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Paris Shopping Tips

February 18, 2010 By: Richard Nahem

One of the most joyous activities in Paris is shopping. Whether it’s the designer boutiques of rue St. Honore, the grand department stores Printemps or Galleries Lafayette, or some special trinket from a unique boutique, there is something for every one. 

Here are some insider shopping tips to make your experience even better. 

1. Store Hours & Closings
*    Most stores are open Monday to Saturday, closed on Sundays. Department stores, and shops in more commercial areas like the Opera are open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Areas like the Marais and St Germain des Pres, the individual boutiques are usually open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
*    Sundays – the only place where stores are open on Sunday is the Champs Elysees and the Marais. Stores are usually open 11-7 but some in the Marais open later, sometimes after 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. 
*    Food shops & gourmet stores- small neighborhood food shops like cheese stores, butchers, fish stores, chocolate shops, patisseries, etc. are open Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday 8 a.m. till 2 p.m. Some fish shops, butchers, and cheese shops will close for an hour or two in the middle of the day for lunch. Store opening hours vary between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. till 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. 

2. VAT/tax refund- If you spend 175 euros or more in one shop, you are entitled to a tax refund. It usually varies between 10 and 15 percent, depending on the store’s administrative costs. It can be refunded to your credit card later on or given to you in cash, in whatever currency you prefer, at the airport. You must do this before you go through security. Also you must present your passport or have the number when making the purchase at the shop.

3. Sales- Unlike the United States, where there are sales all year round, sales in France are regulated by the government and happen twice a year during summer and winter. Winter sales usually start the first Wednesday in January and summer sales the last week of June and sales last about four to five weeks. Stores can be fined heavily for having sales at other times than the government allows. However, last year the government let shops have an extra two weeks out of the year to let them have additional sale days. Some of the upscale boutiques will have private or un announced sales about a month before the government sales, whereby when you are in the shop, the sales people will discreetly tell you there is a sale going on.

4. Store Etiquette-
*    When you walk into a shop, always say “Hello/Bonjour”
*    Don’t ask how much something is without saying “Hello/Bonjour”
*    Don’t go into a clothing or non-food shop eating or drinking
*    Don’t touch things in the window without asking
*    Ask the sales person if they speak English and don’t automatically assume they do.

5. Sizes- European clothing and shoe sizes are different than American sizes, so either know what size you are before you arrive, or have a size converter printed out from the internet or on your phone.

Bon shopping!

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