January 14, 2008


We all are used to laws ruling our lives. There are some that work for us (if you ever find any, call me!) and then there are some as serious as a heart attack that will clean up the mess (only if they were applicable) and then there are some that are meant to be broken (most of them and counting).

Can laws that seemingly curb freedom of any kind actually do us good?

If you visit any shopping complex or mall in Delhi, a signboard loudly proclaiming SALE greets us. Be it Sarojini Nagar or Select Citywalk Mall, the simple law of land seems to be, ‘Have Shop, Will Be on Sale’. The Europeans, especially the French, have an absurd law that allows shops of any kind to put things on sale only twice a year.

Yeah you heard me right.

As a matter of fact in countries such as Belgium and France you can’t even put tags like ‘Buy One Get One Free’, ‘Discounted Price’ or anything that conveys that the customer might have to pay less than what is on the tag. Apparently this has its foundation in some old Nazi law that wanted to curb the enthusiasm of Jewish shopkeepers who came up new and innovative ways to attract people. They worked on the principle that if some one came in to buy a particular thing at a discounted price, they could be siphoned off more stuff at original price.

If you think that we Indians often bemoan about our thought process deeply rooted in some tradition that barely makes sense to us in this and age, then lament no more for the West is equally stuck in some time wrap. Here are highly progressed nations that think about the common consumer’s benefits only twice a year. You could be a French national and your shop could be empty all through the year or you might want to have a clearance sale to get out of the business or perhaps the municipal authorities on the orders of the courts could be sealing your shops so you might want to get rid of the good looking stuff at any price to cut some losses but you won’t be allowed to do any such thing.

Surely it can’t be that bad? Really?

The Europeans still follow these rules and they state that this way the Davids’ (small shops) can take on Goliaths (big plush showrooms that in any case have a million mark-ups).

Like Bill Murray who realizes in Groundhog Day that if you continue to relive your worst day then after a point you actually start liking it, maybe being stuck in some time wrap can actually be good. Imagine you could actually buy something for what’s it worth rather than getting attracted to multi-colored stickers that offer discounts on tanked-up prices. After all aren’t we different from the French for we have the same shops in three malls (and more in the offing) in a radius of one kilometer that stock the same things and have the same over-priced tags on them and yet people buy it?

Of course, we also have other important issues to worry about like being able to find parking in these modern marvels.

Thanks to S for forwarding the link on European Sale Laws.

Image Courtesy: www.viewimages.com

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