Snow vs vide grenier in St Jean de Sixt

The vide grenier in St Jean de Sixt, Aravis, FranceAfter weeks of warm weather, last weekend turned arctic. Normally, I’d rejoice at snowfall and its promise of winter sports, but not when I’m due to sit outside all day. A friend and I had reserved a stand — thankfully undercover — at the Saint Jean de Sixt vide grenier (French version of a bric-a-brac sale). Pictured is how the vide grenier looked compared with one a few years ago. The untimely snow forced anyone without an undercover stand to go home — apart from three food stands.

Rugged up and with a thermos flask of hot coffee, my friend and I worked that stand all day long. My friend had some great stuff, and people pawed the Star Wars masks with built-in modulators (just €5 each), although nobody bought them until the last hour. I had all sorts of goodies on offer, including kitchen utensils for 50¢, unused chocolate fondue sets and teapot/teacup sets, and ski wear from €5 to €10. How much did I sell? Nothing.

I stood outside all day long and I sold nothing.

I did, however, sell a Playstation2 for a friend, with controllers galore and games. It was marked at €80, and a man offered me €30 for the main piece alone. I said I’d take €60 for the lot, and so began the process of seeing who would give in first. He eventually walked away, then came back later and offered €50 for the main box and controllers “because it’s all I have on me”. Coincidentally, the lady that bought another friend’s Gameboy, which had a price tag of €30, showed me she had just €20 on top of the €5 for one of the Gameboy games. Meanwhile, my friend was being offered the only fiver that a lady had to buy a fully-functioning mini-organ which was marked at just €7. My friend explained that it was her son’s and that he wanted €7, and the woman — who had a friend with her who no doubt had €2 — walked away. But at the end of the day, somebody else bought it for €5 after my friend was resigned to getting rid of stuff. That person also showed the note and said it’s all he had on him. With a bank just metres away, it seems that showing an empty wallet is the French way of saying: “I’m not prepared to pay any more than what I’m holding up.”

As the day progressed, I sold five Playstation2 games for a grand sum of 50¢ each. One kid asked if they were free. Errr, no, mate, I know that there’s an art to talking down a price, but free is kind of defeating the purpose of paying for a stand to sell stuff at.

With the weather as bad as it was, the crowds were down, so nobody sold as much as they usually would, but as this was my first ever stand at a vide grenier, I was frustrated, and almost resorted to begging anyone who looked at a vegie peeler to buy it just to prove I hadn’t completely failed at selling stuff. It turns out I failed, but I totally won at exchanging stuff. A French girl I know from a shop was holding a stand. She had seen a few things on my stand earlier in the day she liked — a teapot and one of the chocolate fondue sets. When I stopped at her stand later in the day, she showed me a briefcase of knives. They were glorious, and I joked that I’d swap them for the stuff she liked from my stand. To my surprise, she said yes. “Really?” I asked. “Why not?” she said, and proceeded to hand me the heavy briefcase of knives.

So, although I didn’t sell anything, I’ve now got the sharpest knives in town! If anyone would like to buy some of my faff, come along to the next vide grenier in St Jean de Sixt because I’m hooked.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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One comment on “Snow vs vide grenier in St Jean de Sixt
  1. Sue says:

    I’ve friends who pop over from Italy to the one in Chamonix and have done quite well for both sales and purchases, but I’m not sure the idea would do that well this side of the tunnel as everybody seems to have an exaggerated opinion of what their stuff is worth. Asking more for a second hand IKEA lamp than the cost new, that sort of thing. Maybe it’s just a bargaining ploy, or a demonstration of the admired concept of “furbizia”, which so often comes across as dishonesty (I’m having one of those days..).

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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