The Arts of Sclerosis: France Profonde
I’ve been quiet as I have been: Away, very very busy, and affected at home by a totally unneccessary lack of broadband thanks to my lovely DSL ‘provider’. More on that anon after my crack legal team checks into the content of my draft post…
For the August Bank Holiday we went to Normandy (no I won’t say where the accomodation was as if any more people go they will jack the price up!) and once again I noticed how France is able to mask strife and decline better than a thirtysomething starlet. If I spoke the lingo and had any chance of a good gig I’d consider a move in a heartbeat.
However, I got to thinking – why are the supermarkets where we were filling up on wine and cured meats like survivalist gourmets so much better than any in the UK? Auchan and Carrefour are a masterclass of layout, customer service and technology. Jolly rollerblading staff were only too happy to help with any query and all tech was the latest and greatest. Terminals let you check prices anywhere. Why are the super cheap and efficient, virtually unstaffed B&B Hotels (and Formule 1 etc) devoid of a rosbif equivalent? Etc. Etc.
I think the answer is in France’s high taxes, inflexible labour market and forest of red tape. It is like doing a triathlon with a lead filled rucksack. Such an arrangement requires a much more considered effort and means only the very, very best can survive. Every hour of that famous 35 hour week is precious. Excellent infrastructure is also a given, as you cannot run that race with a crap, patched up and very elderly UK-style backbone.
The dark side of cheap, disposable (and lower skilled) labour and a more flexible, lower tax economy is that mediocrity (Woolworths? DSG? Co-op?) has an infinitely better shot at survival.