Friday, July 06, 2018

Retail madness

July 6, 2018 -- Last summer, Tom did not have to do much work on his textbooks while we were in Paris.  This year, he has plenty of work to do on the new edition of Back to the Lake, one of the top-selling composition textbooks (college-level, freshman English) at his publisher, W. W. Norton.  Now his textbooks are being marketed to college-prep high schools as well as colleges, so this is serious business.
I saw many lovely flowers on this morning's walk in the Champ de Mars.

So, while we explored every arrondissement of Paris last year, going to parks, museums, and other places all over the city, this year's blog is going to be more reflective of what people who really live here do every day.

Yesterday:  after working at the computers, we went to the store to buy a computer mouse, and to another store to buy groceries.  But we also went to the Thomas fromagerie, a quintessentially charming Parisian cheese shop.

Let me begin by saying that buying a computer mouse in Paris is not like buying one in Fort Myers, Florida.  To have a decent selection of mice to choose from, we needed to go to a bigger store, like Darty or Boulanger.  This is comparable in size to Best Buy in Fort Myers.  But Best Buy just doesn't have the French bureaucratic process built into the procedures employed at the cash register.  (However, the Geek Squad, with its paperwork and perpetual line of waiting is probably modeled on the French system.)
Boulanger, a chain store that sells appliances and electronics.  The
banner with international flags are decorations for the World Cup
Soccer tournament.  They are strewn all over Paris.

Darty is just as bad as Boulanger when it comes to slow, lousy, inefficient customer service at the cash registers.  But at Boulanger, a salesperson actually came up to us to offer help and guidance as we stared at the available mice.  That does not happen at Darty, in our experience.  Salespeople, if they do indeed exist, do not offer help at Darty.  If you find one and ask a question, their reply is likely to be "Je n'ai aucune idée" (I have no idea) or some such.

Also, if you are looking to buy a digital camera, at least Boulanger keeps them out, although tethered, mounted on little posts so that you can examine their features.  Darty keeps all digital cameras in a locked, glass case, so if you are looking to see which ones have optical viewfinders, you're out of luck because you cannot see the backs of the cameras.  And if you can find someone to help show you some of the cameras in the case, it would be a miracle.  Does Darty care?  Doubtful.

How can these stores sell anything?  How do they survive?  It is a mystery.  I'd rather buy online.  (So I bought a USB3-to-Ethernet adapter on, having it shipped here by Monday.  The price is $12 less than at Boulanger.)

The same kind of needless bureaucracy exits at the SNCF boutiques where Parisians go to buy train tickets for their summer vacations.  I've been amazed at the lines of people waiting out on the sidewalk in front of the SNCF shop, waiting to plead their cases at the desk of an SNCF minion inside . . . .
Hours of operation at our shiny, local FranPrix grocery store.

After selecting Boulanger's cheapest wireless mouse for Tom, we ventured over to the cash registers.  There were two cashiers working, and there was a line of people waiting.  Each person's transaction seemed to involve problems, consternation, paperwork, consulting of supervisors, etc.  This process took a long time.  Eventually, we made it to the counter and it took us only about two minutes to buy the mouse.  Why were all the other people's transactions so complicated?  We aren't sure, but we think part of the problem was Boulanger advertising deals for items not in stock.

Just about every store in the city (except grocery stores) is stuffy and poorly air-conditioned.  So the longer you stand in line, the more uncomfortable you are.

After all that, I'm happy to say that Tom is pleased with his cheap wireless mouse.  He says he will take it with him everywhere.  (He's kidding.)

On the way home, we stopped at the Thomas fromagerie to buy brie, Salers cheese, rosé wine, and really good French butter.  The cheese-monger was someone new, and he was very pleasant.  He asked questions about where we are from, etc.  Nice guy, in a cute, super-clean, well-run cheese shop.  I can see this cheese shop from our balcony, so it is easy to look and know when the place is open for business.
La Tour Eiffel in the evening.

When mouse and cheese were safely stashed away in the apartment, we went out again to FranPrix, the grocery.  When we first saw this store years ago, it was frumpy and tired.  Then about three years ago, it underwent a complete renovation.  Now it sparkles.  It has a deli counter in the middle.  And it offers really good coffee. 

We left with two heavy, full (re-usable) bags, having spent about 70 euros.  The prices are good.  We were buying some relatively expensive items, but still the total wasn't so bad.  By the time we were shopping there, dinnertime approached.  We decided to buy things for dinner at the apartment.

So there are no photos of restaurant food today.  Instead, last night we filled the dining room table with a little of this, a little of that, mostly from FranPrix and the Thomas fromagerie.  We nibbled on roasted chicken legs with steamed potatoes, brie, Roquefort, Salers cheese, cherries, strawberries, paté, country ham, country bread -- this was a kind of indoor picnic, with the summer breeze flowing through the apartment.

Now excuse me while I go make a spinach and lettuce salad with Roquefort, roasted almonds, slivered red onion, and my own vinaigrette for lunch.  Cheers!

1 comment:

CDStowell said...

Je suis heureuse que le souris n'a pas mangé le fromage!