French supermarket mocks government Covid lockdown rules

Signs in Monoprix supermarkets give a satirical take on the government’s changing definition of ‘non-essential’ items

24 November 2020
By Joanna York

Customers entering Monoprix this week will see posters giving a humorous take on which items are and are not available for purchase due to government restrictions on selling “non-essential” items during confinement. 

In early November the government restricted items that supermarkets could sell following claims of unfair competition from small, independent retailers such as bookshops which were forced to close during confinement. Supermarkets could stay open despite selling the same products.

Read more: French bookshops inspire support through lockdown closure

The rules on the supermarket products that are classed essential and non-essential have been amended in the past few weeks. Items such as some children’s clothes and underwear were initially considered non-essential and made unavailable to shoppers, but aisles containing these items have since reopened.

In response, one of the Monoprix signs reads: “Clothes for children under 3 years old are once again considered essential. Other children are urged to stop growing.” ("Les vêtements pour enfants jusqu'à trois ans sont à nouveau essentiels. Les autres sont priés d'arrêter de grandir.")

Signs target changing rules and Amazon

Another sign targeting the reclassing of baby bottles reads: “If baby bottles were not necessary, we should have been warned to stop making babies during the first confinement.” (Si les biberons n'étaient pas nécessaires, il fallait nous avertir de ne pas faire de bébés pendant le premier confinement.)

A third celebrating the returned right to sell umbrellas says: “As a commission has just concluded that water makes things wet, at long last we have the right to sell you umbrellas.” 

Another sign explained the closure of Amazon lockers in stores which allow customers to pick up deliveries from the online sales platforms. While independent shops and supermarkets have faced restrictions, online platforms have continued to sell non-essential items throughout confinement.

It says: “We didn’t really feel like receiving things that we no longer have the right to sell here.” (On n’avait pas très envie de recevoir ici ce qu’on n’a plus le droit de vendre ici.)


Supermarket denies criticising government approach

Humour is typically a part of the Monoprix brand, with the packaging on many own-brand products in stores printed with puns and plays on words. 

But the satirical signs have caused a stir on social media, with some commentators questioning whether Monoprix has become an “anarchist” brand. 

A spokesperson for Monoprix told news source BFM Business: “The group wanted to bring a bit of levity and humour during this morose period by making clients smile and echoing what they may sometimes feel.

“This spirit does not represent a desire to criticise government decisions, which we have applied scrupulously.”

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