SNCF: Internationalization Gone Wrong

I’ve been working on booking some train tickets on SNCF for Adrienne and my trip this week. I’ve managed to get one booked: Paris to Grenoble. I’ve been working on booking the second: Grenoble to Munich via Zurich. In the process of working with the site, I noticed some internationalization problems.

There are a few “Confirm, Next” buttons that say “to be translated”, and apparently the delivery method for my tickets are “to be translated” as well. (I’m actually picking them up at the station.)

By far, the worst internationalization problem, though, is a far more subtle one. I’m having some problems booking the tickets because Citibank initially declined the transactions for possible fraud. I was trying to call SNCF and either book them over the phone, or figure out why they won’t sell them to me.

I found the “Conditions of use SNCF” page on their site, which mentions several times that one can call 08 92 35 35 35 and for only 0.35 EUR per minute they will be happy to help me. Expensive, but great! I’ll call them!

I faithfully dialed the number into my phone: 011 33 8 92 35 35 35. I got a French menu system—but the web page telling me to call this number said nothing about not having any English options there. OK, I can handle this. I listened very carefully and selected the option for “International Trips”, and then for “Other Lines”. I was connected to an operator, who greeted me in French. I asked “parlez vous anglais?” to which she replies “non, monsieur”.

Hmm. I can handle French menus, but I don’t think I can handle asking her why my credit card is being denied in French. I asked if she could transfer me to someone who speaks English. She tried to give me the number: zairo … eight … and I guess she gave up and hung up on me. Doh.

Part of internationalization is making sure that the information you are translating is relevant, not just directly translating everything.

2 thoughts on “SNCF: Internationalization Gone Wrong

  1. Uh, what? SNCF *is* the French rail company. If you’re booking a train, in France, you are doing it with SNCF. I can’t say I understand your comment. :D

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