Shopping Tips in Paris

Officially, Paris is not the most expensive city in the world–but it sure can seem like it! So, copy the French and use “shopping strategy” plus “shopping etiquette” to find those “Best Buys” and to get the best service.Designer Discount and ResaleIf you can’t schedule your trip to Paris during the bi-annual sales periods in January/February and June/July, but you’re still yearning for French designer fashion at reduced prices, take advantage of “designer discount” stores. These outlets sell overbuys and unsold stock from last season’s designer collections (fins de série) all year round.  You can also shop in chic resale clothing stores for last year’s collections, often little worn or not worn at all. One store that fits both categories is Annexe des Créateurs, 19 rue Godot de Mauroy, Metro Madeleine.  Annexe has always sold women’s designer fashions at a discount, but they have now added resale items (dépôt-vente) in one of the two small stores, sitting side by side. While not low, the prices are, indeed, much lower than the original prices and lower than in other resale shops selling similar merchandise. Last time I was there, they had a great selection of Chanel suits plus clothing from Paco Rabanne and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Annexe has also recently added a display of paintings from an artists’ association that are very reasonably priced for original artwork.For men’s clothing, you can check out Créations Michel Colin, 15 rue Ruisseau, at Metro Lamarck-Caulaincourt, or the bus stop Duhesme-le Ruisseau on lines 31 and 60. In fact, they have their own small workshop that produces top quality ready-to-wear men’s clothing including suits, jackets, pants, vests, coats and ties. In the shop, they not only sell to small stores, but also to individual customers. In addition, they carry name brands at reduced prices. When I was last there, I saw men’s clothing from the brands Armani Collezoni and Valentino Roma.Shopping StrategyIf you’re in Paris for an extended stay, definitely ask for a “carte de fidelité” or store card, in stores where you plan to shop on a regular basis.  One example is the chain Marionnaud Parfumeries where the “carte” has a chip that is scanned at each purchase. After accumulating purchases equal to 152 Euros, you automatically receive a “Chèque-fidelité” in the mail equal to 7.50 Euros that you can apply towards your next purchase.In the department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, as a non-European citizen, you are entitled to a 10% store discount card (which is good for an additional l0% off during sales, by the way). To get the tax refund (le détaxe), you must spend over 175 E in one day in one store. Department stores offer a refund of 12%, while small stores will offer you a tax refund of between 13 and 15%. So, if you have many different types of items to buy, go to a department store; for a large purchase of one kind, shop in a smaller store to get the larger tax refund.Important: If you have a specific item in mind, choose a backup store! I’m not sure why, but Parisian stores, whatever their size, tend to run out of stock on a regular basis. Or, you arrive and they are on vacation, or simply “out to lunch” (officially or unofficially). Or they’re taking inventory (this can apply to stores as large as Monoprix). I repeat:  if you are short on time, choose a backup store where you can go to buy your item. I call this the “French-Zen” shopping attitude: “If they have it, great. If not, I’ll wait and check back (assuming I have the time), or I’ll buy it somewhere else. Or I’ll buy something similar. Or–I’ll do without!” Voilá, the ultimate training ground for detachment from the world of objects–Paris.As I usually replace items well in advance, plus I’m persistent (I prefer this description to stubborn), I sometimes check back in the same store 2 to 3 weeks in a row in order to get the particular item I want at the best price. An extreme example of this took place all last summer when I kept checking at the department store La Samaritaine for a self-adhesive oblong to put on the inside strap of my summer purse to prevent it from sliding down my shoulder (anti-glisse). “We don’t have it in just now.” I kept checking back­ literally all summer. No luck. I even looked in the U.S. during a trip there last October. Still no luck. Finally, I found the anti-glisse in La Samaritaine, in November, after coming back to France from the U.S. This coming summer, I guess I’ll be able to use that purse.Finally, remember to use “shopping etiquette” to get good service. If you haven’t already begun saying “bonjour” when you enter and “au revoir” when you leave any store, start now! You will be amazed at the difference this makes in how you are treated. Life in France is based on a web of personal relationships, and small merchants/artisans are usually not in it for the money. They are “in it” because they are passionate about what they do. Therefore, it is up to you to show interest and then to pass the various “tests” they will no doubt throw your way. After that, and only after that, will they bend over backwards to treat you well. For instance, at my local pharmacy, where I had gone consistently for over a year, one day I did not have exact change for a purchase, nor did they. Their response?“Just pay us what you owe us the next time you come in.”“Oh!”  It really is like night and day. —Jeanne Feldman is an intercultural specialist working with English speaking expatriates to help them integrate into French life, both professionally and personally. In addition she works with French executives who need to communicate internationally. Jeanne has also written a shopping guide, Best Buys and Bargains in Paris.
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