I will refrain from telling you how cheap our plans are over here.
After much deliberation we decided that “BandYOU” was the best deal for the money and to proceed with that. A quick side note on these awesome plans. Many of the affordable plans over here make it so that you do not have to have a typical agreement of two years. If you want the latest and greatest phones it is possible that you will need an agreement but many do not require it. This does mean the phones are more expensive but we save in the long run.
Now to the first attempt to purchase a phone. This was a bit tricky because it was a French website that was not available in English. It was also complicated because purchasing online in France is not the same as the states. You can still use your bank card but you need way more information than that. In America pretty much everything you need is on the card: card number, security key, expiration date. The only thing you really have to knows your billing address- not so in France.
In France you need all the information on the card but you also need 5 other pieces of information not found on the card that must be provided by your bank.
Luckily after the first attempt I was able to find these pieces and supply them to the vender during my second try and all was well….no. If only. See, after you find out the information and input it, visa must verify the transaction by texting you a 4 digit code that changes for each purchase. Remember we are buying phones, so you need a phone… to buy a phone. Don’t worry just yet reader we have prepaid phones and I had put the number to text the verification to on the form. Didn’t work, phone must be registered with your bank so after about 45 minutes of effort, failure, resuming and failing yet again I was done with online transactions for the day.
We get up the next day and all is well sun is shinning and we are slightly less frustrated but still in need of phones. I thought to myself the heck with online I am purchasing my phones in person. The plan may not have been as good but it was still a great plan and I would not have to mess with this any more. So off the virgin mobile store we go and after a few minutes of wandering through the store a clerk offers to help us and so we tell him what we want.
We get to the check out part of things and he needs a government I.D. from both of us. Not carrying my passport on me but possibly having a copy on our computer that is with us we proceed. He needs all the information online that we needed but this time we don’t have it, and proof of residence. Well he says no worries there is a bank of yours right down the street get these three things and come back. Swearing that we will laugh about this later we exit the store with two upside down smiles on our faces headed towards the nearest bank.
After they tell us we can only get said information called a RIB at the branch we opened the account and we stormed off wondering why they have more than one branch in the first place. After cooling off in the bar we tried again online with all the right information and a million pieces of identity and it worked sort of. With our awesome French friend Mattieu it worked. I did have a mistake in one order so I had to get that fixed too. Needless to say your money is not your own in France they loan it to you unless you want to pay for it with your sanity.