Shopping in Paris -- etiquette/customs?

Old Mar 12th, 2002, 07:43 PM
  #1  
Erinka
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Shopping in Paris -- etiquette/customs?

I'll be in Paris in a few weeks and I plan to do some rather serious shopping -- department stores, boutiques, market stalls, everything. What do I need to know about the differences between shopping in France and the U.S.? I'm not asking because of fears of "not fitting in", but rather due to my fairly limited command of French -- I want to avoid ticking anyone off due to my ignorance! Thanks in advance for any insight.
 
Old Mar 12th, 2002, 08:00 PM
  #2  
wes fowler
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Heaven knows I'm no authority on shopping in Paris or anywhere else for that matter. Nevertheless, I do know in France to always and immediately greet the shopkeeper or sales person with a "Bon jour, madame" while you establish eye contact. I know also never to pick up an item but to ask the sales person to do so. I've never been thrown bodily out of a shop with only that scant knowledge!
 
Old Mar 12th, 2002, 08:05 PM
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c
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You won't have some salesperson coming up to you and saying "Hi- my name is so and so ,let me know if I can help you"-the French are great at leaving you alone ,letting you shop,and when you have a question you only have to look up or say "Pardon?" or "Sil vous plait" and they are there to help.They are always polite, reserved sometimes but not rude.I love shopping in Paris, once I found a poster that I loved, went to the gallery, and the lady apologized to me! for not speaking better English! So have no worries, they are very nice and shopping is fun in Paris.Have fun~
 
Old Mar 12th, 2002, 08:11 PM
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Erinka
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Wes and c -- thanks very much! It seems it's often the little things -- like always greeting the shop clerk or not grabbing merchandise -- that delineates cultures, you know? the subtle stuff. I did live in Poland for a spell and I learned (the hard way) that everytime you enter a shop there you had to pick up a handbasket, whether you were intending to purchase or not. I guess this is what made me want to know about Paris.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 03:14 AM
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Mh
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At the high end designers stores such as Chanel, Versace, etc, you have to make an appointment to shop. The Chanel store is locked and you have to be buzzed in. Evidently I did not look like I had cash and they would not let me in despite my holding up my American Express card as I was buzzing the bell. Anyway, got the Chanel Handbag I wanted on sale and cheaper due to the exchane rate at the Chanel store in Frankfurt where they are welcoming of people with discretionary income to spend on pricey handbags...
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 06:35 AM
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Nic
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MH-that is so weird.Last fall my husband and I were staying across from Chanell at the Hotel Castiglion and we were let right in to Chanel! Lucky us!
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 06:36 AM
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nic
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sorry-that is Chanel
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 06:50 AM
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elaine
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I've not heard of having to make an appointment to visit the designer-name retail stores like Chanel, Valentino, Dior, etc. I too have easily gone in just to browse.
Erinka, the hardest thing for me in nice shops in Paris is fighting my instinct to pick up and examine the merchandise. I've had to slap my own hand more than once. I think you will find that most shop people speak enough English for the two of you to get on fine, so don't worry. If not, it's amazing how well sign language works sometimes.
At the flea market, you might want to learn words like
"Combien?" (comb bee-en, sort of)(how much?) and "Trop cher" (Troe share)(too expensive). And S'il vous plait, of course (please).
Elsewhere on this Fodor's website, among other places, you can learn and listen to some basic French phrases if you like.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 07:17 AM
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Marc David Miller
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To add to Elaine's suggestion, carry a pen and piece of paper and motion to the merchant to write the price down after asking how much; otherwise unless you know the numbers in French you won't have any idea of the pricing.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 07:46 AM
  #10  
Therese
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Marc David Miller's suggestion about having numbers written down for you is a very good one, and can be used for things like phone numbers and addresses as well. The fact that the French numbers are pretty weird ("99" in French would be tranlated into English as "four times twenty plus nineteen") makes it all the more difficult. I've used this method (paper and pencil) lots.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:11 AM
  #11  
Erinka
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So is it recommended to never handle merchandise w/out asking first? Is it the norm in some types of shops and not others? What about department stores like the Bon Marche and Samaritaine? I've heard a lot about Monoprix -- what is this? I've heard good things about it. (Their website is in French -- surpise surprise -- and I can't decipher much of what's posted there.)
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:12 AM
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Erinka
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Please spare my soul -- typos/mispellings happen!
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:29 AM
  #13  
elaine
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Monoprix is in my opinion kind of a miniature Kmart, or perhaps more like what Woolworth's used to be in the US, if you remember those. Inexpensive clothing, toiletries, household goods, and also pretty great grocery departments with fresh produce, wines, packaged goods, and dairy items. Good places to stock up for a picnic, even a picnic in your hotel room. There you help yourself and place items in a cart, just like at home.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:34 AM
  #14  
Therese
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It's small boutiques, not just high end places where you're expected to wait for the salesperson to help you. American-style stores with the merchandise out for you to handle are increasingly common---if they don't want to you handle something in a self service place they'll have put it in a display cabinet, prompting you to ask for help.

Monoprix is like a small Target or K-Mart, and includes clothing, drug store stuff (unlike the fancy "pharmacies" that sell cellulite cream and upmarket moisturizers), and often groceries. They are great places to pick up candy and food items to take home, and if you need a sweater in a hurry it works fine.

If you're in a shop like Etap or Du pareil au meme and realize that everybody around you is simply taking things off the rack and trotting to the dressing room, do the same. If it's a fancy place they'll want to take care of things for you. Service is excellent---they know their stock and are happy to wait on you (in sharp contrast to most shopping in the U.S.).

French shopkeepers are less frightening than they used to be. Back in the 50's and 60's (and before; this information is based on the testimony of my French friends' mothers) it was considered de rigueur to buy something if you actually ENTERED a shop: all the merchandise was displayed in the window, so if you went in and left empty-handed you'd wasted the salesperson's time. Of course you didn't really have to buy anything, but it could earn you a snippy good-bye.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:37 AM
  #15  
k
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When shopping in a very exclusive shop, I do not handle things.But in Galleries Lafayette and the like, I handle everything!
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:52 AM
  #16  
greg
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In a department store like Galleries Lafayette, the way payments are made is different.
After you deal with a salesperson and decide to buy, the sales person DOES NOT take your money. Instead, you will be told to go to cashier with a tag the sale person gives you. You pay at the cashier somewhere else in the store, then come back to the sales person, show the receipt, then pick up the merchandise.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 08:57 AM
  #17  
Marta
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That is not exactly right about shopping in Galleries Lafayette.Last time we were there, fall 2001, we bought a jacket and the lady took our credit card at the register in the dept that we shopped in.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 09:07 AM
  #18  
Chris
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Marta --

Depends what department you're in -- it's correct that you don't always pay the sales person, but pay at a central cashier, take the receipt back to the counter and pick up your item(s). It is also correct that sometimes you do pay the sales person.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 10:03 AM
  #19  
Christina
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I've bought plenty of things in dept stores that I have picked up myself and taken directly to the cashier and purchased. It's just like the US, in my experience. They have central cashiers who take your money, and that's about it, maybe an occasional sales person on the floor to help you or show you things, but not much. I've been to all the major dept stores and that's been my experience. I think those remarks about not handling things are for small stores. In a big dept store, you have to handle something to take it to the dressing room. I have never been given a receipt to take back to a salesperson. Maybe it depends what you buy and I've never bought whatever kind of thing that is.

I would say Monoprix is usually more like Target, they are more stylish and sophisticated than Woolworths level. I've bought lots of decent clothes there, like underwear, sweaters, etc. They differ a little by neighborhood, the one on rue de Rennes in St-Germain is more upscale.

These remarks about how unusual that you must greet shopkeepers and say hello and that this is a different custom a little surprising to me -- don't you do that in the US? I sure do, and always have, although you wouldn't in a large impersonal store there or here. I always say hello to the clerk at the 7-11 and definitely in a small owner-run boutique. This seems like normal manners and politeness, not something peculiar to France.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 12:28 PM
  #20  
John G
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Wes Fowler is right on the money when he says to say, "Bonjour, madame," or "Bonjour, monsieur," when approaching salespeople. It is considered rude and aggressive to just blurt out, "Pardon, how much is this scarf?" You must exchange pleasantries first. I have many French friends who are astounded by Americans who "race" right up to them demanding an answer to a question without a polite greeting first.

I have been to Chanel in Paris and I don't remember them having a discretionary door policy. Maybe MH came when the shop was closing? And I know for a fact that you don't have to make an appointment at Versace to shop. There is a store near my house and I have always just walked into the place.
 

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