At 50, Tati Becomes Class Act

tati, rue de rennes
If the building wasn't being renovated,
you could shop on the sidewalk.

See Below: La Poste Plays the World Cup

Paris:- Friday, 13. March 1998:- Last Wednesday, while I was riding the métro, I saw a lot of stations plastered with less than elegant posters announcing Tati's 50th birthday; to officially take place today.

I forgot about this until this morning. I called their office and asked them to send a 'history' to me by fax, and send an authorization to take photos, by fax, to their store in the rue de Rennes. With this arranged, I put on my speed wheels and scampered up through the graveyard to the train.

The train window weather station, above Suresnes, shows high overcast and less likelihood of rain than on Wednesday. At La Défence, the ticket-demanding cattle-gates are in operation for the first time. The downside to these are that the train-time TV monitors are inside the gates - if you goentry, tati in and see your train is a half-hour late or canceled, then you are stuck there. No more going for a café to kill time.

Unlike Wednesday, there are no public announcements about RER trains not running out to Cergy, and not running in to Auber - for 'technical' reasons. One of the 'technical' results, was that the métro trains were packed to the rafters heading downtown. Today is normal.

Oh Tati! Is this what you wear for your birthday?

Ha! Said that too soon. First, I must go to the Quartier Latin to get those 'extra two' photos to go with the Wednesday story about hanging out on 'Lit.' Boulevard. This is why I am not going to Tati at Barbés, but going to the rue de Rennes branch.

Tati started fifty years ago - in 1948 - at Barbés. Jules Ouaki decided to offer the lowest prices in Paris and by doing so accidently invented 'discount' shopping. With 25 million shoppers a year, he should be known as the 'king of discount,' but royalty is frowned upon in France, especially by Tati's customers.

In the public's imagination, Tati has shifted quite a lot in the past 20 years. When I came to Paris, being seen with a distinctive pink and white checkered Tati bag, was considered tacky. Alert shoppers went to Tati with Saint-Honoré bags and as soon as they left the store, would ditch the Tati bag for another more in keeping with their imagined station in the scheme of things.

Now that this sack is known worldwide, Tati has decided to play with fire this year, by bringing out no less than one new sack per month - all done by chic designers. I wonder how many regular shoppers from Africa will demand the original, because of its proven signal of value.

The 'scorn the bag' thing is in the past. Tati is now low-ball chic. 'Ball' by the way, is slang for franc in French - so I am sort of guilty of a sort of pun.

Tati sells wedding dresses, the white-white ones, starting at 390 francs. No excuse not to have one, even for re-marriages. Theirchamps elysees high-end models go for a whopping 1,900 francs, which is about what the bride's father will pay for one couple of guests at the reception.

As yet, there is no Tati on the Champs-Elysées - only rain.

Tati sells gold, from 9.90 francs to 39,000 francs. If you stay at the low end, there's no reason not to have some; although I wonder how strong your glasses have to be to see 10 francs-worth of gold.

A big fuss was made over Tati opening a gold shop in the rue de la Paix, within sight of the place Vendôme. I went past it during the January sales to see what was on offer, but it was 'taking inventory.' Now Tati has 15 gold outlets, and the latest has opened in the rue Saint-Lazare, is right across from the new shopping bonanza of the passage du Havre.

Tati has designer stuff - not leftover 'seconds' - but made especially for Tati. Azzedine Alaia produced a Tati line. I hope it all doesn't go to Tati's head.

Taking Tati's slogan, 'The Lowest Prices,' I've mentioned before that Tati is a good place to get utility clothing in case of arriving in Paris with unseasonal clothes - and this advice holds up.

For my visit today, Tati Barbés has sent no fax to Tati rue de Rennes, to authorize me the take photos in the store. Everybody is really good and bends over backwards, making phone calls, callingloto shop, 100 million again, but no luck. Whoever I talked to this morning, is still out to lunch.

Standing at the reception counter is not bad if you like watching rough sports. As hectic and chaotic as it looks, all are handled with aplomb and all seem to go away satisfied - but then all the customers here look and act as if they have been coming here a long time, and know the ropes.

One of about 1500 Loto outlets in the Paris area.

Here's the real punch line: for Tati's 50th, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs - it's in the Louvre! - has an exhibition of Tati items: the results of a photo contest, plus images from Tati's own archives and some examples of their promotional items, such as posters. And, I suppose, the shopping sack.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs
103. rue de Rivoli, Paris 1. Métro: Tuileries or Louvre-Palais-Royal
Until Saturday, 4. April. Daily, except Mondays, from 11:00 to 18:00: Wednesdays until 21:00. No Entry charge.

La Poste Plays the World Cup

Rare Round Stamp Costs Three Francs

La Village:- Friday, 13. March 1998:- After what has seemed a fairly long time of not much happening in France about the impending World Cup, things are starting to change.

In my local post office to mail some stuff this morning, a sign about a new, round, stamp caught my eye. If I had been here on 3. March, I could have gotten one of them franked as a 'first-day' keep-sake. I'm sure collectors have a word for it.

A standard letter costs three francs to post, so I bought a 'carnet' of the football-shaped stamps. Because of their shape, they come on a sheet, instead of as a packet. Cost for ten: 30 francs.

France's La Poste is getting into marketing in a big way because it is going to be - or had been - split off from its cash-cow sibling, the telephone. All national postal services have some special unit for stamp collectors, and it looks like La Poste intends to get into merchandizing in a big way.

For those who do not live in France, try the link to La Poste's Web site to see what's on offer.

For example, La Poste competes with private parcel services - you know their names - with its own standard packages, pre-stamped containers, and rapid delivery services.

One way of combining several of these into oneboul st michel World Cup promotion, is to offer a replica of the 'official' Addidas Worldcup football, to be delivered in a package La Poste calls the 'Dilifoot.' The offer is good until 31. July of this year, or until stocks run out.

This looks sad, doesn't it? It didn't seem that bad - at the time.

The brochure says it is possible to send these outside the country. The 'conditions' do not say purchases are restricted to being made within France. The Web site may have more details, if it is as snappy as my quick once-over indicated.

The all-inclusive price of football, package and postage is 210 francs for delivery within Europe and 245 francs for the rest of the world. With the order form from La Poste, there is also a sheet for adding a personal message.

See both the round three-franc stamp and the 'Dilifoot' package, on this issue's contents page.

Note: the 'Loto' and street photos were taken on Wednesday, 11. March 1998.
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