The diary of a Campsite Courier in France for the 2009 season
The season began in late April and when the camper was packed, all the insurances sorted , keys distributed among family and neighbours and goodbyes said to family and friends. We then set off for our odyssey and looked forward to the next 51/2 months working on a four star campsite on the West coast of France.
We started our adventure for 2009 with an uneventful journey down to the S. Vendee. We over nighted at Boulogne at a pleasant campsite over looking the Channel and made a long boring journey by paege to our final destination, taking 8 hours in total to get here. On arrival, we introduced ourselves and the staff were very welcoming then we spent a peaceful night waiting for our Area Manager to rendezvous with us on Monday 27th April.
We met with our Area Manager who was really nice and updated us on the new paperwork introduced this year and then we spent the day cleaning out our reception mobile, which has been moved down from Brittany, half a day really as we spent all morning setting up our own emplacement. We have been given a lovely pitch, near the sanitation block (which helps) and not far from shop, bar etc. Free Wifi is available and we have a code, not sure if it works, we shall see!!!!
Lovely site, we have 15 mobiles and eight tents, but from May’s bookings, there will be nowhere near the work we had last year. Our AM is very friendly and pleased to let us get on with things. Almost like we’ve never been away, what with booking charts to fill in and mobile inventories to do, just cant wait till we start cleaning. Have yet to meet the site owner but AM says he’s OK and fair. Hopefully we will see him tomorrow.
Other half has started to make a mast for our satellite dish out of discarded parasol poles, trouble being that SE of the site is a line of very large pine trees, but there are alot of dishes up so we shall try. After what seemed like hours of moving the dish slowly backward and forward, up and down we got a German satellite and that was that. Packed it all away and decided it would do us good to go without and read the dozens of books we have bought with us. Pole looks good though, wish we had a flag for it!!
After a weeks work at last a day off. Woke up and had a leisurely start, eventually leaving the site for the first time. Went the wrong way, of course, but eventually managed to find our way to Lidl. Fantastic, did an enormous shop for 88e after shopping every day at the camp shop we got an amazing amount. Then walked across the road to a Geant (massive hypermarche) and even managed to go through the automatic checkout!! Got back on site about 12 (after coffee of course) and after a natter with our Keycamp counterparts had our lunch, we did the unpacking and filled the nearest mobile’s fridge freezer (we have a company one in our gazebo but it is not working yet). Then we went a 6Km bike ride to Port Bourgenay, a small harbour village down the coast. Lovely flat area and marvellous cycle ways, so we had a nice 2 hours with a wander round the port with, of course, another cup of coffee overlooking the Atlantic. Got back and Pel went off to plant some seeds and I sat on the bar terrace catching up on emails. We are now sitting in the van, after a lovely tea and Pel is reading as I’m typing this. Tomorrow it is back to the grind, 3 vans to clean out hopefully, if we are not interrupted. The vans are filthy and missing so many small items, knives and forks, scissors etc. So I am having to write it all down as we would never remember it all, then it’s back to our pathetically small store tent to stock up and if it isn’t there make another note. I cannot believe that such a large organisation cannot carry out stock control more efficiently. When we complain there is always an excuse that the manufacturer has let them down or the courier company or .......................... perhaps I was a little hard on last year’s Area Manager as we are having exactly the same problems as then. At least I knew not to believe a word he said, the jury is out with this one. First customer is due on Saturday and the weather forecast is for rain all day and that is after a week of the most perfect weather you could imagine, sun all day and warm nights, oh well, .... happens. They are here for 28 days so hopefully it will improve. Thursday we are supposed to be getting all the bits we are missing, plus gas so it will be a busy day and Friday I will get the reception mobile up and running and Pel can get the outside furniture set up. We will then have 3 mobiles and 5 tents to finish cleaning and things will get a bit easier. Hopefully everyone will be as impressed with the site and area as we are, I am sure next year the supplement on this site will shoot through the roof, it is one of the best.
Things have really picked up now and we are full up. Only having a few long stays last year we, foolishly, never realised how high maintenance long stay holiday makers are (well the majority anyway). They are continually asking questions about various attractions, how to get to places and what’s on/ where / how much? Reception hours mean nothing and they follow us round the site with the familiar refrain ‘Hi, have you got a minute?’ one day ‘NO’ will fall from my lips!
Still having problems with a couple of vans. One has only been occupied for 20 nights and the drains have blocked up 5 times, meaning a call out to the camp site maintenance (their problem as it is underground). Another van had its entire waste pipe unit (under the van) collapse as the cable ties (yes believe me that was all that was holding it together) broke in the hot weather. This had to happen on Friday night. Tried maintenance, no response, left message, then Area Manager, no response, left message, then Maintenance supervisors, no response, left message. So Pel got ‘down and dirty’ and propped everything up with a big slab, pushed it all together and went for a shower!!
Waited the entire weekend, text maintenance again and would you believe ‘we never got your message on Friday, or we would have been straight down, even though we have every weekend off’.
Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh Both messages sent to the same number and they got the one on Monday morning. Had a moan at AM, well a bit more than a moan to be honest, which ended up with us getting a visit from the Regional Manager. That really got things going, parasols suddenly magically appeared (this was after we have been told all season there are none in this area or beyond but that is a different story added on at the end), fridges came to replace old ones we have along with barbeques (again we were told there were none in area) and at last 2 payslips which AM suddenly found in his van. Once again we proved that the company walks all over you until you threaten to quit then unbelievably things appear out of the ether and senior managers come along and spend a smarmy afternoon with you calming ruffled feathers.
Course then we have to build new barbeques, take round new parasols and generally do twice as much work as we would have done, because we played our faces!!
Had a nice day off on Wednesday to celebrate Pels birthday. Went inland and visited a scented garden which was lovely and found an authentic French bar/restaurant and had the menu of the day or 9euros each (with coffee and pichet of wine). Prices in the coastal strip are very high (as the customers keep reminding us). So we felt better for that and will keep soldiering on.
Not much funny has happened (Pel in the sh.t wasn’t), all our games and sports equipment has been borrowed and will probably never return, leaflets are flying out of reception and we are waiting until around 8 every night for customers. Still the weather is brill, the units look good and we are eating and drinking too much (customer left a bottle of casis, mixed with white wine to make kir it is lovely).
Another moan from the Vendee, why we do this job is beyond me. It is like childbirth in that you forget how bad it was when it’s all over!!
The Dutch have struck again, the families with all the teenage girls have been nothing but trouble and today topped the lot. Site owner came and complained that the girls were propositioning French men in his bar last night. What he expects of us I’m not sure, Pel told him to bar them but that didn’t seem to satisfy him. Then we have a complaint from another customer that one of them is sitting on the beach (10.30 am) with a young man’s head between her legs (it was all over when we got there!! Roll on Tuesday when they leave. Dad(?) apparently has told Mark (French Freedom) that only one of the girls is his and he gave false names and ages when he booked. Our theory is that they are the pick of the whore house and are having a holiday as a reward for a year of hard work, Mum and Dad are really Madame and pimp. Well it keeps us sane.
Good old sales must have a deal going with Saga, so we are getting all the ‘we’ve been with your company for 30 years’ lot and they always promise to leave their mobiles ‘as clean as we found it’ all I can say is the want to go to Specsavers!! And they do steal a lot, just cheap things like colanders and measuring jugs but it is really annoying when you go to clean and have to make trips down to the store tent to replenish supplies. One of our families left yesterday and they had occupied one of
our tents for 3 weeks. It was a bit of a mess but Hey Ho that’s what we are paid for. Pel was sweeping out the inner tents (where people sleep) and was being very good getting his brush right under the beds to get all the rubbish out. He connected with something and didn’t think much about it until out of the corner of his eye he saw an arm, for a split second he panicked until the whole of ‘baby Annabel’ came into view(baby Annabel being a very realistic doll). So she is now sitting in our office with a tag around her wrist waiting for Fleur (the little girl) to rescue her!!!
Weather is not very good at the moment and along with everyone else, apart from Keycamp who are giving holidays away, we are really quiet. One of our customers, who works on the oil rigs keeps us amused though and supplies reception with piles of fossils collected from the local beach, they look really nice. To thank us for the loan of our hammer he bought round a bottle of coffee liqueur a night or two back. It was like drinking black coffee and brandy, Baileys could not come any where near and it is a must to get a couple of bottles to take home. I also found a recipe to use the litre and a half bottle of sherry a customer left us and would recommend this to any one with a bit of sherry left over from Christmas. 1/3 lemonade 2/3 sherry lime slices lemon slices mixed and poured over ice, it is lovely. This is what we do to keep ourselves amused. Had my hair done yesterday and managed a few snippets of conversation and at least understood the questions she was asking (unlike last year when she could have been asking if I wanted my right ear off) so good old Michel Thomas CDs!!
Hair looks quite good (even if I say so) and I even managed to wash it this morning and get half way toward how it looked yesterday. I will be going again and perhaps just before our return, costs 35 euros so expensive but well worth it.
Had our first assessment this week with Billy (Area Manager) went really well and our feed back scores from customers are good so there was not much to address. Billy picked up on our oven doors which we had been putting off, so it’s screwdriver time (at least he has pushed us into it). First one we did and took the screws right out – well you live and learn, by the time we relocated the screws we were well peed off. It
did get easier and we have only 2 to do today and they all sparkle, that is until the customers use the ovens.
Pel is bowling tomorrow night, well bouling (?) to be more precise so think of him in the midst of all these French men flying the flag. It is now 16th and the weather is good again at least until the weekend, but the sun is getting really strong now and we are both peeling again. Our skin has really dried out with the sun and I am sure swimming does not help either. In July and August it will be strange to see the pools full, at the moment if you time it right you can have your own private pool (lunch times are good as nothing stops the French eating lunch) and Jacuzzi.
It has been sooooo hot here (as it has in UK). 35 degrees in the shade of our reception with 2 fans going and every orifice open. That throws up problems of what to wear. No one has thought of sleeveless tops for couriers, we have gillets (fleece), hooded tops, raincoats but no sleeveless tops. So unless we are on duty all the women couriers are changing just to cool down. Cold showers are blissful and we are starting to alert each other as to where there is a hint of a breeze. Shoes are a massive problem as well. Trainers were great to start with, with trainer socks, great. Then they start to feel like they are welded on so it’s out with the crocs, fantastic, feet get dirtier but ‘hey hoy’ Then they get too hot so it’s off to the shop and 4.50 for flip flops, great when the crack between your toes gets used to it, but try and ride a bike in them , disaster when you are in a hurry with a freelander up your bum.
We have been so busy recently we have started to wish away the summer and are looking forward to September when everyone will think about Christmas and not coming on holiday!!
First really early arrival this morning. 8 am there was a knock on the camper door and there stood Herr Seebass and family. They had driven all night for 12 hours and ‘would like there accommodation please’. As a Dutch family were probably still asleep in their accommodation that would prove rather difficult. So the conversation ensues, with me never sure that Herr Seebass is understanding me and trying to wrack my brain (difficult that early) as to where I can tell him to go (in the nicest possible way) until it is possible to evict the Aatens and clean the tent. Got them in by 11 and now they are all asleep, believe it or not
there is a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the outside of their tent.
All the Dutch contingent, well at least 3 families out of 17, are off to Puy du Foy today (Eurodisney, without the rides), so we are praying the rain holds off for them. Yesterday we had storms and a very strong wind, which must have covered most of France as we had a late arrival last night due to the fastcat ferry being cancelled due to it being too windy. They rolled in a 10, very tired and fed up, but at least being English we could lend them some tea bags and milk to keep them going until the morning.
So we have 17 Dutch families in, 1 German and 5 English. Last week we had bookings for 4 Dutch families and as they were all staying for exactly the same time and had children roughly the same age I suspected they might be together. Were they just! 16 Dutch people squashed in our reception, me telling them all the spiel, children translating for the adults and adults talking to one another in Dutch. Then we had to show them their vans which was even more chaotic, but we got there in the end. However, when they left all the equipment from all 4 vans had been thrown up in the air and was spread, unevenly, between all 4 vans.
We have a lovely beach, about 3 km from us and accessible by bike on a good day. We try and get down there when we can as it is so peaceful and restful to get away from the constant stream of questions. Herr Seebass (he’s going to be trouble) has just come to the camper and asked for a gazebo. Sorry not one on site, even though he had one last year in Brittany and only came back with the company because he liked the gazebo so much (nothing to do with the latest discounts then!!). Pel has just told him that they sell them at the supermarkets and he can put one on his pitch with pleasure.
Writing this now, a few days later, the new gazebo is up with precision and the pitch looks absolutely perfect, that’s German engineering for you!! Had August bookings through and we are busy right through the month with arrivals every day. It took 2 hours to sort out where everybody was going to be and another hour to sort out a daily programme of cleans and preps (the preparation of the unit the day the customers arrive). Most days
we have 3 cleans and 3 or 4 arrivals, still only about 7 weeks to go. Getting lots of food left now, which is helping the shopping bill and some nice bottles of wine from grateful customers, it’s nice to feel appreciated. The weather is glorious, if only we had time to enjoy it, but it means the customers are happy and not bothering us too much. We went shopping this week on our day off and that was that, came back Pel read and I did my jigsaw (thanks Steve and Helen) on my board. Last one, but they are really relaxing to do.
We are nearly half way through August and the pace is unrelenting. Every day arrivals and departures. When they happen on the same day we call them ‘back to backs’. Last Wednesday we had 5 and not one of the darling customers wanted to leave before 10 am (which in all fairness is the time they have to vacate, but it makes life easier if they clear off at 6 in the morning). Anyway, it takes 1.5 hours to clean a three bed mobile, 1 hour for a 2 bed and ¾ hour for a tent. That is without interruptions, of which there are thousands. So with 3 X 3 beds, 1 tent and a 2 bed, all ‘back to backs’ starting at 10 we had till 4 to finish, forget lunch and breaks etc. We did it but it was hard, sweaty and as boring as hell. We had a visit from AM at last yesterday and he told us we are his top performing site in the whole of Western France so that made us feel a bit better (not much but a bit) and he showed us the emails the office have been getting about us. Bless, I never thought the miserable lot of customers could be so nice. He told us that next year we could name the site we wanted, didn’t have the heart to tell him we won’t be doing it next year!!!!!
So as a reward for all our hard work, we had to host the travel press this week. A travel writer from a national newspaper came for 4 nights to sample the delights of the site. They were really hard work, a couple in their late twenties, really chatty and asking loads of questions. We wriggled out of going for a meal with them (pressure of work!!) but had to spend two evenings drinking and being careful not to spill the beans on our crappy company, that is hard when you’ve had a few wines. They went this morning and were really sweet and left us a pressie and email addresses with request s to keep in touch. Then AM decided that his
family can come to our site in September, just when we thought it was all nearly over we will have him breathing down our necks for 10 days. Our last customers are on the 12th and then we have to clean and prepare the mobiles for the winter and the tents for dismantling (demontage). The good news is we have to do the site down the road as well as ours. Contract is until 29th September so it looks like work to the end. Are we looking forward to going home!!!!
We are now at 26th and only 18 more days to go. We are still busy and will be full right up to the end with the exception of 3 tents. Cleans in this heat are hard and customers seem ultra demanding. Yesterday we had 3 big cleans to do and were interrupted by 2 customers who had had light bulbs blow, 1 with a beeping CO alarm battery, 2 who wanted ferry changes (now they realise how far south we are), a delivery at the main gate that needed a signature and 4 with questions about the weather (nearly forgot the a rival company’s customer who wanted to look inside our mobiles). Then, out of the 6 customers due in the first arrived at 12.45 and the last at 9 p.m.. Long hard days and no sign of a let up until the end. We have decided we will not be doing this again next year, some how this year we have both missed seeing the boys and their families and our friends and neighbours. The customers seem to want a lot more attention and the company appears to be trying to cut costs at our expense.
Finished closing our site down at last. We moved into a company mobile for the last few days as every toilet block on the site was shut, as was the shop, bar and for most of the time, reception. The tents and mobiles have been cleaned well, blankets tied up in fours, fridges defrosted and cleaned outside furniture piled inside on pillows.
The tents have been stripped out, all bits packed away and bed dismantled and stacked, inner tents hung up to dry and all electrics
dismantled (always leads to swear words and threats of cutting through wires). Very satisfied feeling to see it all closed down properly and sadly we said goodbye to the staff left on the site, much kissing and asking us if we would come back next year. Moved about 10k up the road to another site to clean some more mobiles. The courier on site had left early, another courier was allocated to look after the remaining customers and close down any empties. What a mess, opened the store tent and 3 cats ran out, great pile of cots and highchairs followed them along with piles of linen (that should have been returned) that was infested with fleas. We were really down and had to dig deep (and scratch hard) to get going again. Only 5 vans to do, but first we had to clean a revolting live mobile and clean out a pile of rubbish that had been piled up under it. After 5 days we managed to finish it all and a phone call to Head Office meant our ferry home was booked. So the long journey to Calais ended with our last French meal, a bath in a hotel, a night’s sleep and a calm crossing back home.
Do we go for a hat trick next year? No at the moment, we want to see the family more and have a holiday ourselves. But ask us again on a cold January day and you might get a different answer. We had a long hot summer on a 4 star camp site right next to the sea in a lovely area of France, met some delightful people who will be on the Christmas card list, perhaps it is like childbirth!!!!!
Letter sent to Head Office early in the season
As it is so difficult to reach you by fax, I thought this way might be a good idea.If you could possibly arrange a delivery from the warehouse of the following items we can be up and running properly. The demontage/montage on this site was not very good and missing items far exceed the odd mistake or ‘walking’ bit. With the work involved with montage cleans the firm would be well advised to sort this problem and respond quickly to requests such as this.
Urgently needed ;
Welcome packs, message pads, stationary and posters
CUSTOMERS ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT THESE MISSING ITEMS
Small bed legs (1 set)
Tent tidys (2)
Microwaves (4) ONE BY 25/5
Brushes and handles (6)
Small plates (20)
Double mattress covers (2)
Gas pipe for barbeques
Coffee cones (2)
Washing up bowls (3)
Rubber tent mats (3)
Full bit box (most items are missing from the one you left)
Strimmer (the one you left has a burnt out motor, before we used it!, doesn’t anyone check these things)
Vacuum (although we have finished montage cleans now)
All purpose cleaner (you only left 2)
3 live area ceilings
There is also an issue with the state of the ground infront of one mobile and 2 tents which we have mentioned to Gaspard, but no action has been taken. We are wondering if bark chippings may be the answer again, but need authorisation to get them.
I have done an inventory of the store tents and have an excess of some items and none of others, I expect other sites are in the same state . Is it not possible for everyone to have the same access to the same stores at every site? This is one way the company could save an awful lot of money. Sorry to go on so but this is so wasteful and inefficient I cannot believe it. Just let me have what we need for customers and I will shut up I promise!!!!
Linen delivered on 12th May – 10 singles, 4 doubles and 2 beach towel kits
Arrivals and departures
19/5 Day off
20/5 1A 1D
23/5 3A 3D
Hope you can help us on this
A Little tale…..
Promises and Parasols
All of you must be aware of the problems this year with parasols, I would just like to tell you of our journey through the Spring and Summer trying to track down the elusive Parasol.
Our site in the South Vendee is a former site for another company. When we arrived to montage our units every parasol was an old other company one. Our Area Manager had to bin all the parasols as apart from being the wrong colour with the wrong words on them, they were a bit ropey, we managed to save one for our own use and waited for the rest to be delivered, 24 in all. A week later along came 7 not very clean and in not very good condition parasols with the company name written proudly on them. A bit of gaffer tape here and there and a bit of judicial hammering and they passed as OK for customers. Along with the
delivery of these (rejected by someone) parasols came the explanation that the firm had ordered new parasols and paid up front for them, the supplier had gone bankrupt and a new supplier was being looked for. It didn’t seem very plausible that a firm as big as ours would have to pay in advance for orders (they should have used a credit card!) but as we were promised more in June, hey ho.
But, June came and went and still no sign. Customers are now getting very possessive of the 7 that are on site, sorry 8 as by now the one we purloined has come into use.
We even had a customer steal a French Freedom parasol, I bet that is a first for any equipment from FF to be stolen by our customers and not vice versa, unfortunately I didn’t get a picture. Parasols would walk around the site and as soon as a unit was vacated people would leap out from behind hedges to bag themselves the umbrellas. After spotting them for sale in Super U, we mentioned our problem to the Campsite owner. Much activity bought out 10 orange(yes, but these had a white fringe on!) ‘Le Littarol parasols, which every time the wind got up would literally fly round the site and have to be retrieved from hedges trees and fences. Still at least every unit had a brolly, but still the people who drew the short straw moaned.
Constant hassle on every weekly report eventually bought a promise of parasols on 12th July and a delivery of 6 more rejects and 10 blue and white flimsy brollies.
The rejects were mended with much cursing and yards of gaffer tape and at last every tent had a company symbol in front of it.
So now we had 13 of the real thing, 8 for the tents and 5 to argue over ( these 5 for 15 mobiles plus reception). Tried to allocate the 5 to customers with young children/babies, then the older people got wise to it and they started to insist they had one to protect
their skin from the hot Vendeen sun. Then people who had ‘been with us for20 years’ decided they deserved to be sheltered by the real thing and things were just as bad again with thefts, midnight raids and arguments over who is having what.
At last on 4th August we had a text telling us the new parasols have arrived in the warehouse in Nantes and to expect a delivery within the week.
Two days later a box arrived with 3!!!!
Two blue and white ones have blown inside out and are ruined so we are back with the orange with a white (slightly less white now) fringes and any request for parasols is met with a big sigh and an apology, “Sorry my friends, the answer is blowing in the wind”.
You need to be logged in to comment