The other day, I was walking up the avenue d’Italie in the 13th arrondissement – I was coming back from the information meeting for a singing class I may take – and I noticed a bakery named “Le Grenier à Pain”. It was very inviting, so I walked in. I didn’t need or want to buy bread or pastries, you see, but I like to look anyway. I do the same thing with any food store or restaurant, looking at the menu, taking a look around, asking about hours of opening and about the business, making a mental note of places worth visiting again should the opportunity arise.
I have learnt not to feel intimidated that I am not buying anything. I will explain with a smile that I’m just looking around, sometimes adding a compliment about how good the place looks. More often than not, the person will be friendly (possibly flattered), tell me to take my time and be more than happy to answer my questions. I thank them as I leave, and tell them I will definitely come back (if I mean it). And sometimes, when I do return, they remember me and it’s as if I’d been a faithful customer for years. Sometimes this even works with impossibly grumpy salespeople : being unswervingly polite and amicable somehow breaks their pattern and they turn a milder flavor of grumpy, or even sometimes plain nice. Not a 100% rate of success, but worth giving a try.
In any case, this bakery was very nice : the bread looked good, they had samples on the counter, and the baked goods seemed scrumptious. They also had a variety of other food products displayed on the wooden shelves that lined the walls : jars of fruit jam and compote, tea, flavored sugar, old-fashioned candy…
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