To shop or not to shop… There is no question.

To shop or not to shop… There is no question.

Americans love shopping. They love deals. 

And why wouldn’t they?

Most stores are open 7 days a week, and for at least 10 or 12 hours a day. Special sale weekends are scheduled… every weekend. Deals, promotions, special events, beckon. Return and exchange policies are lenient. Credit rules. 

My favorite time of year to observe natives in shopping mode: Black Friday, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving. 

You may not realize this, but it is really worth your while to drive out of your house in the middle of the night and line up in the cold, waiting with hundreds of kindred spirits, for a superstore like Target or Walmart to open their doors. Besides, since you are still wearing your pj’s and h.a.w.t. UGG boots, it will be a snap to return to bed afterwards, still clutching your Starbucks double tall eggnog latte, confident you snatched the best deals.

It’s Black Fridayyyyyyyyyy!!! 

Granted you might get trampled to death during the traditional Black Friday stampede, and if you survive, a Target or Walmart employee might not. Incidentally, I wonder if the guy the store management sends to unlock doors, gets a special bonus or not? It seems to me he should.

Yes, shopping in America is easy, and encouraged. As someone who has been actively – and satisfyingly – purging closets, an attic, and every corner of my house over the last few months, I shudder when I picture the amount of merde the average [gigantic] American house must contain. 

But it is not just Americans. The French love shopping too.

Rue Ste. Catherine, Bordeaux, France
The winter sale has just started!

Unlike Americans, the French do not have guest bedrooms, or a three (or four) car garage, to store the overflow. They have to be more selective when they buy. Exchanges and returns can be challenging. Store opening hours are more limited than in the US.

And let’s not forget the semi-annual sale is strictly enforced by the government. It is a concept that shopping-happy Americans have a hard time grasping. Say whaaaaat? French stores only go on sale twice a year? Well, they do, and they don’t, but there is no doubt it is somewhat more difficult to shop in France than in the US. 

Soldes! The magical word!

All this may help understand why my countrymen spend so much time looking… but not touching. Le Lèche-vitrine, (window shopping, or literally, window-licking,) is a national sport, and a concept young children get introduced to early on…

This weekend, as I was sorting through mail, my mailbox overflowing with catalogues and brochures touting special Christmas deals, I spotted a particular publication because of its bright red cover. As soon as I opened it, I knew I had a winner. 

Now I know this is a reputable company. I know thousands of people will be ordering from that catalogue. But some of their products were too good to pass. I had to call Junior. Together, we flipped through the pages and had a good laugh. These were some of our favorites. I hope you enjoy them too…

If you like/own/are planning to order one of these products, 
please don’t be offended by my remarks. 
To each his/her own.
Besides, I am French. What do I know?

Ready? Here we go…

French Girl in Seattle’s 2013 Must-Have Holiday gift selection: 
(Or: The gifts you never knew you never needed.)

1. The most unhealthy Holiday gifts e.v.e.r

The United States government is waging war on obesity, a national scourge. Even if Americans are admonished daily to “shake their derrière,voilà several items that guarantee you will turn into the least fit person in America.

Do not walk or run around the yard. Ride your own miniature train with the kids instead!

The heated furniture cover: Will turn you into a couch potato for life
(and will keep the dog warm)

The remote-controlled beverage cooler:
If you don’t go to your soda, your soda will come to you!

The rolling bedside iPad stand: Was the iPad too heavy?
Is this why Apple just launched the new iPad Air?

2. Gifts you absolutely do not need (nope, not even in your wildest dreams!)

The 15-foot inflatable Rudolph:
Scare the Christmas lights out of neighborhood kids in 30 seconds flat!

Canine Culinary Cupcakes:
Because everyone knows Fido needs his own cavity/tummy ache inducing treats for Christmas!

The hands-free hair rejuvenator (Don’t ask!) 

Her Majesty’s umbrella:
Because, at least in America, EVERYONE wants to look like Queen Elizabeth II

3. Gifts you should never, ever, get for your husband/boyfriend/hubby.

Astronaut’s slipper socks:
“Houston, we have a problem!”
The wireless speaker ear warmers:
“Allo? Allo? Bob, do you hear me? Can you pick up milk on the way home?
Allo? Allo? You have Bluetooth! I KNOW you can hear me!!!”

And  last but not least, the undisputed champion… 

Power nap head pillow:
E.T. meets Elephant Man meets… What the… ????

4. Gifts Junior and I would splurge on, if…

… we had $125,000 and $250 to spare, respectively.

The Porsche 917 Le Mans Raceway
(Note: This looks bigger than the first apartment I rented in downtown Paris.) 

The Fashionista Christmas tree…

And so you have it. Aren’t these just fah-bu-lous? 

You should be thanking me, right about now, for inspiring so many original gift ideas. 

And since we started this post on a very American note, I choose to end it on a très French note…

Happy Thanksgiving, les amis! Watch out for Black Friday stampede! 

36 Responses to To shop or not to shop… There is no question.

  1. The Christmas catalogue items had me laughing – funny on one hand but also very sad on the other. I too am at the stage of my life where I am trying to simplify my life by culling unused or unwanted items – but none quite as ridiculous or superfluous as those above. The implications of the need for increasing consumerism in order to prop up the economies in first world countries has frightening environmental and social implications. Amicalement, Elizabeth

  2. Morte de rire! D’abord , qu’ il est moche , cet Oncle Sam/Pere Noel, il fait trop peur ! Et c’est quoi ce catalogue?! J’aime bien le GRAND renne en plastique, so chrismassy! :o))
    Blague à part , il y a des gens qui achètent tout ça?..Ici, (en France) on va rester sobres, cette année, entre la crise et les impôts, on va avoir du mal à faire bombance. Alors finalement, ce n’est peut-être pas plus mal que les magasins n’ouvrent pas plus! :o)
    Oui, c’est très surprenant ce côté “un jour on remercie pour ce qu’on a “, et le lendemain on fonce acheter ce qu’on n’a pas…
    Un super post en tous cas, bravo!
    Grosses bises et à bientôt!

    • C’est vrai qu’il est flippant, cet Oncle Sam. On dirait un vampire! Le catalogue, je peux te le mettre au courrier; il arrivera peut-être, lui, pas comme mon cadeau de Noël de l’an dernier!
      Des gens qui achètent tout ça? Oui, il y en a, et ils ont les moyens. Si tu voyais les prix…
      Pour les Français, c’est bien dommage, mais je leur fais quand même confiance pour réveillonner avec quelques bons produits frais. Moi, comme cadeau de Noël, je me contenterais de très peu: une semaine à Nice avec ma copine Marie. Mais je crois que le Père Noël est occupé, et je ne sais pas s’il aura le temps de s’occuper de mon dossier.
      Bisous à toi et à Nissa la Bella…

  3. Oh my God I had such a good laugh! Brilliant! I stopped receiving “Needless markup’s catalogues” a long time ago and I see it have been missing on a lot of fun.

    • “Needless markups catalogues…” — Ha! Good one, Nadège. Apparently, I live in a zip code that warrants receiving two of these every day during the Holiday season. Quelle chance! At least I can squeeze a couple of good stories out of them 🙂

  4. So funny, Veronique! You definitely founds some winners! Because I used to work for a retailer, Black Friday was unavoidable. Thank goodness this year I can hide from all of the madness and go nowhere near a store! Thanks for the laughs. XOXO

    • I am with you Jeanne. I will not be going ANYWHERE near the dreaded giant stores on Friday (or on Thursday for that matter.) Apparently, shopping on Thanksgiving day is the new “hot” thing to do. On the bright side, there won’t be a stampede when the stores open: Most people will be too full to run really fast! 🙂

  5. F-U-N-N-Y!!-as usual I love your unique view/spin on things American and French, for that matter. I might consider the head pillow for long flights-it has a certain do not approach quality—Happy Thanksgiving v with love- g

  6. Oh Veronique this is very funny. The power nap head pillow is hilarious. Black Friday has never appealed. The greed is very sad. Congratulations on getting rid of your clutter, we have done likewise and what a relief.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours


    • Bonjour Helen. Thank you for stopping by. So you have been de-cluttering as well. It does feel great, doesn’t it? “C’est le grand ménage,” as the French say! Out with the old, but it seems smart to hold off on the new for a while… 🙂

    • Bonsoir, dearest Sarah. I can only imagine how beautiful your table will look for Thanksgiving! No wonder you are busy with house chores. This will be quite the production, I can tell. Happy Thanksgiving, friend from Texas.

  7. It is too bad black Friday has taken over Thursday as well. I know no one that actually shops these days, only a few poor souls that have to work… Fondly remembering our turkey parties in France, bisous!

  8. Bon Soir Veronique, you are hilarious, this is one of my favorite posts ever! I love hearing your perspective on our countries differences. The only sad thing is that I am generally so sleep deprived, that power nap head pillow {or whatever it’s called} actually looks really appealing! Please get in touch if you are coming over the bridge, I’d love to meet you. ~ebh

    • Bonjour Emily. No matter what you do, do NOT invest in that furry helmet!! Surely, you can’t be that tired… 🙂 I would love to meet you too, maybe after the Holidays? Things are a bit hectic here this late fall… Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. All those Things seem like paradies…You captured well a huge American absurdity…I know it seems funny, but I think it’s sad that people try to fill a spiritual need with some of this, to quote you, “merde” which is messing up our planet…I too have recently “downsized” & was amazed at how much “merde” there was to let go of!

    • Parodies indeed. When I first saw these incredible gifts, I thought: “Is this a joke?” Well, at least we got a good laugh out of them, and let’s face it: We can all use a good laugh these days. I am glad you, too, have tackled your pile of “merde!” successfully 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. LOL! This is hilarious, Veronique! Best post ever. 🙂 I’ll still be laughing tomorrow morning when some of my friends are standing in line to get the great deals whilst i’m home reading newspaper and enjoying morning coffee.. or perhaps still sleeping in. I have never once in my 50 years of life shopped on Black Friday. But it’s a ‘thing’ here in the US, has been since i can remember. I love seeing it from your perspective. So funny! And all true. 😀 Have a wonderful weekend, whether you shop or not!

    • Thank you Mary. It is Black Friday. I am sitting at the kitchen desk, checking emails and visiting friends’ blogs in the quiet house, while sipping sone delicious coffee. Heaven. I am not even shopping online! How un-American of me! 🙂 In a little while, the Yellow Dog and I will get out, but only to go on a hike before it starts raining. Happy relaxed Black Friday to you, Mary! 🙂

  11. What an entertaining post! I have never seen anything quite like those gifts – canine cupcakes!!!! I read in the paper today that a couple of stores in the UK have copied the Black Friday sales and it was apparently chaos. I like the French idea of two sales a year rather than the constant promotions. I’ve just had a clear-out (so therapeutic!) and yet another trip to the charity shop. I do like the last photo probably because my first car was a rather cute mini! Bon week-end, Véronique!

  12. Mon premier commentaire bien que je passe “chez vous” depuis fort longtemps.
    Mais, je ne résiste pas cette fois, ce post est irrésistible, caricatural (dans le bon sens du terme) et tellement vrai !! Mes amis américains me disent la même chose sur cette constante incitation à la sur-consommation.
    Par contre il va falloir que je potasse les différents catalogues reçus pour Noël mais je ne suis pas certaine de trouver des cadeaux aussi extraordinaires même dans les plus “space” d’entre eux. Merci pour cette pinte de bon sang.

  13. Oh that was too funny Veronique 🙂 I love that there are only two sale times in France, maybe they are then REAL sales.. the many, many sales we have here and in the US are really not sales at all.. I’m sure they just put out things that they haven’t been able to sell through the year just to get rid of them! I was just watching today scenes from your Black Friday was horrifying 🙂
    p.s. by the way, I’ve just made myself a cup of tea and am enjoying a quiet time catching up on your posts, I’ve missed your sense of humour 🙂

    • Merci de votre visite Louisette (et ses Golden Retriever…) Le compte à rebours de Noël a commencé, c’est vrai. Personnellement, je vais prendre mon temps pour décorer la maison, mais mes voisins ont pris de l’avance 🙂

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