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.
In 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."