WHEN YOU CAN’T TRUST WHO YOU SHOULD TRUST …

  Each year this time France’s sapeurs pompiers – firefighters and paramedics – affectionately known here as les pompiers, start a money collect. They stand on the pavements/sidewalks and inside and outside shopping malls. I always give them money and they in return give me the coming year’s calendar. This morning at 10.15 outside my […]

A 'pompier'- firefighter and paramedic

A ‘pompier’- firefighter and paramedic

 

Each year this time France’s sapeurs pompiers – firefighters and paramedics – affectionately known here as les pompiers, start a money collect. They stand on the pavements/sidewalks and inside and outside shopping malls.

I always give them money and they in return give me the coming year’s calendar.

This morning at 10.15 outside my local shopping mall I watched, as I walked up, how people were shaking their heads at a young, smiling pompier offering them a calendar in exchange for a ‘donation’.

I stopped but when I opened my purse I saw that I only had small change in it – 1 and 2 euro coins and some coppers. I always give them a 10 euro note.

I apologised to the young, smiling pompier that I would have to give him small change. He said that it was quite alright.

I counted out the 1 and 2 euro coins I had – they came to 7 euros – and I gave it to him. I again apologised that I was giving him coins and such a meagre amount.  “It’s 7 euros,” I told him and he said that it is very generous of me.

He filled out a form on the back of the calendar as such a donation is tax deductible. Not that I would ever be so mean as to request a deduction on my tax declaration next March.

Once I’d done my shopping in the mall I went to have a coffee and I began to page through the calendar to see on what days the public holidays and birthdays fall in 2014.

I then saw that the young, friendly pompier had in the form he had filled out declared that I had given him 2 euro. The amount is first given as a figure and then written out. He had written 2 and underneath deux. No way to mistake 2 for 7 and deux for sept. He had used a pencil.

I went back to him. A woman was giving him a 1 euro coin.

I waited until she left and I then asked him why he had written down that I had given him 2 euros when I had given him 7.

His reply was that he has no idea why he had done that but he will correct it.

He then, using a pen, wrote over the 2 to make it 6 and over the deux to make it six.

I then told him that he again had not written the correct amount. We are talking about 7 (sept) euros.

“Oh,” he said, “it does not matter as there is a number on the form anyway.”

Yes, there is a number on the form, but the amount written on the form is registered under that number. Therefore the amount on the number on my form – 3018 – was registered as 2 euro.

Playfully, I slapped him on the arm with the calendar. He laughed and so did I.

Normally, I would not have bothered, but this young, smiling pompier is going to make himself a nice sum in the days while the calendars are being offered to the public, should he each time not declare what he has received, and I wanted him to know that he had not fooled me — and should stop pocketing the money he’s being given.

He is in fact pocketing money the public is giving to the Sapeurs Pompiers’ ‘Orphan and Widow Fund’.

Little bastard!

So, if you live in France, or you are a tourist, and a pompier stops you and offers you a calendar for a donation, do give him some money, BUT make sure he writes the correct amount on the form on the back of the calendar.

And the lesson I learnt today is: there are crooks and thieves everywhere.

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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