Culture Magazine

Soldes in Paris: the Summer Sales Begin

By Sedulia @Sedulia

It's the time of year when it's fun to walk down a street like the rue de Passy in the 16th, or any Paris shopping street, to see what creative ways the window designers have come up with to show off the summer sale.

France is a country where most people do not really approve of market capitalism. This is a country where antique dealers have managed to make tag sales/garage sales illegal except once a year for an entire town, in the name of "unfair competition," and where limiting soldes to twice a year is meant to keep big stores from driving small ones out of business by undercutting them. There are actually inspectors who go around making sure no one has sales at other times. 

The American idea that when stores are open longer, people spend more money, is not considered relevant here. Even if it is true that companies make more money on Sundays or at night, the French courts have sided with unions who argue that employees should simply not have to work then. The unions have also "attacked in justice" (as the French expression goes) the small mostly North-African-run grocery stores around Paris that are open on Sunday afternoon, quelle horreur! As an American, I look at the high unemployment rates in France (currently 9.6 % of the active population) and think, surely some of those people would rather have a job at night or on Sunday than not work at all? But that's not how things work here. In fact, because of labor constraints, French employers tend not to hire enough people, and then make them work long hours. 

I have mixed feelings about the limited shopping hours. A friend from New York City who was staying with me once asked me at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, "Where can I buy flowers around here?" and was surprised to hear, "You can't." It makes life here less convenient; almost certainly hurts the economy; but is certainly more peaceful. What price quality of life?

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