There's A Boutique In Paris Where Everything Is Free

Photo: Courtesy of Siga Siga.
Paris is quite the shopping hub, but there's one boutique in town that definitely won't leave you bankrupt. Siga Siga, a secondhand shop in the 12th arrondissement, has a singular pricing structure: Each and every gently used item on its shelves costs zero euros. Yup, everything is free.

The store opened its doors in June, and it's the first of its kind in France's capital. The concept for Siga Siga was borrowed from "freeshops" or "freestores" found in Germany and in Mulhouse, France, according to Debora Fischkandl, director at La Boutique Sans Argent (the umbrella organization that runs Siga Siga).
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Before Siga Siga came about, La Boutique Sans Argent, which translates to "the store without money," organized gratiferias around Paris — pop-up markets where people could bring, take, and exchange goods without currency. The mission, similar to that of groups like The Freecycle Network around the U.S., is to foster gifting and giving old things new purpose, and to reduce waste.
Siga Siga has a simple policy: Take what you like and will use, leave whatever you might no longer need. Anything from apparel to kitchen gadgets to home decor is accepted at Siga Siga. Items just have to fit two criteria: they "have to be usable without fixing, and they have to be transportable by hand," Fischkandl says. There's no money or bartering involved. You can come in with one thing and leave with three items. This system provides for people in all different points of life, Fischkandl told Refinery29: If you're moving into a new apartment, say, or are leaving town and have perfectly good items to give away.
But it's not a total free-for-all. While there's no formal check out, employees make note of how many items a customer takes out of the shop — not to keep tabs on individual patrons, but rather to "know how many things got 'inside' and how many got 'outside' in one day, one week, or one month," explains Fischkandl. They use this information to fine-tune their social-experiment-store hybrid. Currently, Siga Siga has 100 to 300 customers stopping by daily, Fischkandl estimates. They come mostly from Paris and surrounding areas ("often from distant suburbs," she notes), but also from other parts of France and Europe.
Photo: Courtesy of Siga Siga.
Siga Siga means "slowly, slowly" in Greek, Fischkandl says. The name is meant to "embody a different kind of place...where you can meet people, discuss; a place about gift and generosity, where you take your time a bit and enjoy." To that end, there's a little bar with coffee and tea (the beverages are also free of charge), which makes the boutique an ideal spot for a petit pause.

While customers are usually surprised at first, that initial reaction quickly turns into support, says Fischkandl. It goes like this: "You may enter the free shop and discover a thing you would like to use — a piece of clothing, crockery, etc. — get it as a gift, and then think about all the things you don't use and could give, too." She characterizes Siga Siga as "a collective project," where everyone who enters to give and/or take becomes a participant.

"The project is an experimentation...of course we [are] paying attention to people's reaction," says Fischkandl. So far, the feedback has been positive: After a flurry of local press coverage from publications like Madame Figaro, Le Parisien, and Metro News, foot traffic has increased. More than 1,000 people stopped by Siga Siga in one week recently, Fischkandl says. This created a unique problem: too many gifts. For its big debut, the boutique initially stocked its shelves with merchandise from past gratiferias. Recently, Siga Siga has asked customers not to bring in items for the shop because there wasn't any more room to house all the donated loot.

They've also developed a following — folks that stop by the store to drop off or pick up items on the regular. "The process makes people think about their own things," believes Fischkandl. It makes customers look at their own belongings and assess how much they actually use them — and if these items could get more use from others. Siga Siga's regulars "come from time to time with a new thing they don't really need, and also find something that could be useful," she says.

Next up, Siga Siga will offer workshops with a focus on skill-building, like sewing or upcycling. "The idea is to share these skills, totally for free," explains Fischkandl. In other words, it's yet another extension of Siga Siga's very cool giving-and-sharing approach to shopping — and you can't put a price on that.
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