TAG Heuer International SA

Though only a subsidiary of LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), the French luxury goods retailer, I added TAG Heuer, the sports watchmaker, on my list of companies to visit because I thought it would be fun. Boy, was I wrong. Then again, I should have known that a business associated with LVMH would be a disaster to visit. Why? After visiting more than 3,000 companies around the world, the snotty, arrogant, unfriendly, unhelpful and downright rude uniform wearing receptionists I had to deal with while trying to visit LVMH's offices in Paris are still in the running for the title of Worst Receptionists Ever Encountered.

Tag Heuer occupies the top floor in a four-story retail/office building several miles from Neuchatel, a lakefront town of 40,000 inhabitants. Many of the tenants in the reddish-colored four building complex have their names stamped in large letters on the outsides of the buildings and I'm somewhat surprised Tag Heuer doesn't. It's a high-visibility complex with a freeway road passing within a few yards.

The reception area is extremely small with the receptionist sitting behind a counter. Taking a quick scan around I note the Tag Heuer watch on display in an enclosed glass case and the two publications atop a small coffee table-one is a large heavy book on watches and the other an issue of F1 magazine (formula 1 car racing).

I identify myself to the receptionist and explain how I sent an introductory letter a month earlier to CEO Christian Viros. "Oh", she cheerfully explains, "he left the company quite a while ago". I reply, "Oh really, well could you call up the current CEO's secretary to find out if she's familiar with the letter?" The receptionist makes the call and learns the secretary does indeed remember the letter and that she had forwarded it to the home address of former CEO Viros. "Did she open the letter and read it before forwarding it?" I ask. "Oh no", replies the receptionist, "she wouldn't have opened it because it's personal". Somewhat perplexed I say, "Why would it be personal? I didn't write personal on it, could you call her back and find out if she had read it?" "No, that's not possible because she's busy", replies the receptionist. "But you just talked to her less than a minute ago, could you call her up and let me talk to her?" I ask "No", she replies. I then try explaining to the receptionist how I came all the way from California and that this was a one shot deal and that I wouldn't have a chance to come back another time. I then ask if she could call public relations or corporate communications to see if someone has a few minutes to meet with me. "Oh no", she replies, "everyone is real busy". Frustrated I say, "How do you know? You haven't even checked? I can't believe you won't even try and help me". She just smiles back at me. I depart still not quite sure if she's just too plain lazy to help, clueless, or just copying the way things are done in Paris.