Referring to the story on embassy help by Richard Gilbert in the June 17 Travel Section ("Abroad and In Trouble? An Embassy Can Help"), I dare say he didn't ever work at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
Two years ago, and two days before leaving Paris for home, my purse with all our travel documents was ripped off. We went immediately to the embassy and were met by two men with deep accents who advised us to report to the local gendarmerie. We did, with much language-barrier difficulty. Then the two men said the embassy only deals with French-American problems and we would have to go to the consulate (which was closed for the weekend). We had to wait until Monday for any aid.
Fortunately we were with friends who helped tide us over. At the consulate, we had to buy new passports with cash only (no traveler's checks, no credit cards) and new pictures, and we also had to wait a full day, almost missing our flight home. The consulate people weren't very pleasant about it either. They behaved as though we had committed a sin.
While we sat waiting all day at the consulate, we watched how some of our citizens were treated by the French employees of our consulate. Students that had been robbed of everything were not even allowed to make collect calls home for a full 24 hours to get funds. They were advised to apply to some charitable agency for help in the interim.
What possible excuse is there for treating our own citizens in such a cavalier fashion? Is this the government we support with our taxes? Thanks for letting me unload a lot of long dormant anger.