Tourism (especially bike tourism) has always been a seasonal activity. Most of our tour guides do whatever they can to make it through the wet Paris Winter while dreaming of the day when it’s sunny again. Even as company owners, Paul and I had to work a number of side jobs at the beginning of Bike About.
The first year of Bike About, Paul and I haphazardly distributed about 5,000 brochures to hotels all around the city. We had a website (kind of) and thought that surely we could muster at least 10-15 clients per day on the bike tours. We thought.
Well, between May and September we averaged 2 clients per day…. Needless to say, I needed another job by September.
I found one, and worked for a temp agency for 4 months in the off-season to see myself through the Winter. My first job was a 2 month stint as a telemarketer, or more accurately, a “survey-er”. This entailed calling up companies to see if they were happy with their deliveries from Geodis. Of course, 75% hung up on me before I made it to the second sentence. After some brainstorming, I figured out that I needed to act like I worked for Geodis (I didn’t) and pretend to intimately know their company’s needs (Again, I didn’t). Suddenly they were happy to be surveyed, because they thought they’d benefit from it. (You guessed it: They wouldn’t). In the end, this method was a catch-22 because people would be happy to answer my survey questions, but then took the liberty to discuss how peeved they were about every small thing Geodis did, and I had to pretend that I knew what they were talking about (I didn’t) and could do something about it (I couldn’t). I would get so bored during their long rants, I would find myself saying “I’ll look into that” or “I’ll let my manager know”. Little did they know that I was working for a “survey company” sitting in a dark, cramped room in a dingy Paris suburb and that I was getting paid €1.50 for every completed survey.
My second job that Winter was a two week stint on a luxury cruise boat on the Seine. Somehow I had landed a job as a interpreter. Looking back, I may been slightly liberal with how I described my level of French on my CV. I had arrived in France three years prior and had a decent level of French, but I was definitely not an interpreter. But hey, I was desperate. My first day on the boat I was so nervous to be found out, that I pretended to be extra French as I chatted with the new colleagues — finishing all of my sentences with “en fait”, which was the cool lingo in 2006. In the end, it didn’t even matter: it turned out, they didn’t need an interpreter. They needed me to go around to Japanese businessmen and explain in English what they were eating. Thankfully, that, I could do for a few weeks.
In the years that followed, Paul and I got the company up and running, and got to the point where were didn’t need any more side hustles – in fact, we now pride ourselves in being that seasonal side hustle for a team of tour guides here in Paris — and the next few weeks of blog posts are just a few of their crazy stories.