Paris shopping etiquette

Old Aug 5th, 2005, 11:24 AM
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Paris shopping etiquette

I know when you enter a store, you should address the shopkeeper with a "bonjour madame/madamoiselle/monsieur." Then what? Is it o.k. to touch the merchandise or must you ask for assistance? Any differences in etiquette if you're shopping in a small store v. a large department store? Please, enlighten me!

Merci.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 11:35 AM
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In dept. stores it's allright to examine the merchandise, but in small shops, no, you should ask for assistance.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 11:40 AM
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In department stores, you need not say anything to anyone upon entering, but if you stop at a particular stand inside, it is customary to say hello to the salesperson if she says something to you. You may touch the merchandise in most cases, but the salespeople are willing to help and will ask if you require assistance. Manhandling the merchandise is frowned upon, of course. Examining clothing and trying it on is obviously permitted.

In smaller shops, salespeople will usually greet you upon entering, and you should reciprocate (you may initiate if you wish). The rules for touching are much the same, but you may get more attention, especially if the store is not crowded.

In open markets and small grocery stores, you should ask for what you want. In supermarkets with large produce sections, you can usually take what you want if it is packaged, and there will usually be someone to package things for you in the case of fruits and veggies that are unpacked.

If you are in doubt, just ask the staff.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 11:40 AM
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The old idea of not touching the merchandise is dying out because shops like that are dying out. I used to see small epiceries in small towns where the proprietor had to get the stuff off the shelves for you but rarely see this now. That said not long ago in a Belgian bike shop the owner told a group of bikers i was with 'if you're just looking, there's the door' so in small shops, tread carefully. And change au revoir when departing.
Large dept stores just like in US - self serve.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 11:53 AM
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What do you do if you are in a small shop and just want to browse and they ask if you would like assistance? Is it ok to say no thank you Im just browsing?
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Also if you arrive after normal business hours and they won't admit you, whine and cry in the international press until the store issues a formal apology.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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I went into a nice boutique with my Mom and the salesperson was extremely attentive . While she allowed us to lightly touch the clothes on the rack, they wanted to be the ones to actually take the clothes, lay them on a table for your closer inspection and if you approved they moved it into a dressing room. They also wanted to put it back on the hanger and arrange it (just so) back on the rack. On the flip-side, I stepped into a shop for the younger set and it was chaos. Piles of clothes from people searching through sweaters etc and no one was refolding etc..
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 01:39 PM
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If grocery shopping, you may be expected to weigh the produce and enter the code, then pull the sticker that gives the price - the cashier will ring up from that. (not all stores, but just look around first to see how it works).
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 01:44 PM
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And you may have to bag your own stuff, esp in grocery stores or even pay for a plastic bag.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 01:51 PM
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Hi all,

>Is it o.k. to touch the merchandise or must you ask for assistance?<

In general, you will be waited on. In larger stores, watch what other people are doing.

>Is it ok to say, "No thank you, I'm just browsing"?

You would be better advised to ask, "Is it all right to just look?"

(Va-t-il très bien à juste le regard?, or something sort of like that.)






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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 02:03 PM
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I've never had any problems telling French shopkeepers that I just want to browse, and no-one's ever told me off for handling (non food) merchandise, although I wouldn't start juggling glassware or anything.

If I want to browse, I'll do so, and if the shop assistant asks if I need help, I just say "Je regarde pour l'instant, merci".

Of course if I do want to purchase something, in smaller shops, I'll make a point of asking the assistant for help choosing the item.

You can usually assume that in shops with rows and rows of goods that are priced/packaged and on the shelves (French chain/high street stores, for example), you can help yourself and take your items to the till. If there are only one or two items that are on display, you'll probably need to ask for assistance.

If the assistant keeps hovering around you in a very obvious way, it's probably best to let them help. Sometimes in French shops I feel like they purposely make things difficult to find so that customers are forced to ask the assistants for help!
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 02:06 PM
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As in all smarter stores, one will tend to examine the clothes, and then an assistant will come over and you'll point out the ones you'd like to try. Usually they only have one or two of each style on display so they'll take it out of stock for you. Then they'll arrange them all in a changing room, and wait patiently outside.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 04:22 PM
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When I was in Galeri Layfayett and was looking at scarves, I did what I would do here and just was looking at them, selecting etc. I quickly got the message that I was NOT supposed to do that or if it WAS generally OK to do that, NOT with THIS particular sales person. I can't tell you exactly what she did, but it was body language, the way she spoke to me, perhaps the daggers she was shooting at me from her beady little eyeballs, the way she snatched the scarves out of my hands, the heavy sigh...anyway...by the time I got through getting the Lanvin cashmere scarf and several others, she was just a happy little camper. We just
"mercied" all over the place to each other. I can't believe I found redemption in the scarf department at Galerie Layfayett. Then when I went upstairs to another department I asked if it was ok to look through and make my own selections, and the clerk up there said that would be fine.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 04:27 PM
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aHa, crefloors - it may be that it 'was fine' because you asked first, whereas you didn't with the original clerk... (what Ira was hinting at...)
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 04:30 PM
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Well, that was kind of what I was getting at when reading some of the other posts about it being ok to handle the merchandise in department stores...was just saying that it ain't necessarily so and Ira has the best idea at least from my experience.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 07:32 PM
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I think it depends on the Galeries Lafayette's staff or what department. As someone else mentioned about being 'manhandled', the handbag sections are always manhandled and the clerks don't stop anyone.
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 07:51 PM
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This completely depends on what kind of store you are talking about, what products, and the general atmosphere. If you enter some corner "convenience store" or epicerie with one guy at the front counter and shelves of stuff, you will never get anything if you stand around waiting for someone to wait on your personally. I have entered many specialty stores in Paris that are the same way, they only have someone at the front register. I've also been in large dept. stores that don't have clerks hovering around every single place where merchandise is piled up, and again, there are customer service areas where you take the stuff to check out, but nobody is necessarily going to help you personally on the floor or you could wait forever.

I think you can just get an idea by the atmosphere of the place and how many clerks are around and what they are doing.
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 03:06 AM
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Ah, crefloors, you're right: the sigh, the sigh is the ultimate pointer (usually accompanied by heavy eye rolling)! Lol, but you spotted the actual hint to look for!

Re grocery ("Primeurs", as we call them for fresh vegetables and fruit retailers), even I, a native, have to confess that I never quite get the "bag it yourself vs I the clerk am the master of the paper bag" subtlety. Sometimes, I shyly try to pack the nectarines myself and the guy stops me with a scary look. Then, when it comes to the apricots, I ask him to pick them for me, he just shrugs and snaps: "No, apricots, you help yourself". At least, one would hope there is a kind of secret but steady code: nectarines, him; apricots, me. But at the next Primeurs, it could well be the other way round. And then you'll have to figure out what you do with the cherries...
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 04:12 PM
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Travelnut,

I'll be renting an apt for 8 weeks starting in October, do you have additonal grocery store shopping tips?

Thanks,
Alicia
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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One more tip. Before picking over any fruits or vegetables in a supermarket look for the thin plastic gloves provided for the purpose. They will be nearby. To touch the produce with your bare hands is a breach of etiquette and sanitation.
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