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.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Prix Choc

prix choc!prix choc! (Photo credit: baklavabaklava)
The wonderfully named Direction Generale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Repression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) has come out with a new report.

Not the one warning clubs organising bingo nights that only club members can play unless the club's officers want to be hauled before the beak and sentenced to vast sums in that they did (probably with malice aforethought) act like the licensed gambling dens run by the Corsican mafia and let in all and sundry.
So bad luck, your bingo loving granny will be turned from the door if she lives in the next village...

Nor the one warning you of what will happen to you if you are unpatriotic enough to take your holidays outside the will be burnt to a frazzle by the international plug adaptor you have bought to enable you to recharge your camera batteries abroad......

No, this is the one which checked the prices on the shelf against the prices at the checkout in a representative sample of supermarkets.....and discovered that progress has been made since their last 2008.

How they managed to sneak that one past a government of the friends of Eddy Leclerc I'll never know, but it showed that there were anomalies in 52% of the stores against 54% this time.
Round one to the Eddy Leclercs.
However, while in 2008 7.5% of the items tested were erroneous, in 2012 only 7% made the target
Round two to the consumer organisations and bloody minded customers.

Still, the Eddy Leclercs win on points as the 2012 report shows that six out of ten errors were in favour of the supermarkets...who claim that this is down to human error.
Yes indeed, in the sense of  being less than ten out of ten.....four opportunities missed!

And what do the DGCCRF suggest?

That we keep a watchful eye on the till slip.

Thank you gentlemen.

When I was holidaying in France in the dark ages there weren't really that many supermarkets...though there were lots of mini markets....but by the time I had moved there things had changed and I have to admit to doing most of my shopping there.

I had the choice of two, equidistant from my house but in opposite directions.

One was fine, nice staff at the checkouts, helpful people on the food counters where meat was cut and served - no plastic wrapped packages then - fish scaled and cleaned and cheese kept at proper temperatures.
A sort of half way house between specialist shops and the hypermarket.
If I needed cheese to be ripe for the weekend, the cheese lady's thumb was better than an ex cathedra statement by the Pope.
The shelves were a bit of a muddle, but once I was used to it I could find the rice blindfold.

The other was distinctly different.
Apart from the patent hostility towards foreigners you needed your wits about you and your glasses at the ready.

It had several ways of inciting you to buy.

Prix Choc!
Where the only shock involved was yours as after sharp work with the remains of the mental arithmetic dinned into you at primary school you'd realised that buying the offer would cost you more than buying its component parts separately or in smaller quantities.

Offre Speciale!
So special that you wondered how desperate you would have to be to buy it.

And their favourite...
This meant that whatever it was it would never reappear on their shelves nomatter how much customer demand there might be.
They'd dropped onto something going cheap and that was you see it now you don't.

These notices would appear on shelves all over the supermarket and even after doing your mental arithmetic you still had to be cautious.

The price announced on the Prix Choc notice would be for a specific item.....which would as likely as not be found further down the shelf, so the pack of three tins of tuna pieces you thought you had bought would turn out to be tuna lumps infused with truffle juice - nothing less would have justified the price shown when you reached the till.

You would see temptingly large lumps of cheese on Offre Speciale.....but the price quoted  was for 100 grammes rather than the kilo.....a small detail left off the notice no doubt by human error.

And if something had slipped past your vigilance the hell up at the check out was beyond belief.

You were a foreigner, you didn't understand the monetary system......

No, there wasn't a different price on the shelf.......

No, there were no staff to go and check...and if there were you went with them just in case...

Can't you just leave it?
Yes, and the rest of the shopping too.
Which I did more than once to the audible disgust of checkout lady and the vast queue which had assembled during the preceding altercation
All right for me, I had only myself to please...but not so easy for a mum with kids trying to get the  ice cream home before it melted away.

So why did I go there?
Because it was in the town with all the tax and administrative offices I needed to visit and I was watching the petrol gauge even then.

But it can go the other way too....

Years later, when supermarkets had become hypermarkets, I used to visit one in another town, handily near the Bricodepot where I fought it out with French plumbing parts on an all too frequent basis.

The DIY store had very early opening hours to cater for all the artisans francais who were busy buying their supplies with the view to passing them off on their clients as coming from their professional suppliers at ten times the price.
They also supplied a brilliant buffet breakfast....good bread, croissants actually made with butter, ham, pate and super coffee.....
Have to keep the artisan francais happy.

Accordingly, I would go early, make my purchase, have breakfast and still be at the hypermarket just as it opened, heading for the chicken bread.

This was the morning after the day before bread....bread with an expired sell by date...ideal for the chickens and ducks.
There were huge sacks of the stuff for a ridiculous price.

I was not alone.
There were regulars, mostly active looking pensioners and after a bit I progressed from being included in the general 'M'sieur, Dame..' greeting to being given a regular place on the grid.
A great advantage, for as the chain across the entrance came down there was a dash worthy of Formula 1 racing down the main aisle to the bakery - and woe betide the employee rash enough not to dive for cover at their approach. They stopped for nothing.
They would arrive at the side of the bakery shelves and two young men would hand out the sacks, putting them into the trolleys, whose conductors would then shoot off down to the meat counter to see what bargains might be on offer there.
I would gather my two sacks of baguettes, buy one fresh loaf and a tartane - large and faintly brown - which kept fresh for days, then follow the horde to the meat counter.

One day the young men beamed at me and hoisted into my trolley one of the expected sacks of baguettes and one of tartane, fouasse and pain aux raisins - a sort of Chelsea bun without the icing.
Every one spanking fresh and marked with the day before's date.

You're a regular now.

I became a regular at the meat counter too, now that I realised what the game was.
Chickens, pork chops, even joints marked down by half as being 'last day'.....and best of all, the day I came across another quirk of the establishment.

Hunting on the pre packed counter for pigs' tails for soup I came across a pack of enticing looking lamb chops.
Five of cater for the tax efficient French family of parents and three children.
Marked at 0.01 Euro.

I wonder who they were intended for....

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  1. My bank is offering a similar deal. 1% interest for the first £1000, 2% for the second and 3% for the third. The priviledge only costs £2 a month. As I rarely have over a grand with this particular band I'd be paying them £2 to get £1 back.

    I said "non".

  2. So you weren't watching Murray either, then...

    Re your bank, very General de Gaulle of you!

  3. Oh, lord, not sure I would ever buy pigs tails, even for soup :D

    1. A recipe from a French friend..soup of mojettes and pigs' tails...cook off with herbs, cool, take fat off...delicious!

  4. I'm with Jenny on the pig's tails!
    And yes our mental arithmetic has been given a dust down since moving here. And let's not forget the arobic exercise of hunt the right price sticker!
    The big stores in the UK obviously took a leaf out of their French neighbour's book as they too have offers which are more expensive/or the same as buying the 'normally' packaged product!
    It a battlefield out there ;-)

    1. Under rated item, pigs' tails!

      How right you are about the U.K. supermarkets...last time I was there shopping with mother I understood why she took her calculator with her!

  5. This all sounds so familar, and I've only been here a few months. I have taken particular note of the mounds of advertising stuff that arrives, telling the world about these amazing offers, and they are either no where to be found, or only available to those chosen few who have exactly the right and very special loyalty card which for some reason you were never told about when you filled in the several dozen forms for the one you've got.
    ( Fly, I know you left a comment on my last blog, as I got an email telling me, but for some reason it hasn't appeared...just to let you know, I did receive it... thanks. ) J.

    1. They just seem to be devoid of any commercial sense...apart from the fiddles...

      I used to get the publicity, go in on the day the offer started only to be told that whatever it was hadn't arrived...go back the next day to be told it had sold out!
      I think that little trick has been
      outlawed....but they've plenty more!

      Wine more expensive in their wine fair than on the shelf with the rest of the stock....

      Thanks for telling me about the I check, every comment I sent from the laptop has disappeared into the ether..!

  6. I'm resigned now to my shopping taking twice as long, when in France, in order to purchase half as much. And to having to don my reading glasses so I can see the small print.

    There have been times when I've seriously thought that "Bien Vu" as the name of a supermarket's generic range of "cheaper" alternatives was actually chosen as it equates to "We saw you coming".....

  7. Your posts are fascinating and informative. Thank you so much for sharing. As well, seeing French signs comes naturally to me, living in Montreal.

  8. You certainly needs you wits about you when you go shopping wherever you are. Last week in my local supermarket a large jar of the brand of honey that husband likes was 40 pence less than a small jar of half the size. Work out the logic in that! I bought one, but only one in case it was a mistake, which I am sure it was.

    1. You do wonder....last week Mr. Fly bought a gallon pack of mustard.He asked the price...salesman asks the boss who tells him.
      Salesman astonished it is so low.
      Queries it.
      Boss throws a fit.
      Mr. Fly buys it and hurries out before the salesman can persuade the boss that a gringo should pay more...

  9. Given that some of Tesco's special offers regularly work out more expensive than multiples of the single, I'm getting wise to these ways, Fly. I will admit to always checking my till receipt in either country and to being another who ferrets among the special offers in the meat cabinet (essential, given the astronomic price of meat in France). I haven't tried pigs' tails but as I love ox-tail, perhaps I should....

    1. They cut pigs' tails high with a large amount of meat round the backbone and they are great in soups.