Tuesday, February 17, 2009

French websites

Have I mentioned yet that French websites suck?

OK, I know I'm a prejudiced American, but I have been dealing with French websites for about 6 months now and I have seen quite a few - and I'll tell you, one of the things I will enjoy when we go back home is NEVER having to visit another French website.

But, cyber duty called. As the stay-at-home section of the family, part of my job is travel agent. I do all the research, budgeting, packing and (unfortunatly) web purchasing for our adventures. With the trains, the earlier you sign up for tickets, the cheaper they are. We are so excited to finally be going on a long train ride. We will be taking the bullet train to Paris - it only takes about 2.5 hours!!! So, got to get those cheap seats, right? You can start ordering as much as 3 months ahead of time, which would have meant the beginning of Feb since we are heading out the last week in April. The cheapest seats they have are at 22 Euros each - well, I wasted 2 weeks and couldn't get those so our tickets will end up being about 25 Euros each - still a bargain! This low, low price is opposed to one time when André had to go to Paris suddenly (to retrieve the cat) and it was over 100 Euros for the same ticket!

So, here I am on the website, trying to nail down those seats. Like the other French sites I've been forced onto this one is poorly designed, slow, inflexible and crashes constantly. I spent over 2 hours this morning trying to reserve the tickets. The site crashes, the site won't let you order more than 6 tickets at once (we need 7) the site won't put the 7th person next to the other 6 - or even in the same train car.
OK, worked out all that out, sort of (guess lucky Grandma and Grandpa Peterson will have a quiet ride to Paris in another train car). I'm finally ready to order - and the site has, irrevocably, it seems, decided that the country I hail from is......... Belgium! (Do you think they analyzed the roots of our last name, or know about our upcoming vacation???) There is no way to change this option, and of course, the credit card will not work that way - so I have to start all over from the beginning - but when I go to reserve the same seats I had 5 minutes before - they are now somehow unavailable????

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! It's like being back in the 90's on some dial up machine, only worse, because I've come to expect better by now.

OK - give me the 118 Euro ones instead of the 101, no? How about the 140 Euro spot? No? Hmmm... can we go first class??? We are livin' the dream, right? No matter what I do I get the red letters of death:

Nous n'avons pas pu réserver vos places, car les dernières places qui étaient disponibles lorsque vous aviez choisi le train, ont été depuis réservées par une autre personne. Veuillez ressaisir vos choix pour un autre voyage.

Which means:
We could not reserve your places, because the last places which were available when you had chosen the train, have since been reserved by another person. Please seize again your choices for another voyage.

Seize what chance??? You have been telling me that all the spots - on all the trains, at all the times, are gone? I am translating as I go along, which is slow, but the English language site crashes more often than the French - I just don't trust it.

Well, can I just buy the outward trip (which still works)? Of course not. No choice but to start over again. I decide to divide and conquer! I split the outward and return trips into two separate purchases - it makes no difference in the price and I figure, at least I'll get us halfway there. This works, finally, although Grandma and Grandpa are still in another train car. (Or maybe if we can convince them to let it be André and I.... train date sounds good to me.)

I dread next week, when I will attempt to reserve our spots on a trip to Versailles and a visit to EuroDisney.......

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