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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

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French enjoy legally mandated sale season

In America, national holidays are code for “monster department store sales.”

In France, the sale is the holiday.

Tuesday marks the end of the soldes season, a twice-yearly event where every store across France is legally mandated to put its merchandise from last season on discount.

The French government actually wrote this into law.

Every store window in Paris is dotted with signs screaming of discounts and final markdowns. Department stores, pervasive French chains and tiny, cramped, smelly, old stores all offer the same intoxicating discounts.

French friends explain the sales coincide with the new seasons, so designers can have an official time to declare the start of spring and summer style. The haute couture runway shows take place at the start of soldes.

But for most Parisians, it’s an excuse to spend money in a city where a cheap dinner will run you at least 10 euros, or about $15.

My credit card has been more than happy to get some fresh air and extra use as I stock up on clothes and shoes, with the rationalization that I won’t be able to afford anything after the season.

Once the soldes ends, clearances will become a distant memory as stores become cramped with clothes from the new seasons. Sale racks will be missing in action until the summer sales.

That’s it for clearances or sales. Imagine the uproar if this happened in the United States.

In a country where somewhere, somehow, basically anything can be purchased on sale at any time, the idea of legally binding sale periods is inconceivable.

Not to mention the popular uproar of “big” government overstepping its boundaries and taking control of small businesses would be deafening.

I’m not making a case for any particular plan of governance. But the advantage to the French system is that it lets holidays maintain an identity beyond double-coupon days and doorbuster sales.

With Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day around the corner, every chain store in America is slapping heart-shaped discount stickers on merchandise.

And while a good deal is always a good deal, there’s something about a sale for every holiday that makes us forget why we have the holiday.

No wonder Valentine’s Day is so hated. It’s hard to love something when you’re drowning in sale ads.

When the sales become special in and of themselves, when they don’t need any sort of “occasion,” it’s suddenly easier to appreciate holidays for what they are.
Though a sale season won’t be coming up for a vote in Congress any time soon, at least there’s the knowledge that somehow it’s possible to celebrate a national holiday without slashing prices to go along with it.

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