When we first arrived, we used the hypermarket 10 minutes from our house. At every visit we were asked if we had a ‘carte de fidelité’ so eventually we signed up for one. Practically all of our shopping was done there. Suddenly, we realized that all of our points had disappeared. When we asked, we found that if you don’t exchange them for a free gift you lose them at the end of the year! It’s written in the small print, ‘Le compte est valable jusqu’au 31 décembre de l’année en cours; tout compte non débité à cette date est perdu par le client’. It’s a really mean policy because Christmas is traditionally a time of heavy spending, then comes a week of skiing, and ‘hey presto’ all your points are taken back!The next year, I was determined to get a free gift. After 25 years of marriage our teaspoons had progressively disappeared from our cutlery drawer. I needed 350 points to get six new ones. I even went and bought things with double points just to get to the total. The big day came. I went to Customer Service and asked for the gift I had set my heart on. “Sorry there are none left”. I was not expecting that! “Won’t you be getting some more in stock?” I asked. “No, once the things on display in the cabinet are gone, that’s it.” For my 350 points, I could have a teddy bear, a flannel for a baby or some scented wooden discs to keep away moths. As I had no toddler, baby, nor moths I was at a loss. In the end, I found a bottle of organic red wine was all that I could have – to drown my sorrows with, I suppose! Reading the small print is vital to life in France. I was astonished to find that not only does a small French supermarket chain take back your points but also the biggest international supermarket does as well. I was not expecting that!

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