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Offering to pay a rush rate: A faux pas?

by Catherine Jan on June 14, 2012

I needed some repairs done in my home in France, and the workers I wanted to hire were not available until September.

Good help is hard to find ;)

So I studied the estimate again. It was for €300. After a couple of days, I called the company back.

I explained how genuinely urgent this job was and added,

Madame, can I pay you a surcharge for a rush job, and then can you send someone here within two weeks?

On ne fonctionne pas comme ça !

«On ne fonctionne pas comme ça ! »

She was A P P A L L E D .

« On ne fonctionne pas comme ça ! »

My translation:

That is not how we operate!

Paying a rush surcharge seemed perfectly normal to me

As a translator, I have occasionally given two different quotes for the same project: Price A for delivery on Tuesday and Price B for delivery on Friday.

So while the surcharge was natural to me, it seemed to have caused offence.

A French thing or a home repair thing?

In Canada and probably in the States, you can sometimes pay extra for government services when you have a special request. In North America, we can get personalized license plates for an extra fee, whereas in France, that would never work.

In Ontario, you can pay a 30 CAD surcharge to get your birth certificate in 2 days instead of 2 weeks. France would certainly turn up its nose at that.

Imagine someone butting in line just because they’re willing to pay a bit extra.


Do you think the woman in home repairs was in shock because

  1. she has never heard of charging a rush rate before?
  2. rush rates are undemocratic, unfair, elitist?
  3. she thought I was trying to bribe her into doing something unethical/corrupt/fraudulent?
  4. this is France?
  5. this is home repairs?
  6. other

Please advise.

And for a more practical post on rush rates, try Some thoughts on rush charges.