For a museum that opened in 1793 and had been used as a personal residence of King Francis I and many others after him serving around 10 million visitors a year and is one of the most celebrated of its kind in the world, I had high expectations for The Louvre in Paris. I love museums, I absolutely adore the one in Cincinnati which I visit several times a year called The Museum Center. However, I have always assumed that places like The Louvre were far superior—after all, when one thinks of Paris they think of two things, the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre so my pilgrimage to that historic museum was something I had thought about for decades. Perhaps it was because I had been spoiled by the various Heritage sites across the English Channel in England. My wife and I are members of English Heritage which gives us free access to important historic sites all over England from Stonehenge to Dover Castle and everything in between. Even relatively small sites like St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury have wonderful museums that go along with their preservation sites. I had spent a week leading up to my visit to The Louvre visiting Heritage sites and spending a lot of time at the British Museum in London—and I have to say, I was in heaven. They were so wonderfully organized and put together and the literature they offered was immense and provided me with years of reading.
Yet when I arrived at The Louvre I was greeted with chaos and socialist mayhem. Let me begin by saying that if The Louvre had been in the United States, it would be the greatest attraction in the world, including Disney World. The building itself was immaculate, stunning even. And the museum collection acquired under Napoleon rivaled anything else in the world. It was remarkable. The combination of contemporary design with the ancient was everything I hoped it would be. But the main problem with The Louvre was that it is being operated by socialists who have no idea what they are doing. They have this wonderful museum with all these people coming to it—but they literally have screwed up every aspect of the enterprise starting at the front gate.
My family arrived surprised to see an hour-long line outside the pyramid. We naturally assumed that this was the line to purchase tickets. So we stood in the cold needing to use the restroom for just a little over an hour only to find out that the line we were in was just for security. The Louvre had enough visitors on a Wednesday afternoon at lunch time to populate a football stadium in the United States, yet the security forced everyone to go through two lines of airport like security which took forever. Everyone understands that The Louvre is a target for terrorist attacks, but they should have at least had 7 to 8 security lines to properly handle all the museum visitors. By the time we all got through security we all had to use the restroom—badly. One of the worst things in France is that they don’t know how to give people places to use the restroom. They have these ridiculous public restrooms on the sidewalks that hardly work. Every time I tried to use one it malfunctioned and the seat would come up and the door would come up to the outside letting everyone in the world see you. So we didn’t use those. I thought we were in luck by the major tourist attraction of Notre Dame. We followed the signs to the “toilets” only to go down a series of steps to find a group of east Europeans sitting in a group behind a steel cage charging 1 Euro to go through turnstile just to use the restroom. So guess what, we turned around and decided to wait until we got to The Louvre thinking it would be like the Museum Center in Cincinnati—and would have like rows of places to use the restroom. By the time we arrived in that hour long line, we had to go badly and it was almost unbearable by the time we got through security. There certainly wasn’t any place to go in the courtyard around the pyramid. Now that we were through security we rushed to the restrooms before buying tickets and found a line there too—especially for the women.
I told my family that I’d step into the men’s room, use the restroom, then I’d get our tickets. By the time I got through that line I thought the girls would have a chance to get through that massive women’s line. Now keep in mind that this was a Wednesday afternoon in February. It wasn’t Saturday in the middle of the summer. For a museum of this size, there was no way there should be lines like what we saw at The Louvre. Going into the restroom it was pandemonium, and there were as many women in there as men. It was sheer chaos. And there were only four urinals. I managed to use one and did as I said and went to stand in another line to get admission tickets. After standing in lines for over two hours we had our tickets and were ready to see the museum. My wife and daughter gave up on the women’s restroom not moving at all for over twenty minutes and used the men’s room under the guidance of my son-in-law. That solved one problem, now we had another one, we needed to eat.
The plan was always to eat at The Louvre so we didn’t stop at any of the many little restaurants on our way. We figured we grab a bite to eat, spend about 10 minutes eating it, then we’d get into the museum and get to work. But no, they had only like three restaurants and all of them had half hour lines. My wife and I managed to get some food as my daughter and her husband waited for an additional 15 minutes to get the same type of food. The food itself was pretty good, but the means to get it was horrendous. The employees were slow and unmotivated. They didn’t care how big the crowds were, they weren’t getting into any kind of hurry. Service in France is just unfathomably terrible. Nobody cares about anything and everyone just exists. And at The Louvre, customer service was not a priority.
Once we got through all that we enjoyed the museum, but the way the experience started put a bad taste in our mouth. If The Louvre had been in America there would have been about 10 restaurants all around the grand room and plenty of seating and bathrooms. Getting tickets for a museum, using the restroom and obtaining food should be easy things for such a large tourist attraction so that visitors could spend their time learning and doing things. But under the socialist country of France, they even managed to screw up a slam dunk of a great tourist attraction, and turn it into sheer misery.
The whole thing told the story of why socialism is so terrible and how capitalism services society so much better. Even in England they get it, the Heritage people understand how they make their money to offer services to a public which funds the preservation of art and history. But The Louvre, they are missing millions of dollars of opportunities and are just living off their reputation—which won’t last forever. They need approximately ten times the bathroom capacity and that much equally in restaurant availability. They certainly have the room for it, but obviously not the business sense. If I were running The Louvre I’d seek out a partnership with McDonald’s—someone who knows how to serve massive amounts of customers quickly. I’d also bring in other American fast-food chains who are just as good—obviously, the French don’t know how to do that on their own and I’d set them all up on some of those blank walls in the main area under the pyramid outside of the ticketing area.
It isn’t cool to provide bad service, and it certainly doesn’t place people above the bourgeoisie of society to drag ass everything. Bad service is just disrespectful and it says to visitors of The Louvre that the management doesn’t give a rat’s ass if anyone visits or not. And from what I saw, The Louvre really doesn’t care if anyone comes. They think they are entitled to the business and they think that because there really isn’t much else to do in Paris except visit museums that they’ll get by with this kind of thing for the foreseeable future. But I’m sure I’m not the only visitor to The Louvre to come away feeling disenchanted by their terrible service. They have a lot of lessons to learn, and for their own sake, they better start learning them.
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