Rick in Paris Part 8: Shopping in Paris
Rick in Paris Part 8: Shopping in Paris
Shopping in Paris, is an disorienting experience I am used to the US where most stores are in separate buildings and tend to be very spread out. US stores are usually large, one story buildings. Not in Paris.
The stores in Paris are very deceptive. What you tend to see is hundreds of buildings that look mostly identical. The only difference is on the first floor where you see the seeming small entrance to the store. When I first arrived in Paris, I thought it was a city full of tiny little storefronts. Where were all the big stores? It turns out, I was staring right at them without realizing it. In Paris, just about every store is fairly small in width, but it makes up for it in height. Every store has several floors, including a below ground floor. This means that whenever you walk into a store, the first thing you should look for is the stairs. This tells you that there are more than one floor to the place.
What tends to happen there is that there is a small, unassuming street level entrance, and then, hidden behind the facade of an old building is several more floors of a large, and very modern store. I encountered many of these in Paris. It was the better part of a week before I discovered that in the very same building as my hotel was a large, 3 story electronics store!
I even encountered a store called the Galleries Lafayette that took up three buildings of 5 floors! Now that's a big store. They had an entire building for women's clothes, an entire building for men's clothes and a third building (which I didn't look in). This store also had a floor that essentially a grocery store. I spent some time wandering around in this store. They had a huge candy section - several aisles worth. There was lots of interesting looking candy there, 99% of which I'd never heard of. I was very curious about what all this candy tasted like. I'm sure some of it was very good. But, seeing as how I had no idea what any of it was, my knowledge of French is very poor, and because I tend to prefer not to get any fatter, I didn't buy anything. It was fun to look though. I also glanced at the butcher shop in the store... Fairly standard stuff for the most part. They did have skinned rabbits for sale at the butcher shop though. Little skinned bunnies sitting in a freezer case! Yuck!
The floors are also numbered differently in Paris. In the US, usually the ground floor is the first floor and then the second floor above that etc. In Paris, the ground floor is floor zero, the floor above that is the first floor, the floor above that is the second floor etc. I was on the second floor of the hotel but it was actually the third floor from a US point of view. They even number their underground floors with negative numbers! The first below ground floor is -1, the second is -2 and so on. It's a very logical system when you think about it. Moreso than us 'backwards' Americans.
Another interesting difference when it comes to Paris is paying by credit card in restaraunts. In the US, you give the waiter your credit card. They walk away to a central credit card machine and charge your card. Then they bring your receipt back with your credit card. You sign the receipt, then leave the restaraunt's copy. This American way is a technique ripe with potentials for fraud. A dishonest waiter could run your card through a skimmer (thereby stealing the credit card information) and then give it back to you, while they have your card away from your site. Then, once they have your card info they can go off and charge things on your card. Also, in many restaraunts, the receipt has your name, entire credit card number and credit card expiration date printed right on it. This is all the information a crook needs to charge on your card. All they have to do is steal the receipt you leave on your table. Paris does it in a much better way.
In Paris, your credit card never leaves your site, when you pay at a restaraunt. Whenever you pay with a credit card, the waiter comes over with a handheld, wireless credit card reader. He scans your card right in front of you, prints out your receipt, hands it to you and you are done. There is no possibility of skimming your card or leaving a stray receipt around. This is a great system that I wish the US would adopt.
Taxes are also handled differently in Paris. Everything you buy in Paris has a price listed. This price includes the taxes. This means the price you see is the price you pay. No more having to calculate in your head how much the price will go up when you add the taxes in. It's a much nicer system, that agian I wish the US would adopt. It would be great to not to have to do this mental math every time you buy something. This does have its disadvantages though. Restaraunts include the tip price (usually 15% or so) in the price of the meals. You don't have any choice here. I think the taxes in Paris are also much higher than in the US. This causes prices there to be quite a bit higher than in the US.
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