I can shop with the best of them. I love shopping, revel in “the hunt,” am ok with fighting my way through crowds, and know how to seek out good finds. Yet nothing prepared me for the craziness of Les Soldes in Paris. Unlike American stores that run sales regardless of each other, sales in France are regulated and only permitted (with occasional brief exceptions) during the five weeks beginning on around Epiphany. That’s right, even shopping is centralized. Yet what this means is that stores literally put almost every item in their store on sale. Les Soldes, they are called, and every store boasts signs declaring reductions of 30, 40, 50, 60 and even 90 percent. Oui, c’est incroyable.
Normally Parisian stores open around 10ish, close as soon as possible, and don’t open door Sundays. During Les Soldes, everything changes. Doors opened at 8 am Wednesday morning and the shopping continues late many nights and all through the weekends. I first went to a big shopping center, intending to look exclusively for a winter coat. But the escalator dumped me in front of a high-end shoe store with sale signs, and it being my first Les Soldes encounter, something snapped. Before I knew it I had my arms full of shoes. Did I need yellow heels? Of course, they were 50% off. Were those patent red flats the most divine footware I had ever seen? Naturally, they were 60% off. Did I have to have these brown boots – wait those were the same ones I got and then returned just before Christmas. But now they are 50 % off. Yet as a woman lunged over me to seize a sequined pump, I lost hold of my pile and as they fell I collected myself. I have 10 square meters of apartment space and two suitcases that all must suffice to move home in July. Au revoir yellow heels, red flats, and second-time around boots.
I have never seen anything like French women going after Les Soldes. Many large shopping centers have provided men’s sanctuary centers, where husbands can get a shave, watch sports, or play video games so as not to confronted by their wives insatiable shopping drive and subsequent ferocity. Yesterday I went to Galleries LaFayette, one of the obscenely priced grands magasins. Prada bags where flying, Jimmy Choo shoes going for a steal (well, comparatively), and the lines for dressing rooms where so long that women where just trying things on in the aisles. Yet it wasn’t until I reached the sixth floor that I struck gold. I had been following signs that read “GRANDE BRADERIE.” Now, I didn’t really know what braderie meant, but I followed my intuition and road the esclators past floor after floor of focused hunters. Braderie, it turns out, means final clearance. Oui, merci. I proudly left with a big sac of three jackets and two skirts. Original total cost: 210 euros. Hannah paid: 18, 20 euro. Success.
After my hard work, I stopped by Mouffetarte to for some sustenance. The Quiche Lady congratulated me on my finds. I told her I needed to know not go near any stores, because I didn’t want to buy more. She left me with this profound advice: “If you want to be sure to not buy anything, just take a man with you. They do not understand Les Soldes.”