European issues at the office

Article published on Oct. 9, 2007
Article published on Oct. 9, 2007
I can speak French and German fluently, I know many restaurants in Luxembourg and my very birth is the result of a long trip throughout Europe. Who am I ? I am a tool of « relational marketing » aimed at establishing customer loyalty for a Luxembourg bank ... More precisely, I am a guide on the discounts available for them in some restaurants of the city.

A little bit more about my pre-natal trip through Europe

I am nothing more than an embryo when restaurateurs agree to be part of the discount programme that I advertise. My first words are in French and include descriptions of the affiliated restaurants as well as a list of their opening times... These pieces of information, the foundations of my identity are collected by a Walloon who is in charge of recruiting the affiliated restaurants.

I grow up in Belgium

With him, I have then the occasion to learn Belgian sayings... When offered a second beer, he nods to the barman and says  « one never leaves on one leg ». Then he takes me back to the offices of the relational marketing company in Brussels where I am added to a database.

I grow up fed by new affiliated restaurants joining the programme. Reaching maturity with over 150 restaurants listed, I am then extracted from the database to be put in a Word document. An e-mail makes me travel to a translation company and I come back bilingual. This is it, I will now be able to address both German and French-speaking luxembourgers.

An escapade to France

I then take a trip to Paris through the threads of the European web, only to reach the main office of the relational marketing company. I am lodged in a file called « guide on 2008 discounts » saved under text version 1. I would have preferred another name. I am then printed on both sides of the paper in accordance with the sustainable development fad. Somebody actually complained about my manager who signs his e-mails with a bossy reminder to « please consider the environment before printing this document. » but comes to work in his Land Rover. This is my first applied experiment of French ecology.

I am then proof-read, corrected (only for the French part though, nobody knows a word of German in the company). My text is improved, I have to look my best for my first presentation at the marketing service of the Luxembourg bank.

First class trip to Luxembourg

I arrive in Luxembourg by way of a new e-mail. I discover that punctuation rules are followed the English way here. No spaces before the '!' nor the ':' or the ';'. Luxembourgers have therefore to correct what the French omitted.

The European trip continues to and fro: from Luxembourg to Brussels via Paris so that the changes brought about can furnish my nest, the database. A Flemish woman notices that someone attempted to translate into French the word waterzoï, a Flemish dish,in the description of ones of the Belgian restaurants. 'Don't touch my waterzoï !', she pesters as she corrects. I hope I have not added to the recent separatism feud.

Harmonisation issues

Once everyone agrees on my actual content, I am sent to the Parisian advertising agency to work on my formatting. I am decorated with pictures of the restaurants I am referring to. Another redaction corrector proof-reads me. Not an unlike a 'taliban of commas', she hunts the last mishaps left behind by my successive progenitors.

I head back to Luxembourg for the last validations required in my existence. After a few finish finishing touches in Luxembourg, the advertising agency puts me on a server in order to enable the printing office to download me for the final episode of my birth.

I absorb matter and colour and exist for real at last multiplied in a myriad of copies.

The end of the trip approaches : I make my way back to Belgium in a transporter's truck, arrive at the fulfilment house which is in charge of shipping me to the clients of the bank in envelopes. I am separated from other discount guides and once in the envelopes, I encounter the membership card that enables the clients to benefit from the discount offered in the affiliated restaurants.

Heading back to Luxembourg, at the Post sorting office, my European odyssey ends with my arrival in a Luxembourg household. All year long, my foster family take me to the restaurant. They do not realise that each evening out at the restaurant reminds me of my first steps.

Guillaume de Pauw