This weekend I went to two large retail stores in Paris, FNAC and BHV, which ended up being a remarkable experience.  Remarks!

FNAC is a chain of stores, originally known as Federation Nationale d’Achats des Cadres, or the National Purchasing Federation of Manager.  It’s essentially a nicer Best Buy with a Borders crammed into it.  It’s probably the same total cubic volume as a Best Buy, only the ceilings are like three meters high instead of thirty.  I’ve stopped by two now, and they both had at least three floors packed with merchandise.

One of the most striking difference of the FNAC experience is that all of the display merch is actually in good working order.  As Archer and I once painfully discovered, the camera kiosk in Charlottesville’s Best Buy is a graveyard of manhandled, broken products.  The camera wall at FNAC seems to not only contain most every consumer level camera on the market, but it all seems to be cared for and maintained.  I also discovered that the guys who work FNAC security aren’t overweight middle-aged men in yellow polos who played football in highschool, but in-shape twenty-something men wearing suits and sunglasses.  They don’t mess around here.

Gallagher recommended I stop by BHV, or the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville, and I’m glad I did.  “It’s something else.”  Just like he wasn’t kidding about the climb to work,  he wasn’t kidding about BHV.  It’s like the better part of the entire French GDP is getting poured into BHV.  It’s six giant floors of retail, and you’d have trouble finding something they don’t have.  Art supplies.  Bedding.  Beds.  Power tools.  Bicycles.  Clothes.  Couches.  It was the first time I’ve been lost in a department store since I was six.  I think if you wound up with a dead body on your hands, I think you could find everything you needed to take care of it at BHV.  And then throw a dinner party.  There’s no situation too fantastic for BHV.  So, if you’re in Paris and you realize there’s some oddball (or normal) thing you need while you’re here, my recommendation is just go to BHV.  They’ll have it.

Most amazing about both FNAC and BHV was that even in these trying economic times in which we all live (ITTETIWWAL), both stores were jam packed with people.  Packed!  Throngs!  Like sometimes making it hard to move number of people.  With Dogs!  Has the Minitel retarded Internet retail in France so much that people still go places to shop?  If so, good for Minitel.  I still want to see one of those little buggers while I’m here.

Don’t forget Paris-Nice starts tomorrow, Versus should be carrying coverage during Cyclism Sundays.  Day one of Paris-Nice is an ITT in Monfort l’Amaury and should be a good chance to see who’s in shape for the season; although “Paris” is a bit of a stretch.