The Pros and Cons of 'Hyper'

photo: 85 checkout at conti
A 'Hyper' paradise to some; plain 'hyper' to others.

HYPER Reactions to Shopping Features

eMail from David Hall, via the Internet: Monday, 7. December 1998:-

Ric,

I just read your report on shopping at hypermarchés. I couldn't agree more that it's an experience not to be missed. We've been to France every year for the past three years and wouldn't dream of missing a trip to a Carrefour at least. We Americans think of huge WalMarts and KMarts as uniquely American, but France has outdone us. Where else can you buy a refrigerated wine rack, a fishing rod, new shoes, books, and a month's groceries - all in one spot?

Thanks for the article and keep up the good work!

David Hall

David Hall©1998

eMail from Mike Harmon, via the Internet: Monday, 7. December 1998:-

Ric,

I must say that this week's edition is a like a big 'super-duper- marché.' Shopping sounds likephoto: hypermarche continent so much fun in France, generally. I really got a kick out of the story about the outdoor-street market.

We have this kind of thing here, but only on Thursday night. Here it's called a Farmers' Market, because all the little, and not so little, local, and not so local, farmers bring whatever they have to town and sell it.

There should be a taxi service for high-heeled customers.

The local restaurants also bring out special grills and serve up bar-b-que ribs, chicken, pork and whatever. it's a big social thing, but it's all over by about 9 pm.

You make standing around in the freezing cold sound like a lot of fun. It's getting to be more like winter around here now. We are having daytime temps in the mid-50's and nighttime temps in the high 30's. I've even had to start wrapping myself up in the evening with a couple blankets and have even had to start using my little electric space heater. I feel so French like this in my little apartment in California.

Mike

Mike Harmon©1998

eMail from Marni K., via the Internet: Wednesday, 9. December 1998:-

Dear Linda & Ric,

I enjoyed reading of your explorations of the uncharted depths of the Les Ulis hypermarché in the last number of Metropole. I actually set foot in that place myself some years back, for the purpose of buying a Bosch electric coffee mill which I had seen advertised as being on sale at a bargain price.

The price was in fact quite a bargain, and they had plenty of them on hand, but what the ad didn't say was that the only color they had in stock was a bilious yellow-orange. Yuk. I bought it anyhow, and it has worked beautifully from that day to this! We do keep it in a cupboard when it's not being used.

Even so, except for infrequent forays to make similar specific acquisitions - we went to the Carrefour in Auteuil two years ago to get one of those little radio-controlled clocks, which they had on sale for 100 francs - I tend to shy away from such places - particularly for food.

I can appreciate that their big attraction - aside from the mesmerizing effect of their vastness, and assuming that one can get there without too much of a hassle - is the convenience of doing all the day's, or even the week's shopping, inphoto: chariots one place. Clearly that can be the deciding factor for someone with two kids in tow, or with an overflowing list of errands - and kid-schlepping - for the day.

Chariots galore right near the door; none further out.

But for my money I prefer one hundred times over to savor the pleasure of an excursion to a neighborhood shop or market - even when I have to go at 19:00 as they are closing, and I'm on the run between the métro and home. The fact that the quality of the food I can buy locally is generally far superior to what I've found at the hypermarchés doesn't hurt either - your remark about industrially-made paella pretty much sums it up!

For more significant purchases, such as the washing machine we recently acquired, we've found the large department stores such as Samaritaine to be the best bet. Their prices are competitive, the sales people are informed and courteous, and when we had a minor 'aprés-vente' problem, they resolved it in no time at all - no questions asked.

Thus demonstrating the old adage that the price of something is not necessarily the same as its cost!

Marni

Marni K.©1998

eMail from Walter Conway, via the Internet: Wednesday, 10. December 1998:-

Ric,

I really enjoyed reading your 7. December issue. Your 'Café Metropole' description of how even a seasoned reporter like you can lose great thoughts in the midst of an average morning's chaos had me nearly falling off my chair.

And the dueling markets pieces were outstanding. Actually, I found myself agreeing with you both. [Linda Thalman's 'pro-Hyper-tourism' position v.s. my 'street-market' view in last week's edition - ed]

I go to the California equivalent of a hypermarket - from tires to fresh avocados; color TV's and PC's to milk in 5-gallon sizes - and I also enjoy our local one-day Farmers' Markets.

Your market description brought back memories of chilly December afternoons at the Buci marché in Paris or at the market in Chamonix buying supplies to take back to the hotel, or the markets in Sarlat and Bergerac which have very regional flavors. You captured the sights, but don't forget the smells... mmm...!

I was thinking back to one particular winter evening strolling through Buci. In one stall at the front, there was this entire deer suspended on the front tent post by one hoof, with a pile of sawdust underneathphoto: big conti to catch the few drops of blood... I know this may not have everybody run out to buy some venison for dinner, but hey! It was fresh!

Another secret tip: shop at lunchtime in France.

A related but different market story: Yesterday my wife and I went to a local supplier that provides game and special goodies to the better restaurants and hotels in San Francisco. They don't advertise, but if you show up, they will sell anything to you with great pleasure and a bit of fun, all at wholesale prices.

Well, we stocked up: guinea fowl; venison; pheasant and venison sausages; quail; French chestnuts (marrons); walnut oil; truffle oil; and just for me, a beautiful, fresh, large black truffle. Now I am ready for the holidays! Thanks again for bringing back a bit of France to me and all your readers.

Walt

Walter Conway©1998

We interrupt this email program for a Weather Report:

California Winter Weather Report

by Mike Harmon

Friday, 11. December 1998, 08:07 PST:- It is continuing to be quite cold here. I've had ice on my car windows several mornings now. Gawd, I hate winter.

End of interruption; back to our regular program:


'Hyper'-full Mailsack

Salut Everybody!

Paris:- Saturday, 12. December 1998:- I don't get it. Linda Thalman takes an everyday experience like shopping in an impersonal jumbojet airplane hanger and turns it into an enchanting tourist excursion. For my turn, I scribble out ten-year old, fifteen-year-long memories of freezing for hours, just to buy 300 grams of Alsatian sausage at a wind-swept outdoor marché. Fans for both fill the mailsack.

But Walter Conway nailed us all. I forgot the smells. Yes; while you are waiting you get the smells, even if it's freezing. Sausage smells. Cheese smells. The spices, the nuts - even real tomatoes have a smell! Inside air-conditioned Hypermarchés, smells are - forbidden!

No doubt some people think France stinks. People who know it well, know the air in this place has something live in it. The air has a lot of character.

Regards, Ric

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