Nocturnal 'Hyper' Shopping

cartoon: linda's hyper chariot
"A card that dazzles is really HYPER!"

How Not To Get HYPER While Doing It

eMail from Linda Thalman, via the Internet:

Hi Ric,

Monday, 30. November 1998:- My day-to-day experience of a 'real French experience' is shopping at my local mall - read 'HYPER'-mall, super-over-large shopping center - or 'centre' for those educated in Canadian, British and Australian English and/or any kind of French!

Having received the annual Xmas list from my sister-in-law by email this year, my companion and I headed for Les Ulis Deux - also known as 'U-2' for those who know that great band of yesteryear - at, yes! 18:30 on a Monday night. Tonight in fact.

Why so late? Simple! To avoid the Saturday, Sunday, Monday daytime and everyday crowds at our local shopping center. And, happy to report, we did.

Les Ulis '2' has some 100 boutiques and several well-known chain stores such as Carrefour, Darty, C & A and Go Sport. The parking lot is as large as any I've seen in my native state of Oregon, except there are more cars in this lot than any I've ever seen in the U.S. because they are mostly smaller, like Twingos and Clios - even 'Smarts!' - although I think it's dumb to shop big with a Smart because they only have carry-on room for one packet of pocket tissues.

Carrefour is where we often go for a fill-up-the-fridge-and-freezer shopping. How many stores do you know that have 75 (seventy-five)(soixante-quinze in French) check-out stations?

I know Texas is big, but 75? All in an endless row, disppearing like rails on the far horizon. And there are usually at least ten people waiting in line on any Saturday per station, at any given nanosecond in time.

Do the math: that's 750 folks waiting with caddies - called 'chariots' in French - per minute, just itching to have their plastic debited for their hugely overloaded basket of French goodies!

So, back to the original story. To avoid the crushing bordom of waiting in lines, we head for the shopping mall on weekdays and at the end of the evening.

Tonight, Xmas list in hand - a good month ahead of schedule - we managed to pick up: twobrochure: picnic basket 'educational' books for a seven-year old nephew at 20 francs each; an electronic, so-called 'educational game,' for a 12-year old nephew for 178 francs; four large plates in green, orange, blue and brilliant yellow, at 65 francs each, for my sister-in-law.

Linda resisted the urge to buy a modest picnic basket.

We contemplated the '3-D' software at 1,498 francs for my brother-in-law; the 'educational' software for 298 francs for the older nephew; and a child-sized motorcycle, without a motor, for the younger nephew priced at nearly 500 francs.

The current exchange rate is about 5.70 francs to the US dollar so you can figure out what contemplation instead of action cost us. Although the prices were also marked in 'Euros' I failed to note them. There's time enough for that later.

Back to experiencing France as it really is! If Metropole readers get a chance to be in France, I sincerely advise them to visit a real suburban shopping mall, not only for the shopping, but also just for the pure pleasure, and if your French isn't too great, you'll be able to learn a lot of new vocabulary.

You might end up in the section for légumes, viande or fromage and not know what they are; but you'll figure it out when the tomatoes, roast beef or camembert jumps out of the shelf into your 'chariot.'

Another great way to learn some typical French vocabulary is, say you recognize the children's game section, but 'jeux' - games - is a new word for you. You'll figure it out soon enough. What might astonish you - it horrified me - is that there is a section for 'kiddies'; then one for four to six year olds, followed by the section for 'boys.' Excuse me? All those great games and NOTHING, NADA, ZIPPO, on the signs for GIRLS.

I was more than annoyed. Frankly, Ric, you wouldn't print the exact wording for how stupid I think this is!

Here's Where To Go:

Les Ulis 2, Vélizy 2, Paris Nord 2, Parly 2, Evry - anyplace with a two in it is a hyper-mall. There are no 'ones,' or they are buried under the 'twos,' and are only of archaeological interest. Some of the deeper parking lot levels might have been 'ones' ages ago.

You can buy ANYTHING! From slippers to fish, freezers to socks, fresh industrially-made paella, pizza, choucroute, cheese and more cheese, the most cheese in the whole world! - grilled chickens, spring rolls and samosas; satellite television antennas, lawn mowers, belts, sandals, scissors and gartenzwergs to put under your outside Christmas tree.

You name it, you can find it in the hypermarchés - but they are NOT located in Paris proper. You'll have to get to one by taxi, in a car, or by walking for a long way.

Shopping in France is easily done by punching in your ultra-secret four-digit PIN code together with a plastic card - especially during afternoons or early evenings on weekdays. Unless, of course, you really like crowds and long lines; or don't like being lonely as your plastic gets lighter.

Even at the end of a long day, the woman at the check-out counter at Carrefour flashed a smile and said very warmly, 'Bonsoir,' and thank you for shopping at Carrefour.

We left smiling and pleased that we'd scratched off a couple of items on our Xmas list.

From a very reluctant, but if-I-have-to-do-it-shopper,

Linda

Linda Thalman©1998

You Are a 'Reluctant' Shopper?

Bonjour Linda,

Paris:- Friday, 4. December 1998:- I don't get it. You and your muscled companion went - on purpose - to one of these overgrown sales palaces, shopped for hours, lightened your plastic by thousands, pushed a two-ton 'chariot' about 2.67 kilometres through an unfathomable parking lot in the middle of the night until you found your car - plus you missed the really jolly sing-along kitsch on TV Monday evening - and only managed to 'scratch off a couple of items' - but still ended up smiling?

What do they put into the air in these places?

Regards, Ric

PS:- Linda is right. Seeing a French Hypermarché is one of life's 'experiences' no one should miss. Notbrochure: mustard pail having done it once, is about like not having served time in one of France's more notorious prisons. Like bungee-jumping, your life cannot be complete without a crucial 'experience' like this.

Linda also resisted the urge to get 10 litres of hot French mustard.

All I can say is, if you must have one of these 'experiences,' get ready for massive sensory overload and be aware that health authorities, financial experts and legal and insurance types, have all issued dire warnings concerning shopping in French hypermarchés.

Also be aware that checkout ladies often start saying 'Bonsoir' about 14:30, so the word itself is no indication of the time of day. Hypermarchés can be as irresistible as the slots in Vegas, but the difference is, sometimes the slots give you your money back.

R.

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