Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

ParisRant: Encore, with PARAGRAPHS this time...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

Things were going far too well, obviously. Sure, there was the whole "Froggish ignorance of the Joys of Toast" thing... but I had assumed that to be the sum total of the negatives. If this was the sole hint of grit in the spinach of life, thought I, then this is all rather swell.

And then stark reality jumped out and bit me squarely on my 41-and-a-bit year-old arse.

Turns out that real estate agents are the same everywhere; that is, people whose only alternative employment is as a burglar, a stockbroker, or a used-car salesman. You ought to have known that it would be the case, and I ought to have known it too. There is a certain sameness in all the 'ticket clipping' "professions" - where some git interposes himself into a transaction somehow and charges an ad valorem fee for something that has relatively invariant production costs.

If I had a child who grew up to be a real estate agent, I would tell others that he was a car thief rather than face the shame of having soiled humanity with yet another ticket-clipper.

The story goes like this.

A giant hairy smelly 41-year-old bloke (me) and a slim, quietly spoken Power Lawyer (The Lovely) go out to the scenic suburb of le Vesinet to look at a cottage. The cottage is advertised as 'meublé' (furnished) and sure enough, the place has everything you could expect (our Paris flat was rented furnished, and included linen, towels, toaster, coffee machine... you name it). The agent gives assurances that the furniture that we see on our little tour will 'reste ici' (stay here) when the existing tenant leaves.

D'accord, we say. C'est genial, we think. Lovely area, nice little house. A bit smaller than we wanted, but it's worth the slightly-excessive rent because the furniture is of a high standard.

We hold our noses at the idea of paying a real estate agent €850 for doing bugger all (in France there is an 'agent's fee' on every rental, and it's usually a month's rent; our fee was 20% less than a month's rent). Two month's rent as bond, a month's rent in advance, and the agents fee totals €4000 exactly.

Some time later, we go out to le Vesinet on a Saturday (let the record show that this was last Saturday) - ostensibly to sign the paperwork and move right on in.

Bzzzzt. Wrong - but thank you for playing.

We got to meet the chatelaine of the grand house to which the cottage belongs (she is a very nice lady), but we were told that although the existing tenant had left, we could not take over the place without getting contents insurance.

That's the least of the problem - the interesting thing took place prior to that, when we went back in to inspect the property.

There was not a stick of furniture in the place. Well, there was an old table and 3 chairs - but everything else had gone with the prior tenant.

We mentioned this to the agent - who tried to brazen it out, letting us know that it hardly costs anything to buy a fridge, a washing machine, a microwave, a couple of couches, a bed (at least one), lamps, a TV... the sorts of things that we were led to believe were already a part of the chattels. Conservatively, I reckon new versions of all that stuff would total about €2500. I mentioned that if it costs 'presque rien', then HE could buy the stuff. He thought that was funny.

Frankly, he can stick the place up his arse - which is sad, because it's a nice location and the chatelaine seems a really nice lady.

Why is it that real estate agents the world over are the same grimy parasites, I wonder. Willing to try any 'arnaque' (con-job) - advertising an unfurnished place as furnished, claiming that the garden was 100m2 when it's probably half that size... that sort of thing. IOt burns me up, because by trying to pull that sort of shit, they are basically letting you know that they think you're an idiot.

Speaking of idiots, Ariel Sharon's headache continues, and the European press fails to spot its hypocrisy - mewling about freedom of expression in the Muhammad-cartoon frisson while David Irving, Ernst Zundel and others sit in jail for questioning the State version of the unpleasantness of 1939-1945.

Frankly, if the State has to enforce a particular 'correct line' of thought under pain of imprisonment, I am inclined automatically to wonder why the truth needs armed goons to help make itself apparent. As Jefferson said, the governments don't need to throw force of arms behind the truth: the truth needs no defending.

Oh - and all this crapola about bird flu... doesn't it make it screamingly obvious that the attack on Iran is getting closer? Got to get the population diverted and concerned, so that their critical faculties are in a state of disequilibrium whe nthe war drums are ramped up. So it's bird fl uand chikungunya, 24/7. It makes me sick. the odds against this virus mutating into a human-human transmissable disease are about the same as for any flu in any year. EVERY year 25000 people die of flu across the world. H5N1 has killed at most a dozen people... so we are spending billions of dollars on PR for a war, and on the remote possibility that a particular disease will self-generate. MADNESS.