10 January 2014

Le bureau de tabac

The bureau de tabac is one of the hubs of village life in France. Tobacco products are a government monopoly in France, and cigarettes, for example, are sold only in state-licensed shops. The buraliste — the owner-operator of a what's called un tabac [ta-BAH] — usually also operates a bar or café on the premises. You can buy lottery tickets, postage stamps, phone cards, and tax stamps (to pay a traffic fine, for example) in the shop.


Currently, this is the only café in our village. If you want an espresso or a beer or a glass of wine while you're out and about, this is the place. The owner also sells newspapers and magazines, and on Wednesdays — the one day a week when the village's only boulangerie is closed — the tabac becomes what is called a dépôt de pain, selling baguettes and other breads supplied by a bakery in a neighboring village.

9 comments:

  1. No smoking in the tabac, of course. One useful fact - the postage stamps sold by the tabac don't have the price on - the price just went up, but you can still use the stamps. I'll have to buy a few centimes worth of extra stamps to go with the ones I got from La Poste before Christmas. P.

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  2. the village hubs, yes. D'où l'expression : " être fier comme un bar-tabac ! ".

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  3. Interesting expression, Jean Laine :)

    Tim, in the U.S. these days, you can buy "forever stamps" -- same concept... you pay the going rate, but when the price of stamps go up, these that you bought at the lower price are still good. We've had lots of rises in stamp prices in the past 5 or 10 years, so this was meant to offset our frustration, I guess :) Have stamps been rising in price a lot in France in the past few years?

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  4. Hi Judy, yes, the price of stamps keeps rising in France, but we use so few of them that it doesn't matter much. Nearly all of our monthly or bi-monthly bills -- telephone, internet, electricity, water, satellite TV, etc. -- are drafted, as are our annual income, property, and resident's taxes. I don't think we write even one check a month, or use more than one or two postage stamps, because we just don't pay bills by writing checks and mailing them.

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  5. "bread depot" is pretty good...

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  6. It's not surprising that the number of "bars-tabac" in France is in decline. These establishments largely base their sales on tobacco (heavily taxed and now with the ban on indoor smoking, the consumption of food and drink at the counter is greatly reduced...according to La Confédération des Buralistes de France), alcohol (increasingly taxed and subject to new anti-alcohol campaigns and more aggressive enforcement of drunk driving laws), prepaid phone cards (hurt by the ubiquitousness of cellphones), printed press (in major decline due to virtual press), and postage stamps (like you, I'm using about 2 stamps a month now).
    At least, sales by buralistes of lottery tickets and bets on the ponies are up.

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  7. Always open. Whenever I look out our front window, the Tabac across the street is open.

    My family runs a Tabak Trafik in Austria and the business is down there too, for the very obvious reasons.
    To adapt, they now sell more souvenirs and gadgets to make up for lost sales in other areas such as tobacco, magazines and stamps.

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  8. Looks like an interesting place to stop into.

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