First day of summer 'soldes', Parisian-style

Picture ancient Rome. Now, picture the Colosseum at the height of its splendor - the pitched battles between savage animals and gladiators, the frenzied atmosphere, the sheer violence. Now picture the Colosseum as say, Le Bon Marché, the gladiators as shoppers, and their weapons as armfuls of clothes. This is a fairly accurate picture of the first day of “soldes” (sales) in Paris.


Let’s not kid ourselves about the soldes. It is not a fun, lighthearted day of shopping, at the end of which you flaunt your bargain buys to loved ones. It is not something you do at a relaxed pace with friends over a lunch-break. No, no, there are no friends on the first day of soldes in Paris. The soldes is an event that demands of its participants a certain amount of desire, speed, endurance and a willingness to cheat, lie and undercut their way to the top.


It is a bloodsport.


The first day of summer soldes falls on June 22, and Paris’ professional bargain hunters are already sharpening their spears. Here are a few tips to survive a first day of soldes experience:


Pre-soldes preparation


This is crucial to having a successful first day of soldes experience. It’s like pre-gaming, but with clothes. Go to your favourite boutiques, department stores etc. and figure out what they do and don’t have in your size, not to mention if that dress you’ve been dreaming of actually hangs right. Get the layout of the land, knowing that come the first day of soldes things may be displayed somewhat differently.


Tip: If you’ve got a favourite shop, get on their mailing list, as they often have a pre-soldes “ventes privées” (private sales) so that faithful customers get first pick.


In the fray


There’s only one thing you need to know the day of, and that is: Get in, or get out. This in not an event that welcomes idle or critical shoppers, and certainly not the type of person who picks up the only size small and ponders, “Do I really like this?”


This is not about liking or disliking. It’s about does it fit or not. Grab everything in your size indiscriminately, and once your arms are full sprint for the changing rooms. There will be a line, so this is the time when you can start weeding through your wares to see if they meet your basic requirements in colour, cut and style.


Once in the changing room, dump the unwanted items on the floor and get ready for a marathon of clothes changing. Be strategic, if you’ve got lingerie in your bundle, start with that - you can slowly redress yourself as you go. Keep in mind the scores of other consumers whose sights are homed in on your cabinet as they wait in line. Things that look absolutely horrid and/or are not the right size go into the unwanted pile on the floor, the rest into another. As you redress, you can start the process of selecting from the items of not so horrid and decently fitting clothes. Unfortunately, there’s no guideline as to how to choose - it seems to be compulsive.


Tip: Many boutiques in Paris also have on-line soldes, where you might have a greater selection of sizes to choose from.


The final sprint


It’s time to pay for whatever it is you’ve chosen. Don’t question whether you really want or need whatever has made it to the cash register with you. Remember two things, it’s on sale, it fits and if you didn’t take it, someone else certainly would have. And then where would you be? Empty-handed, that’s where.


Show and tell


If, after everything, you can actually bring yourself to show off your soldes purchases to dear friends and loved ones, remember to always exaggerate its sale price. On average, knock an extra 10 to 30 percent off of what you actually paid, that way, if what you bought wasn’t worth even the fictitious amount, no one is the wiser.


Happy soldes!

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Having assisted my wife on her shopping trips as a clothes carrier I can say that shopping in Paris and Minneapolis is the same. Well written and very enjoyable.

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