Selling your Car in France

Anglophone expats might find the following information and tips useful when it comes to selling their car in France.

1. First of all you must decide whether to sell your car privately or to a garage or second-hand car dealer. If selling privately you’ll have to calculate the price you’d like to sell it at. This can be done by using the Internet site of specialized car dealers or by consulting the tables and formulas supplied by car magazines. Prices are based on the average sales price for your make of car along with its age, number of kilometres, options and sometimes the region you live in. Don’t be too greedy. What you should be aiming at is a price which suits both you and the buyer. It might, however, be a good idea to increase your selling price by, say, 2% to give yourself room for manoeuvre when it comes to the inevitable haggling. Be aware that your potential buyer will certainly have done his sums, too.

2. If you decide to sell to a professional the selling price will be some 10% lower as it takes into account his working expenses and margins. You can calculate the official value by consulting the publication L’Argus which is on sale at newsagent’s and in supermarkets.

3. If you sell privately you’ll certainly have to advertise your vehicle. You can do this regionally or nationally through specialized advertising newspapers, magazines and internet companies. Usually they provide special forms you can use to describe your vehicle (colour, extras, kilometrage, age and, of course, the selling price). You’ll also have to provide a suitable photo. Make sure it’s a flattering one.

4. It might sound elementary but when selling privately it’s important to carry out all necessary repairs on both mechanics and bodywork before putting your vehicle up for sale. It’s also important to give a good impression – so give it a thorough wash and clean inside and out. Use polish on the bodywork and a plastic and/or leather renovator inside. Make sure all the floormats have been cleaned. Your aim is to make it look as near to new as possible. It could make all that difference. In addition, normally a buyer will want to see the service manual along with details of all scheduled services and repair bills.

5. There are plenty of rogues about, so ask a potential buyer to supply official identification – ideally his identity card complete with photo.

6. As the seller you’ll need to fill in a certificat de cession. This informs the authorities of the sale of the vehicle along with the name and address of the new owner. It’s in three parts: one is for you, one for the buyer and one must be sent to your local préfecture within two weeks of concluding the transaction. This form can be obtained from your préfecture or sous-préfecture or downloaded from

7. You must also let the buyer have a certificat de non-gage. This is an official document proving that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen and that you’re its 100% owner (i.e. you’re not still paying credit instalments on it). This is also free and can be obtained from the same sources as the certificat de cession. Though not mandatory it might also be a good idea to establish a contrat de vente giving details of the vehicle and the sales transaction (registration number, make, date first registered, kilometrage, sales price) which can then be signed by both parties. Contract models can be found on Internet.

8. If your car is more than four years old and you’re selling privately you must supply the buyer with a procès-verbal de contrôle technique (see ‘The French MOT – le contrôle technique). This must be less than six months old (or less than two months if the MOT revealed defects which entailed a contre-visite).

9. Give the buyer the car’s certificat d’immatriculation, its registration certificate. If your vehicle is relatively old it will be the carte grise (it’s a bit confusing as the new certificat d’immatriculation is still frequently referred to as the carte grise). If it’s the carte grise draw two parallel lines across it and write legibly between the lines ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ followed by the date and time it was sold. It’s important to indicate the time in case the new owner commits a driving offense after taking possession. Sign below and cut off the top right-hand corner along the dotted lines.

10. If it’s a certificat d’immatriculation write on the top part ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ the date and time it was sold, followed by your signature. Then fill in the detachable coupon with the name and address of the buyer along with the date and your signature in the box. Then give the complete certificate to the buyer. Do the same if you’re selling to a professional but don’t fill in the detachable coupon. This enables the buyer to drive his new acquisition for a maximum of one month while waiting for a new certificat d’immatriculation to be issued in his name.

11. If you’re selling the car to a dealer simply give him the certificat d’immatriculation. Usually he will supply all the documents and look after the formalities. Make sure he respects the official procedure. Mention the sale on your carte grise or certificat d’immatriculation. It might be a good idea if you personally send the certificat de cession to the préfecture as proof that the vehicle has been sold.

12. For obvious reasons a potential buyer will want a test drive. Give him the keys only when you’re both inside the car. When it’s over get him to switch off the ignition and hand you the keys before you get out. I know this sounds needless but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some so-called testers have been known to drive off.

13. When it comes to settlement tell him you want to be paid by banker’s cheque. Normally this guarantees payment but forgeries do exist. Don’t hesitate to ask for the name of his bank so you can telephone to make sure they issued the cheque. This is imperative if you accept payment by personal cheque. Consequently, the transaction must be concluded during bank opening hours and not during the weekend when it will be closed. Please note that many French banks are open on Saturday mornings only.

14. Just to be on the safe side make sure you’re actually holding the cheque before handing over the keys and the crossed, dated and signed carte grise or the detachabe certificat d’immatriculation coupon.

15. Be aware that as the seller you’re responsible for any hidden defects existing before the transaction. If the buyer proves their existence he can ask you to refund part of the price he paid if he decides to keep the vehicle, or to cancel the sale with a total refund of the price paid. However, providing the buyer agrees, you can include a written let-out clause with regard to the hidden defects guarantee in the sales contract. French judges are usually more clement with the seller when the buyer is a professional as they consider he is better qualified to judge the state of a vehicle than a private buyer.

Call of France

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‘It was as if that loathsome creature which had left such slimy traces in his past had now crawled into the present’


Disappointing academic results, a disastrous first love and a failed job experience all go to make Michael Morgan deeply disillusioned with himself and others. He decides to train to be a French teacher. But at home the atmosphere is poisoned, school life becomes tedious, misjudged relations with two female colleagues lead to disturbing repercussions … and tragedy strikes. He longs to wipe his life’s slate clean by escaping to a fresh start in France. But is he running away from himself? And then he’s given the chance of sharing in an exciting venture. Should he stay in England or pursue his French dream?

Based on some of the author’s own experiences, Barfield School, the soon-to-be-published, first novel in his trilogy, CALL OF FRANCE, is a psychological drama which explores the thoughts, feelings and motivations of Michael Morgan, a young French teacher whose obsessional dreams of starting a new life in France lead to some regrettable choices. Their unforeseen consequences make him even more determined to escape.

Call of France website:

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The Call of France: Book 1 – Barfield School (9)

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Michael decides to leave the brewery and apply for a place on a teacher training course.

It now seemed quite natural that what in his final university year he’d contemptuously dismissed as little more than an extension of the cloistered life he’d been leading until then should present itself in a far more redeeming light: for wasn’t teaching the type of vocational job he’d now grown to realize was more suited to his temperament in so much as it would give him the satisfaction of being able to help and contribute towards the personal fulfilment of others? What’s more, wouldn’t being in possession of a teaching diploma increase his chances of discovering new horizons by providing him with the means of earning a living in many distant countries? So why didn’t he apply for a place on a teacher training course? And why not at the university where he’d studied for his first degree? The prospect of escaping from the confinement of his present job and renewing contact with the insouciance of student life filled him with all the anticipatory joy of a prisoner contemplating his impending release.

It must not be imagined, however, that Michael belonged to that category of devil-may-care young men who took radical decisions concerning their future life-orientations without giving careful consideration to the detrimental effects these might have on their present circumstances. So before handing in his official resignation he’d taken the decision to cover himself by first obtaining a place on a one year teacher training his former university. And in reply to his application he’d received a letter inviting him to present himself at the University School of Education where its head, Professor Ibbotson, would be happy to interview him. A date and time were, of course, indicated. His reaction had been mixed: he’d been delighted at having been granted an interview, but apprehensive as to its contents and, above all, fearful of the results.

It was now with a certain shame (though he’d scarcely felt it at the time) that he had not only taken the day off work without asking for leave, but actually used the company car he was now in possession of to drive there. And was it some strange imminent justice which, in punishment of this blatant abuse of company time and money caused things to get off to the worst possible start? Being a scrupulously punctual person he set off from his lodgings at a time he’d estimated as being early enough for him to arrive at his destination well before the appointed time. But as he neared the end of his journey he became more and more anxiously aware that he hadn’t taken into account the immobilizing effects of heavy lunchtime traffic. The result was that he arrived a quarter of an hour late. So when he finally knocked on the door of Professor Ibbotson’s study he seriously thought his chances had been irreversibly compromised.

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The Call of France: Book 1 – Barfield School (8)

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Michael dreams of escaping from his present environment to more exotic climes.

Côte d'AzurBut now, in retrospect, he couldn’t really say he regretted those two years spent with the brewery. Perhaps it was his positive, philosophically-inclined nature which even convinced him that the experience had done him good: for this raw confrontation with down-to-earth, often unsavoury reality had shaken him, occasionally shocked him out of much of the naïve ideality which had been so much a part of his sheltered student life. He’d concluded that it had all been part and parcel of of that sometimes unavoidably painful process of adapting to the ways of our world. And not only had it broadened his experience of our planet as it is, but it had also taught him things unknown, or which he’d only been vaguely aware of in himself: for he could console himself with the thought that he now knew what he didn’t want and what he was not suited for. And though the financial rewards were not negligible and he’d been granted the luxury of a small company car this was not enough: he was ensnared in a system which inflicted more pain than pleasure. As we have seen, some of the pain came from the growing awareness that he would never be able to come to terms with the fact that the next few years – perhaps the whole of his working life – could be spent in much the same narrow, dingy urbane environment in which conflict with others was a daily reality, and where his constant objective was the banal and frequently ignoble pursuit of financial gain; and some of it arose from the growing, guilty awareness that he enjoyed having agreeable relations with others too much for this type of job, and that the time he was devoting to pleasant, homely chats with his managers and manageresses over morning coffee or afternoon tea should have been spent confronting them with the deficiencies of their shop management and their lack of satisfactory results. In short, not only did he feel more suited to a job which might allow him to make a significant contribution to the personal development of others, but he could never quite rid himself of the thought that the material rewards he was enjoying were being obtained fraudulently. In addition, he was becoming more and more frustratingly aware that somewhere he was wasting precious time: for he throbbed with excitement at dreams of a fresh start to life in a land of sunny beaches, warm blue seas, dazzling white buildings, shaded avenues and orange trees gently swaying in a deliciously-scented evening breeze.

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The Call of France: Book 1- Barfield School (7)

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Off-licenceAnd he was still liable, more than two years later, to mull over in some detail what he’d considered as the straw that broke the camel’s back. The event dated back to the beginning of his second working year and had acted as the irrevocable confirmation that it was as inconceivable for him to adapt to this type of job as it is to defy that law of geometry which states that a square peg can never be made to fit snugly into a round hole. He’d interviewed a young woman with a baby to manage a small off-licence in one of the city’s more popular suburbs. During the interview she’d informed him that she was the sister of a well-known pop-singer of that time. It had served to reassure him. Though he’d expressed some reserve regarding her ability to manage the shop while at the same time having to look after a six-month-old baby she’d assured him there would be no problem: she had plenty of relatives in the neighbourhood who would take care of it during the day, and her husband would be there to help in the evenings. Her spouse, she added, was ‘Jewish’. He remembered thinking this odd as her baby had frizzy black hair and a dark complexion. But he’d thought no more about it and, since she seemed keen on the job he decided to give her a chance. It was a horrible mistake. Almost immediately the takings began to drop and though he’d visited every day, this quickly assumed dramatic proportions. Now each off-licence was fitted with a small safe in which takings were placed at the end of each day, and, for obvious reasons of security, managers were instructed to bank the accrued amount once it had reached a pre-determined figure. To this effect the brewery provided dedicated paying-in slips on which the manager indicated the relevant amount and the date on which it had been paid in. The bank itself, of course, stamped the slip as proof that the money had actually been deposited with them on this specific date. So Michael decided to count the money in the safe. It amounted to only the previous evening’s takings. She assured him that she’d paid all prior takings into the bank the afternoon before. On asking her for proof in the form of the paying-in slip she told him she’d lost it. He’d immediately gone to the bank – only to be informed they had no record of the transaction. It was now becoming horrifyingly clear that she was both a thief  and a pathological liar.

So he went back to the brewery in order to consult a list of temporary replacement managers before giving her notice of her dismissal and organizing a lock-out. But when he went back in the early evening not only was she looking extremely sorry for herself but she had multiple bruises on her arms and face along with a spectacular black eye. It was obvious she’d been on the receiving end of a thorough beating. And he could only surmise that the culprit was the man standing next to her: for her ‘Jewish’ husband was, in fact, a beefy, furious-looking  West Indian (the city had a large Jamaican population). For a moment he feared he was going to suffer a similar fate but the husband’s wrath seemed directed solely at his wife. It crossed his mind that, even if the punishment was brutally expeditious, it at least suggested that the husband was far more honest than his spouse. After doing his best to placate him Michael had decided that discretion was the better part of valour and had beaten a hasty retreat. He’d come back just before the evening opening time with a replacement manageress, had taken the young lady to one side and quietly informed her of her dismissal. Perhaps she had some remorse as tears began rolling down her cheeks. Fortunately her husband was absent. It was from this moment onwards that he became obsessed by the desire to get out.

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The Call of France: Book 1 – Barfield School (6)

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Michael continues to relate his sobering experiences in his first job as a brewery tied-house supervisor.

BreweryHe was soon to admire the speed and accuracy with which the stock clerks and especially the stock takers could count and add up. And it was a source of amazement to him that, in spite of the humdrum, repetitive nature of their work and the permanent concentration it required the stock takers at least seemed to enjoy their job. He’d put this down to the fact that they’d all been stock clerks previously and for them it was promotion. But, above all, he reckoned, it was due to the independence the job gave: for not only was each stock taker supplied with a small company car but, since they posted the result of each day’s work back to the brewery at the end of the day they  only had to go into the office on Monday mornings when they were given the ten or more stock sheets for the pubs and off-licences they were required to take stock of during the week. As part of his training course to become a tied-house supervisor he did a four week stint working as a stock clerk after which he went round with an experienced stock taker before being allowed to take stock alone. He had previously viewed with some scorn this grinding work which he himself described as ‘counting your life away’, but the experience proved to be a lesson in modesty; for he was absolutely hopeless in both jobs – much to general incomprehension at the brewery where nobody could understand why a supposedly intelligent university graduate couldn’t even count and add up! And he himself never really understood why, for he always made an effort to do the job well. But as he was later to analyze, the difficulty lay in the fact that you had to establish some form of compatibility between two seemingly irreconcilable things: to permanently apply the whole of your concentration to an activity of a mindless, repetitive nature.

And so, if an inventory showed that a manager’s performance fell short of pre-calculated expectations it was part of Michael’s job to give him a stern warning and sometimes, in order to limit the accumulated proportions which these losses could assume, to recommend that stock be taken at shorter intervals – every week, or in some extreme cases, every day. If thereafter the tied house’s profit margins didn’t return to normal Michael simply informed the manager of his dismissal. But what made matters worse was that this kind of announcement could give rise to dramatic scenes where reactions could range from a deluge of tears to explosions of fury. For the manager and his family lived on the premises, and depriving him of his job also meant placing them in the unfortunate and sometimes desperate position of having to seek a new abode. And here lay another problem: since the brewery was legally obliged to give the offending manager one month’s notice of his dismissal, nothing stopped him from continuing to ‘fiddle’ or to steal stock during this period. To prevent this, what was termed a ‘lock-out’ was implemented: a locksmith was called in to change the locks on all the doors leading from the living quarters to the pub so that the manager was physically prevented from acceding to his previous place of work. A temporary manager living off the premises was then called in to replace the one who had been fired, and on expiration of the latter’s four weeks’ notice this substitute manager or a newly appointed one moved in. Michael had found himself temperamentally unequipped to resist finding these situations at best highly unpleasant, at worst acutely distressing.

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Does Prolonged Expat Living Create Two Different Persons? – 2

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FRENG THOUGHTSThe concept you have of your inner self is, of course, determined to a great extent by the environment in which you evolve and your perception of the image others have of you. In this respect language – that verbal garment we are obliged to don in our self-presentation to others – plays, I think, the most important part. For nothing says more about you than the way you express yourself. Even though I did set myself the perfectionist’s ideal of speaking the language like a Frenchman I think that, in spite of my best efforts to reach it, in the absolute my goal was unattainable. For though I’m frequently told I could almost (it’s the little words which hurt the most) be taken for a French native speaker, I’m convinced that, with the exception perhaps of the highly gifted, speaking a foreign language without a trace of accent requires you to live in a bi-lingual context from your very earliest years. Since I began learning French at the relatively advanced age of 11 and, in addition, was subjected to old-school translation methods more adapted to the teaching of a dead language than a living one, I’ve never been quite able to rid myself of an accent which, though I’m told is ever so slight, is enough to make me frustratingly aware that I never have, and never will completely fulfil my initial aim. For despite the fact that it doesn’t readily betray my English origins, my accent frequently prompts strangers to politely enquire whether I’m Swiss (I live near a Swiss border) or Belgian. And only the other day someone asked me if I was French Canadian! So, in my experience once you’ve been tagged as English (even though for me this has always been an advantage in France), you’re never really allowed to forget it.

And I can’t help thinking that when conversation goes beyond the repetitious banalities of everyday life what is expressed by me in French could be better said in English, and I’ve finally had to resign myself to the fact that the former is a language I have gradually acquired. As a result it requires a greater effort of concentration and attention, not only in regard to what you yourself are attempting to express but to what your conversational partners are saying. For in discussions of a more cerebral nature thoughts get cluttered with questions like ‘Is what I’m going to say grammatically correct?’ ‘Was that the right word I just used?’ ‘Is that noun masculine or feminine?’ ‘Did I pronounce that word correctly?’ ‘Did I really understand all he said?’ And you frequently have to rely on the judgement of a native speaker with regard to the standard of your own linguistic efforts. When I’m speaking English, on the other hand, since I myself am able to judge the quality of my language, my mind is free of all these niggling linguistic doubts; language and ideas flow much nearer together so that I can talk and at the same time think ahead about what I want to communicate. So speaking an acquired language for lengthy periods of time can get a little suffocating. That’s why being a writer in your native language can bring a kind of relief. And going back to England now and again – even if it’s only for a few days – gives me the opportunity not only of seeing my family (I’ve long since lost all contact with my former English friends), but re-finding my roots. Somewhere in my own eyes this refreshing breathe of fresh native air resuscitates the dormant Englishman in me. But one thing I can never understand and which is perhaps a reflection of the two persons that now dwell in me is that when I watch a France-England rugby match in France I’m for the English – whereas when I’m in England I’m wholeheartedly behind the French!

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Does Prolonged Expat Living Create Two Different Persons?

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FRENG THOUGHTSI frequently recall the words of my old university tutor (himself a former French schoolmaster) who used to say that his ability to speak a foreign language fluently had enabled him to lead two distinct lives. In my own case I would go even further and say that more than 40 years of uninterrupted expat living in France have transformed me into two almost distinct people: for I don’t perceive the French version of Barry Whittingham as being quite the same as the English one – so much so that this gave me the idea of writing my first book François Théodore Thistlethwaite’s FRENGLISH THOUGHTS which looks at the French and English – especially in their everyday lives – through the eyes of a split-identity ‘Frenglishman‘, each of whose French and English extremes can take control of the whole. Even though I don’t think I’m suffering from a case of Multiple Personality Disorder, I can’t help reflecting on some of the reasons which might go to explain why a long-standing expat Brit like me doesn’t have quite the same perception of himself in France as he does in England.

I think that, in my own case at least, the main explanation can be found in the fact that the initial challenge I set myself on settling in France was to immerse myself so totally in the everyday life, culture and language of the country as to become as much of a native as I possibly could. One of the things this involved was having the least possible contact with my countrymen and women. But don’t get me wrong. This in no way stemmed from a desire to deny my English origins (which I’ve always been proud of, and which I’ve always found to be an advantage in France), but from what might be called a sense of adventure which filled me with an irresistible urge to give myself another dimension by becoming part of a culture perceived as being excitingly different to the one I knew, and for which I had felt a constant attraction from the age of eleven when I had begun learning the language at school. In addition, the year I spent at a French university as part of my studies had left me with a feeling of intense dissatisfaction. For a number of reasons which I won’t go into here my original aim of making spectacular progress in spoken French had fallen short of original expectations, and had left me with the frustrating feeling of having let a golden opportunity slip by. And I had promised myself that if ever a second chance were to come my way I would do all in my power to succeed. Fortunately for me this second chance did present itself when my application to spend a year as an exchange teacher in a French lycée  was accepted.

On reflection, however, perhaps the word ‘adventure’ is not entirely appropriate. I know it has connotations of courage and audacity but I can sincerely say, without false modesty, that I don’t think the word really applies in my case. For I’ve always considered that courage should have a sustained, consistent form and involve fighting against a permanent temptation to yield to adversity rather than meeting the specific, short-term challenges of climbing a snow-topped mountain or hacking your way through a steaming jungle. And since my freely-consented choice to go and live in a foreign country was the result of a desire so overwhelmingly invasive that I couldn’t resist, real courage for me would have meant making the constant effort to endure what I considered to be barely tolerable – the conventional, routine English schoolteacher’s life I was leading, and which I would probably continue leading in one way or another for the rest of my working days.

(To be continued)

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The Call of France: Book 1- Barfield School (5)

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Michael’s first job as a tied-house supervisor.
English SchoolMichael couldn’t say he really hated his headmaster. The person he came nearest to detesting was Deputy Head Cooper, not only because of the loud-mouthed authoritarianism he systematically resorted to as a means of instilling fear in the kids but for the overbearing manner – even open contempt – he was all too inclined to display towards those younger teachers whose pedagogical convictions caused them to seek classroom order on the more enlightened basis of reciprocated respect.

English pubBut what had rankled most was when he’d called Michael ‘a failed businessman’ to his face and in the presence of others. And perhaps it had stung so much because of the element of truth it contained. After graduating three years previously he’d spent two years working in industry. He’d been a ‘tied house’ supervisor for a brewery in Birmingham. The job had been varied and included everything related to the management of outlets licensed to sell alcoholic beverages: interviewing and appointing managers, draught beer cellar management, stock control, order vetting, renovation and refurbishing, promotional work, etc., with the aim of increasing customer frequentation and optimizing the profitability of the 50 pubs and off-licences he’d been placed in charge of. But Michael’s sensibility had been considerably shocked on discovering that this first employment was not only a sobering introduction to the more humdrum aspects of the world of work but provided almost daily contact  with some of the less enviable, occasionally sordid manifestations of human nature. For one thing it was generally recognized in the trade that most, if not all managers were ‘on the fiddle’ – that is to say considerable ruse and ingenuity were used to skim off into their own pockets what should normally have gone to increase the profits of their employer. It was all part of a cat and mouse game between them and the brewery. But since there was not much the latter could do about this illicit reallocation of takings it was more or less tolerated – provided that the manager was reasonable enough not to exceed certain defined limits. And these known limits were established for each outlet by a system of financial control which took the simple but no less viable form of regular, usually monthly stocktaking.

Off-licenceTo this effect the brewery employed a score or so of stock takers whose job it was to go round the company’s tied-house pubs and off-licences ‘taking stock’. This consisted in simply (though, as he was later to find, it was more difficult than he’d first imagined) counting and recording on a dedicated stock sheet the exact quantities in stock at that given moment of everything the pub or off-licence sold (beer both bottled and draught, spirits, cigarettes, crisps, etc.), while taking into account the results of the previous inventory as well as the invoiced goods delivered in between. In this way the stock taker was able to calculate what had really been sold during that given period: if six bottles of brown ale had been counted at the previous inventory, an invoice proved that four dozen bottles had been delivered since, and now there were only ten bottles remaining in stock, this meant that 6 + 48 -10 = 44 bottles had been sold between then and now. And then each evening they would post the completed stock sheets back to the brewery stock office where a dozen or so clerks spent their days costing out the quantities of each item bought and sold in order to work out the profit margin for each. For example, 44 bottles of brown ale bought at a unit price of 80 pence gives a total cost price of 44 x 80p = £35,20 and when sold at a unit price of £1 a total sales amount of £44. A gross profit of £44 – £35,20 = £8,80 has, therefore, been made on the sale of brown ale during the period between the two inventories. The same calculations were applied to all the items sold by the outlet and a  total amount arrived at in each case. These were then all added up to produce a grand total and a gross profit figure (i.e. profits before the deduction of overheads such as wages, heating, etc.) established for that specific outlet. Any discrepancy between the total retail amount sold as determined by the inventory and the actual takings meant that something was going wrong: if the inventory showed a total retail sales figure over a given stock period of £5.000 whereas the actual takings were only £4.000 there was an unexplained deficit of £1.000. How could this be accounted for? In fact there were only two possibilities: either the stock taker or the stock clerk had somewhere made a mistake, or the manager (or sometimes his own bar staff) were ‘on the fiddle’. In most cases it was the latter.


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Le Contrôle Technique – the French MOT

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Centre controle techniqueHere are some tips the recently-landed Anglophone expat might find useful when it comes to submitting his vehicle to the French equivalent of the MOT.

1. The contrôle technique is mandatory for all cars four years old from new. So you’ll have  to take it along to a state-approved centre de contrôle agréé. If you live in a small town, as I do, there could be three or four of them. You’re free to choose which one. Consult the yellow pages of your annuaire téléphonique.

2. You can take your vehicle along for its contrôle technique any time during the six months preceding the date four years ago when it was first put on the road. So, if this was on 1st July 2011 it must be carried out between 1st January and 30th June 2015. After that it’s every two years.

3. If you bought your car new from a French garage they’ll usually inform you when it’s due for the test. Otherwise it’s up to you to remember.

4. You’ll have to present the original of your certificat d’immatriculation, and not a photocopy. The certificat d’immatriculation (or carte grise as it was previously called and is still frequently referred to as) is the official vehicle registration document.

5. Even though the points a centre de contrôle must check are the same, it’s not the case with the cost and each is free to charge what it likes. In practice, however, there’s quite a lot of competition and you can generally reckon on around 65 euros. Some even do special promotions which are advertised in local newspapers. And if you want to save a few euros you can always shop around.

6. Once your vehicle has been tested you’ll receive a pass or a fail, and you’ll be presented with a list of defects not warranting repair along with those you must get seen to. The mandatory repairs must be carried out (you’ve got two months to have this done) before re-submitting your vehicle. This is called a contre-visite and it will cost you around 20 euros (only the mandatory repairs are checked). Please note that motorcycles are not required to pass the contrôle technique – for the moment at least.

7. It might be better to take your car along to your local garage for what is called a pré-contrôle technique. This means they’ll check it and, if necessary, carry out all necessary repairs before submitting it to the test centre. So you simply leave your car with them and collect it a few hours later after it’s been through the control. This is what I do and my vehicle has never yet failed. The fee is relatively modest and it could save you some trouble and expense. And when possible you can also combine the pré-contrôle with a scheduled service or oil change.

8. In addition, if you intend to sell a vehicle more than four years old privately it’ll have to have another contrôle technique. You must give the buyer the procès-verbal de contrôle proving it’s been carried out, too. This must be done before you sign the sales contract. Even though any required repairs must be carried out, it’s not necessarily your responsibility. The buyer can agree to have this done at his expense. The procès-verbal mustn’t be more than six months old so that the buyer can be issued with a new certificat d’immatriculation. Please note that when a car changes ownership in France a new certificat is issued.

9. If you sell your car to a professional (i.e. garage, second-hand car dealer) you don’t have to have the contrôle technique carried out. They’ll have it done.

10. Be aware that if you don’t put your vehicle in for its contrôle technique within the prescribed time you could be fined 135 euros and your vehicle immobilized. This means that you’ll have to hand in your certificat d’immatriculation to the gendarmerie who’ll then issue you with a temporary authorization to use your vehicle, valid for seven days, enabling you to take it along to your chosen test centre. Once it has passed, you take your procès-verbal de contrôle to the police station and they’ll give you your original certificat d’immatriculation back.

11. Vintage cars (more than 30 years old) must only pass the contrôle technique every five years.

Vignette Controle technique12. Once your car has been tested the centre will stick a special stamp on your certificat d’immatriculation. If the defects don’t warrant a contre-visite this will have the letters ‘A’ followed by a reference number on it. If the opposite is the case the ‘A’ is replaced by the letter ‘S’ along with the latest possible date you must have the mandatory defect repaired and the vehicle retested by. When your vehicle passes the contrôle technique a small square vignette will be stuck in the bottom right-hand inside corner of your windscreen indicating the month and the year the next control must be carried out by (in two years time at the latest), as well as the vehicle registration number. If your vehicle fails, it will indicate the month and the year you must have the contre-visite carried out by (two months at the latest). In both cases the car registration number is indicated on the vignette which is replaced after the next periodical control.

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