All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A few wrinkles from the cosmetics counter....

01172009: Cough MixtureImage by jmcknight via Flickr
A little contretemps has occurred in the quiet world of Chiottes la a puppy crapping in a discreet corner and about as welcome when discovered.

In the well regulated Hexagon that is France, certain things are sacred...monopolies, for example.

You can't qualify as a notaire and set up where you like. This would give rise to the risk of competition to other established notaires.

I really can't see where the worry would be from the clients' viewpoint....the course of studies followed by notaires seems to include - apart from the vital art of turning pages on a document for the client to initial - an element best described as professional procrastination.
Professional as in being paid to procrastinate.

Clearly, established notaires might well object to another professional procrastinator turning up in the area...there's a risk to the annual purchase of the new car, after all....and, as in the Hexagon it is the view of the monopoly holders which counts - with only one exception - the client is thus deprived of choice.

Same thing with taxi and ambulance firms. Taxis Merdiques have got their area sewn up and will brook no competition.

But at Chiottes la Gare it is chemists' shops.

Chemists too have monopolies.
You go to the doctor for your corns, emerge with a prescription for enough stuff to start up a health service in a third world country and set off to the chemist to have it packed into the lorry you will need to carry it away.

'The' chemist...not 'a' chemist. The one with the monopoly for the area.

But this guaranteed custom was never enough for the chemist to lead la dolce vita.....there had to be lines of business other than prescription pills and potions to finance the winter ski break and the summer month in Reunion.

Waiting in Madame Goupil described the nature of the symptoms that had led her to consult the doctor, with sympathetic interjections by the chemist, his assistant and the other clients had the opportunity to appreciate the range of goods on offer....the 'parapharmacy' lines.

Any amount of help was available for that most French of ailments  'heavy legs' ....quite apart from shampoo, stuff for dandruff contracted by using same, herbal supplements, soap, and anti  ageing formulas whose price was guaranteed to put years on you just by looking at it.
The range could be vast.....and you had plenty of time to be tempted to buy as by now Madame Goupil would be into the genetic origins of her problems...vocally supported by those old enough to remember the indifferent health of her Aunt Leonie.

Chiottes la Gare has two supermarkets on the over the border in the next commune as the Chiottes council of the time didn't want it setting up in town as providing competition to established businesses.
Once they had discovered that even in the next commune it was quite capable of knocking out any and every business, they decided that they had better have one on their own territory to be able to cop it for local taxes.
Thus two supermarkets, one closer than the other to the town centre.

Chiottes la Gare has more than two, given the size of the place more have been authorised by the appropriate authorities.
It should have had one less, but the gentleman in question is the son of the man who at the time was maire of the town and senator for the department, so the protests by the existing monopoly holders went by the board.
This is the exception referred to above. String pulling by those who know where the bodies are buried.

One of the Chiottes chemists decided to close up the shop situated in the old town, stating 'economic reasons'.
These may be understood to be the enormous taxes imposed by the Chiottes council on businesses in the area over the years  together with the reluctance of even established customers to enter an area where scum from Paris snort coke and patrol the streets with their pitbulls when emerging in the late afternoon from the 'social housing' which is what the wonderful historic buildings of the centre have become.

Why not buy your corn plasters in the morning?
You might slip up on the dog turds.

So, the said chemist thought it a good idea to install the business alongside the nearer supermarket, which was  about to expand. Clients could do their shopping and pick up the pills at the same time.

But the said chemist did not think fit to discuss the idea with the supermarket franchisee...who had ideas of his own.

So the shop was built alongside the supermarket.....but could not be accessed from the supermarket car park....the franchisee alleging that this would involve danger to his customers as they would have to cross the road used by delivery lorries.
Let no one even think for one moment that he changed the proposed layout...

Parapharmacy lines were always a very profitable affair and now that minor cuts have been made to the list of snake oil cure alls previously available on the public health service, those profits are even more valuable than before, so you can imagine the reaction of the chemist to the news that part of the supermarket's expansion involved setting up a vast parapharmacy section.....
A bit more than 'Zut, alors!' I reckon...

The egg basket would have been looking a bit fragile....

The chemist defiantly states that only chemists can run parapharmacy goods....nothing to do with their monopoly, but down to the trust people have in their advice.
The chemist recalled that the other supermarket tried a parapharmacy section years ago and it only lasted a short this new one is also doomed.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Times have changed from the days when people really believed that they had better service and quality from individual shopkeepers - though ironically that may now be the situation - and like doing all their shopping in one place.
Given the current belt tightening all round, cheaper prices are appreciated as well.
I suspect that the supermarket parapharmacy section will do well.

I don't think the chemist has too much to worry about either.

The chemist for whom an exception was made has applied to set up a satellite business....alongside the same supermarket.
Having, one supposes, kept the franchisee in the picture.
Clearly he imagines that the extra trade from the supermarket clients will outweigh the effects of their parapharmacy.

However, times have changed.

His father has now retired from politics and is occupied in manoeuvres to avoid regurgitating some of his ill gotten gains......
Son and chemist, although on the Chiottes council, is in opposition and even if his party win next time round a career politician is slated to be maire....

Thus no one in the appropriate authority can see any reason for making another exception and have told him that such a subsidiary would be too far from his current shop to qualify as a satellite.

The chemists can get on with it....I gave up on them long ago....
Ever since they stopped selling Baume de Peru and the Elixir de l'Abbe Perdrigeon....
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Funny you should mention corns... whose pocket do I have to line to get some appropriate plasters?

  2. Hello:
    Funny that you should mention pharmacies, well, not exactly funny, more tragic really, since the story you tell rings many similar bells in faraway Hungary.

    National shortages are common here in the Motherland with almost anything [tomato juice, green beans and oranges being on this week's list]suddenly disappearing from every shop in sight and then making an equally speedy recovery whilst some other essential goods go missing. However, there is never any shortage of pills, potions and cure-alls since the number of pharmacies in both the Capital and throughout the Hungarian countryside are LEGION!!Within a short step of our apartment there are seven, all staffed by rather severe middle-aged women wearing white coats and peering over bulls-eye spectacles. The price of a paracetamol will cost the national debt of Greece and when Tesco recently mooted that it might stock basic medical supplies, the proverbial hell broke loose.

    However, enough of these domestic woes.......where, pray tell, do you now obtain the most mysterious sounding 'Elixir de L'Abbe Perdrigeon? Could this be the elixir of youth that one needs to cope with modern life?

  3. Cripes all mighty, is it ‘International Corns Discussion Week’ or something? All I seem to be blog reading today is posts that promote the existence of corns, boils and carbuncles’.

    The Old Spice brigades are still splashing it all over each other then. Clearly anything that generates the slightest fragrance of a Euro is fair game for a bit of dodgy alchemy. A wonderfully funny post. Should be made available on free prescription from any decent pharmacy.

    P.S. re: Taxis Merdiques. What does the ‘iques’ part mean Fly?

    P.P.S. re: Chiottes la Gare. Is that really the name you’ve awarded the place – ‘John Station’ ? Laughed out loud!

  4. I've been having trouble posting on your blog, sorry about that , read them all though - blogger gremlins at my end I think. Perhaps the Mac need sto see a pharmacist..??

  5. Steve, I think your corns were in my mind when writing this...
    You could try your Euro MP...they generally seem to accept all sorts of inducements...

    Lance and Jane Hattatt, shortages are not unknown in rural France....loo rolls disappear from the shelves only to reappear some weeks later at a vastly increased price...

    Local chemists have beaten off the attempts by supermarkets to sell aspirin..

    The Elixir de l'Abbe Perdrigeon is a sovereign remedy for bruises.
    May not make you younger but certainly stops you looking as if you'd connected with Henry Cooper's only known punch.
    As someone who actually can step on rakes and be hit by the has saved Mr. Fly from an undeserved reputation...

    Bish Bosh Bash, merde - shit, merdique - shitty.
    I apologise for the mention of I have said before I think Steve is taking over my mind...and I hope he knows what he's doing with it...

    The name suits the town...and its council...and the bunch who actually run it nomatter who is on the council...

    Mark, gremlins abound at the moment, it seems...but if your Mac wants to consult a pharmacist it should stay well clear of Monsieur Exception....better of with the old boy who understands mushrooms.

  6. The whole pharmacy "game" in France drove me up the wall. It all seems rather quaint at first to have a small local shop and indeed we found an excellent one. But the lack of competition is stifling.
    God knows what's right any more - somewhere in between France's protected version and the UK's ultra commercial enterprises.
    I'm never happy...

  7. Craig, we too had a good one but the price rigging drove me wild...

  8. There are state protected monopolies in Spain for chemists, tobacconists and notories. It all seems so medieval guild. Why not bakers, florists or shoe shops? A strange practice to continue in countries which seemingly espouse free market principles.

  9. Pueblo girl...oh yes, tobacco monopoly too....I'd forgotten that being a non smoker.
    I think the key word is 'seemingly'.....

  10. Another vital insight into the dark underbelly of French commerce, Fly.

    Being pretty healthy for my age, I've only once entered a French pharmacy in all my visits - to buy some cough medicine. I explained my symptoms, Madame complimented me on my French and proceeded to sell me some stuff that contained so much salt that it would probably have put my BP up if I'd taken more than a couple of spoonfuls of it! Snake oil indeed....

  11. Perpetua, nice to hear from you after your action packed hols!

    Ah...the cough mixture...a cunning plan to have you back for blood pressure tablets!

    We used to be in and out a lot, given Mr. Fly's various ailments, so had plenty of opportunity to see what went on...and to hear all the local gossip!

  12. пособие по честному заработку в интернете.
    [url=] Заработок в интернете на рекламе.[/url]
    Реальные заработки в интернете $$$