The Sales

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There are two periods during the year when stores are allowed to have Les Soldes, or The Sales. They occur once in the winter, beginning shortly after New Years Day, while the summer soldes start in late June. Although Americans think its odd, the government’s official explanation is that les soldes give stores a chance to blow-out all last seasons merchandise quickly by creating a little frenzy. But I think another reason is to give the little stores a break, since as we’ve seen in America, often the smaller merchants get squeezed out by the big guys offering lower prices on things by holding sales all the time.

So onward to the BHV. What is the BHV, you ask? Imagine someone scouring the every corner of the world, looking for the least-helpful people on the planet. Then they hire them and put them in one enormous department store that’s impossible to navigate but full of everything imaginable and necessary for daily life in Paris, so you really have no choice but to shop there.

And those are the people in charge of helping you.

And now, you get the idea of the BHV.

So today is the first day of les soldes and I would say to anyone who has fantasies that Parisians are polite, classy, and sophisticated, hasn’t been elbowed out of the way in front of the bins at the BHV department store, strong-arming anyone who might get between them and something they want.
Or don’t want.

It doesn’t really matter.

And Parisians tend to go a little wild here, since in general, things like clothing and housewares are pretty expensive. I happened to be heading to the BHV this morning, since last night I switched on my desk lamp and blew out some fuses in my apartment. Although I was determined not to get involved in the hubbub, once inside I got caught up in the madness and thought, “Well, I guess I could use a new pair of jeans.” Last week I discovered a bare spot forming in a place where not a lot of people get a close look at, thinking their days are numbered.

To make a long story short, I never made it to the hardware department, but instead got taken in by the stacks and stacks of jeans that were all 30% off. Since you can’t get away with wearing American-style baggy-assed jeans in Paris, you need to wear pants that are well-fitted, snug-tight up against your rear end (no matter what you weigh.)

Our unless you’re under the age of 21. Then you wear jeans hanging halfway down your butt, but only as long as you’re wearing boxer shorts underneath rather than those Euro-sling undies and swimsuits that some men in my age (well above the age of 22) like to wear here.

Not finding what I liked, I left empty-handed. But with my adrenalin (or was it my morning cáfe au lait?) pumping, I raced to the Levi Store in the Bastille. Not quite busy yet (aha!, I beat those young folks wasting their lives away in school), the young salesmen were instantly drawn to me, amazed at the Levis that I was wearing, which were made with a special cut and fabric that I bought in San Francisco. So there I find myself, surrounded by handsome, unshaven, young French men, all oohing and aahing while staring at my butt and crotch, reaching over feeling the fabric, and closing in all around me. I don’t know if it was me, or the summer heat has finally arrived once and for all, but it was surely getting much warmer in there. And naturally, I decided right away that I needed a new pair of Levis, and this was the place I must get them.

Helping me find a style I liked, one of the friendly young men, wearing a well-fitted t-shirt (was it Levis? If so, I want one too.) He kept calling me jeaune homme (young man), while asking me what I thought about the style that he was wearing by running his hands up and down his thighs to emphasize and make sure I understood how good they fit (yes, I did.) So he hands me a few pairs of the same jeans to try on, and transfixed, I head to the dressing room.

Since we’re in France, there’s no need to be shy and he pops right in soon afterwards and starts surveying the fit by yanking and patting and making sure all button-fly’s buttons were laying properly, exclaiming how well they fit. Yes, they’re supposed to be that tight, he told me. And for additional emphasis, in case I didn’t quite get it (yes, I did) he makes doubly-sure with his hands that I know there’s little room in there for anything besides maybe a Euro-sling, and perhaps a few centimes or fuses (…fuses? What fuses?…) But certainly not much else.

Soon all the other boys, er, I mean jeaunes homes, came by and made sure I’m getting properly fitted, admiring my choice in jeans. When I questioned whether I might need a larger size, one turned to show me how his fit him, sliding precariously down his backside, and he asked me if I wanted to same. (Yes, I did.)

But instead I went home with the jeans I had on, at 20% off, back to my darker apartment, thinking I’ll go back first thing tomorrow and get fuses.

But perhaps if the BHV took a cue from Levis and hired a few of these helpful young men as salespeople, customers like me might leave their store happily with something more than just a fuse in their pocket.

Levis
47, Faubourg St. Antoine
Tél: 01 44 87 03 06

17 comments

  • Aha! I too was looking for jeans today and left the Gap without them…none in my fat size (on the first day of the sales!) on sale and I just refuse to spend 68 euros. So now I know where to go tomorrow!

    BTW, I find it very odd that the Gap has signs up all over that say “THE SOLDES”. Is tea on sale? Has the article The been sold? ; )

  • Ah David, you are certainly painting a picture in our minds of your backside these days. Is it the hot weather making you talk about your ass so much? Are you sure that trip to the Levis store wasnt just a dream? Because if not, Im on my way there right now.

  • Oh, you are hilarious! Who knew shopping for jeans could be so much fun? ;-)

  • I think you may need to go back there….
    sounds better than the Marina Safeway!
    and when they find out you can cook too!!!
    watch out jeunes hommes!!!

  • I absolutely despise clothes shopping. But after hearing your account, I daresay, I wouldn’t mind shopping at that particular store one bit.

  • Oh David, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and this is absolutely the funniest entry yet. Thanks for making me smile. I don’t know what a “Euro-sling” pair of underwear looks like, but I’ll just imagine an American-style Speedo pair, is this the idea?

    When I was sixteen, my French immersion class hosted some French exchange students from Evian. Imagine our Canadian reaction when the boys were MORE than happy to partner up in the change rooms when trying on clothes! Your “helpful” assistant brought me back to those change rooms!

  • Ahhhh…..
    Now THAT’S food porn!
    :)

  • Haha! Great post David! Thanks for making me laugh =)

  • Well, I know with whom I want to go clothes shopping on my next trip to Paris! Sounds like LOTS more fun than schlepping alone, trying to get some help from the “can’t be bothered” jeunes filles in the ladies’ department.

    Vive les jeunes hommes!

  • ACK! I think this comments thread is veering into the dangerous (yet well-fitting) territory of DENIM PORN!

  • Paris…..Levis…..les jeunes hommes at Levis…mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Lucky you!

  • Wow! $90 for a pair of Levi’s (after discount)? Not bad with the included crotch massage, but, still. I guess the Wal-Mart effect of driving down prices hasn’t hit EU yet. One day, one day.

    I can get you a Levi’s employee catalog and discount if you’d like. I’ve got connections…

  • LOLOLOLOL!

  • Jeff – you can get a Levis’ employees catalog – do Levis offer their employees “on sale? Maybe I missed something here? The mind boggles (to say nothing of the imagination). After David’s amazing hands on experience at Levis in Paris I guess I’m ready to believe anything…….roll on my Greek Islands holiday…..

  • Strong-arming in a department store is not exclusive bastion of the French. Have you been to the K-M-A-R-T? However there are no “young boys” in department stores who make sure your jeans fit right while demonstrating how theirs fit. Unless I have been left out on this intriguing ritual.

  • I arrived in Paris 3 hours ago and all I saw in the shop windows are SOLDES, SOLDES, SOLDES! Can’t say that it’s good or bad timing for me. I’m afraid for my wallet.

  • Melanie: At my yoga class here in Paris, in the changing room, I’ve seen more than one person go au naturale while changing. On a recent trip back the US, while changing for yoga, some woman got a glimpse of me in my tighy-whiteys and got all freaked-out (and not in a good way either!)
    I prefer the reaction(s) I get here.

    S’Kat: Clothes shopping? Who was clothes shopping? ; )

    Jeff:….ha ha ha…, you Americans crack me up! People in the states think $3 is a lot for gas too. You can find cheap jeans here, but the good ones, like Levis, are much more expensive, but they’re cut better and denim is nicer than what they use for the US market. Plus they do make your backside look better. And isn’t that worth whatever extra it costs?

    Kevin: I took your advice and went back, but when I put the video on YouTube, they pulled it because of the “adult content”. You Americans are such prudes!
    : )

    PS: The bill is in the mail…72€…cash only!