I’ve ranted before about the ridiculous amount of paperwork in France, but I never expected it to impinge on the simple act of getting some snow tyres fitted to a car. You’d think it’d be as simple as going to a tyre shop, asking for some snow tyres, and having them fit them, but no. A friend of mine has a Renault Kangoo which resembles what we’d called a panel van in Australia: front seats only and a large, flat back suitable for carrying all sorts of big objects, although he mostly uses it for carting around his shopping. I drove down to Annecy with him so he could cart my shopping around after sorting out some new tyres. End result? No time for shopping and no snow tyres. Here’s a quick run-down:
Shop 1: “No, we don’t stock those tyres. You need commercial tyres because you don’t have back seats. We don’t stock them.”
Shop 2: ‘Those commercial tyres always sell out early. You won’t find them now. We can sell you the non-commercial tyres and put them on your wheels, but we can’t mount your wheels back on your car because you should have the commercial tyres. You’re welcome to jack up your car and remount your wheels in our forecourt once we’ve put the tyres on your wheels.”
Shop 3: “We’ll check out the back.” (30 minutes later): “No we don’t have any. We can order the commercial tyres in for you. They cost more than double the standard tyres. You’re missing a code on your car registration papers. Go to Renault because you might be able to get the standard tyres if you get those numbers added.”
Renault: “That’s very odd that you don’t have those details. I’ll check with my supervisor” (10 minutes later): “We can’t give you your car’s details. You need to go to the prefecture (car registration office, which is a depressing place), although since it’s late afternoon, they are closed. They are only open in the mornings, and they’re closed entirely at least one day during the week but I forget which day. Good luck.”
At this point, my friend gave up and we drove home as the day faded into night, having achieved nothing but a feeling of defeat.
But part of living in France is about embracing this paper trail and using it your advantage. My friend took his car to the local garage that passed his car for its two-yearly check-up recently, and it seems that they didn’t need the missing code in order to fit standard tyres.
The moral of this story? Don’t waste your time, effort and stress on official processes: it’s just not the French way.