Friday, September 12, 2008

Prepping for shopping in Paris

I'm following Karen of Of A Certain Age and Deja Pseu of Une Femme d'une certain age to Paris (late Oct.), enjoying their packing-for and in-Paris posts. Karen posted a funny entry about her trip to Repetto (to buy their famous soft leather shoes) and her handling-the-goods faux pas.

When I'm there, I shift my expectations.

In France's large cities, the customer is not always right
. The perky north American sales pitch ("We have sweaters at 20% off today!") is undignified to a vendeuse. They would consider it an insult to your intelligence to chirp "Did you find everything you were looking for today?"

I've never experienced rudeness
(or been too thick to notice), but have occasionally encountered indifference or boredom.

I have two weapons: my age, which imbues me with a certain dignity, and Le Duc, who is francophone, discerning, and tolerates no funny business. If he's not with me, I muster a straightforward attitude, and the first thing I say after "Bonjour, madame" is, "Prenez-vous Carte Bleue?" which telegraphs my fervent intention to blast euros at her.

If Parisiens are treated arrogantly, they know how to fight back. My friend Roland went to a luxury haberdasher; when served with indifference, he feigned interest in shirts, had the clerk unpin a dozen or so, then said, "You have too much money, you don't need mine", turned on his heel, and left.

I
n London, I entered an antique jewelry store in my new red, brushed mohair plaid-lined mac (which was actually French and purchased at vast expense in New York). The bored shopgirl chatted on her cellphone as I browsed and I heard her say, "Well, it's better than barging round in a red plastic mac." My departure was rapid.

That was years before Edina's classic Ab Fab line, "You work in a shop, so you can drop the attitude, you know."

6 comments:

materfamilias said...

Jennifer, who mother-hens her guests at the Paris hotel we stay in, instructs them to begin any requests with "Excusez-moi pour vous déranger."
Like you, we've almost never experienced rudeness -- and once we demonstrate our own manners and our willingness to speak French to the best of our ability, we've actually had some great conversations with shop staff.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: Increasingly, the "Entreé libre" signs have been removed from French shop windows, but one still sees them. The notion that the shopkeeper notifies the customer that she is free to enter and will not be charged for the privilege of looking at their goods reflects a supplier-driven model of commerce.

That one apologizes for 'bothering' a salesperson is part of that mind set, which I think is shifting.

Anjela said...

That was so amusing- your shirt- shopping friend!
I suppose I see it from both shopkeeper and customer sides. I hope having a store has made me a more aware shopper. In the sense that I try not to touch items unless I have a genuine interest. I never ever take drinks (Starbucks) into stores. People come in and have spilt coffee over cards with necklaces- and never ever batted an eyelid. People with children have come in and thrown up and left us to clear up their child's DNA. No apologies.
Paris would be a dream right now. Hmmmmmm

WendyB said...

Love Roland's line.

Karen said...

You should have seen how they treated me when I wanted to take the shoes BACK to Repetto! HA! They gave me a hard time until the saleslady that I offered the 20 euros to for the chipped nail I caused showed up for work and was DELIGHTED to see me! She kissed my cheeks and after that the manager happily gave me my refund! Everyone else was fine though, and I didn't have a problem after the Repetto experience. P.S. The shoes were too small after all, and the next size was too large! I noticed other customers noticing the same thing...Thanks for reading my posts! I'm glad you enjoyed them!

Duchesse said...

anjela: I once saw a man (a Brit, as it happened) enter a luxury shoe boutique in Manhattan with a dripping ice cream cone. When asked to finish his cone outside, he hurled the worst language at the shop keeper. I wanted to stuff him in a storm sewer.

Karen: Repetto doesn't fit me either, I wonder who can wear them.