'Bad News' Phone Calling

photo: terrace le royal versailles
Nearly everything in Versailles is
named 'Royal' this or that..

Football Fans Who Are 'Bad News'

Paris:- Saturday, 27. June 1998:- While Le Parisien was clapping itself on the back last Tuesday with a lead story about how football fans love France, and possibly Paris too a little bit, page four had an interesting account of the French experience with portable telephones.

For some completely unknown reason, vast industrial concerns have decided that everybody in France must have a portable telephone immediately, if not sooner.

France Télécom has made vast strides in recent years, putting public telephone cabins nearly everywhere - except, Catch-22: where you need them in a hurry - so residents of France do not lack telephones, in principle.

Now that the national operator has a couple of new competitors, the race to put a portable in everybody's pocket is really on. So far, theyphoto: place stalingrad haven't stooped to giving the little phones away as they were almost doing about a year ago.

Paris cops get to watch the game too because the ground is too hard for 'hooligans.'

But then as now, what is not clear is what the wretched little gadgets cost. First, the telephone costs something; anything from a price of two to ten. Is the one costing five times as much as five times better?

Then there is some obscure mumbo-jumbo about the monthly minimum charge. No two offers are comparable: it is a jungle. Finally there are the line charges, or the costs of an actual call. Nobody in France seems to know what this is. It is a figure hidden in a black hole in outer space.

Take one of Le Parisien's examples: Jean-Jacques - not his real name - signs a contract for a portable phone; one that includes a flat rate for 180 minutes worth of online gabbing. His first surprise it that the thing doesn't work from inside his apartment.

When he tried to give the phone back, he found that he'd signed up for a year. Customer service said he didn't have a good reason for returning the portable. Paris is supposed to have total coverage for these phones.

After three weeks of sporadic calling from the street outside his apartment, he wrote the company a letter. Three days later, the service was cut off. He had already paid the first month and a 295 franc start-up charge, so all he had left to pay was the remaining 3,200 francs of his annual contract.

This is standard practice with two of the operators, but a third is said to be a bit more flexible. All the same, Jean-Jacques is a bit bitter about shelling out 4,000 francs for ten days of local calls - from the street.

In print big enough to read, none of the publicity and promotion material say much about the minimum annual subscription; and I've already said the actual cost of a call is a secret. It's just one of life's little 'mauvaises surprises.'

The Whopper News

First the bad news: The Burger King outlet in Versailles is going to close. The good news is that the last two remaining outlets in France will remain open.

For some reason, the Burger King chain of fast food hamburger joints did not catch on in France. This may have been because their standard luxo model, known modestly as the 'Whopper,' contained real lettuce and real tomatoes, not to mention what seemed to be real mayo and ketchup.

The only thing this delicacy had in common with its nearest competitor was real onions and price. This american-style sandwich was also made by hand, in keeping with the French way of preparing food-like stuff.

The manager of the Versailles branch, on the rue du Maréchal Foch, told me on Friday he didn't know when the outlet will close. When it does, the two remaining Burger King outlets will be at the airport at Roissygraphic: last whopper in versailles and somewhere near or in the Eurotunnel facilities at Calais. This will mean 'Whopper' fans will be able to have a last one - or two! - while arriving or departing from France - and be 'Whopperless' while here.

Remember it and weep.

My affection for the 'Whopper' goes back to 1956 when my town's first drive-in hamburger joint opened on Kingsway with the name of 'King Burger.' Then, the standard, basic-model hamburger cost 15 cents, and was no worse than the standard model hamburger made by Burger King's competitor today.

In those days, hamburger sandwiches similar to the 'Whopper' were made in little walk-in cafés by eccentric craftsman, who usually enjoyed wide, if local, fame.

And Now For the Summer Sales

Note: the annual and official 'summer sales' have started in Paris. Some prices are up to 50 percent off the regular price. Hurry!


A big story early in the week was about the rampage last Sunday in Lens of some allegedly German football hooligans, which left a French police officer in a critical coma.

There were nearly immediate arrests and a vast outpouring of rage and disgust in Germany, which was relayed over French media.

On Friday, Le Parisien reported that a young Austrian had not only witnessed the attack on the policeman, but photographed it as well. Today's news goes a bitgraphic: bild title 25 june further: the young Austrian took his two rolls of film to Bonn, where he managed to sell them to the mass-circulation daily Bild Zeitung - and these photos were published in Bild's Tuesday editions.

The front page of last Thursday's 'export' edition of Bild.

The French police immediately got the aid of German police and when the Austrian showed up for a match at Saint-Denis on Tuesday, he was grabbed by the cops.

On one hand they were immensely annoyed that he did not aid the stricken policeman and left the scene; on the other hand - from the witness and his films - they learned that many more than the original four had taken part in the attack and these are being currently sought in a Europe-wide manhunt - with the aid of the photographic bystander's photos.

Spontaneous collections were started in Germany to aid the policeman's family, and Bild Zeitung also kicked in with a 50,000 DM contribution to a bank account it had set up for receiving readers' donations.

German border patrols on the lookout for known hooligans were raised from a crew of 230 to 1270. In France, there have been many arrests and about half the convictions are resulting in jail time. Security forces are also being augmented wherever games are to be played.

The SportsBar Has Moved to the Fútbol Page for the duration. Bon chance!
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