Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection


Paris Journal - Day Six: The Economics of Fleas

Today's big adventure was a trip to "Les Puces".  Now, puces is the French word for "fleas".  A couple of hundred years ago when rich French people got fleas and disgarded their infested clothes, the "rag and bone" men who scoured the trash and garbage found them.  Then they resold them to poor people in a market in a nasty neighborhood.  Eventually, the market cleaned up and is now is an area with a funky section of cheap clothes and shoes and another half with vintage and antique everything. 

My friend, Annie, and I spent the morning there checking the place out, but not buying anything.  And here's the thing.  The prices were really, really high.  I was looking for vintage Chanel and Hermes handbags and scarves, and the scarves were more than you'd pay at Neiman Marcus.  There was a lot of costume jewelry, some of it great stuff, but just not worth the tariff. 

We had lunch with a friend of Annie's who lives here, and we were talking about the economics of fleas.  And he said that the prices are just outrageous, and the merchants haven't caught on to the realities of what's happening with their business.

  • Tourists used to show up and buy lots of stuff without looking at prices, but no more.  They are shopping for fleas because they want a bargain. 
  • At the same time the merchants are facing reduced sales, a guy bought up a bunch of the stalls and raised the rents. 
  • Merchants are trying to raise prices to help cover their overhead.
  • Some of the stalls have closed, and others are about to, meaning the mean landlord is going to make less money than if he had kept the rents at the original levels.

So they are sort of where a lot of US real estate markets were a while back.  Things were changing and a lot of the businesses, including these flea merchants, are not adapting to the changes.

Comment balloon 16 commentsPatricia Kennedy • April 18 2009 11:40AM


Hi Pat... I have had several friends say exactly the same thing about Les Puces.  I have always wanted to go there, but now I am not so sure... I'd want to buy something and would be really disappointed if it all was overpriced!

Posted by Steve Shatsky over 11 years ago

Pat... that's right, it's April and you are in Paris....  I forgot all about this.  hey, enjoy and have a great time.  Question, are you going to the REBarcamp in Philly?  HAVE FUN in PARIS....

Jeff Belonger

Posted by Jeff Belonger, The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans ( Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc) over 11 years ago

Pat, I wonder if this is where the term flea market came from here in the States. Everyone wants a bargain and to think things are overpriced maybe they are looking for tourists who don't know better. I love this French series of yours.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) over 11 years ago

I was thinking the same as Gary while I read it ! HAS to be where the term FLEA MARKET came from right ??

What a fun time you are having :o)

Cheers !


Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) over 11 years ago


I just wanted to stop long enough to tell you that I am enjoying being in Paris with you :)


Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) over 11 years ago

PAT, wait, do I see a table painted like.... A COW???? Hmm... interesting idea...

LOL, am loving Paris with you, thanks!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 11 years ago

Patricia --Sounds like a lovely way to spend the morning.  It is difficult to find a bargain in Paris even at the flea market.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 11 years ago

Steve, most of these stalls are so overpriced that it's pretty hard to get something home at all!

Jeff, if it's in May or June, it's possible.

Sheldon and Gary,  yeah, the term came from the markets where guys sold flea-infested rich people's old clothes!  Or so they say in these parts.

TLW, glad to have you as a traveling companion!

Andrea, yes, it is a very fancy chest of drawers, probably centuries old, painted as a back and white cow!   I thought of you and took the photo!

Norma, Monday we're checking out some high end consignment shops!


Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Pat - Thanks for taking us all on a vicarious trip to Paris.  Hope you find some bargains in your travels. 

Posted by Judy Jennings, Tap into Judy's real estate expertise & resources. (Top Agent Plus) over 11 years ago

Interesting.  Sounds neat; but also pretty much a tourist trap.  No bargain there!

Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 11 years ago

Hi Patricia

I would have enjoyed shopping or just looking at the "Les Puces."

Good luck and success

Lou Ludwig

Posted by Lou Ludwig, Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC (Ludwig & Associates) over 11 years ago


thanks for an interesting story about the famous frendch flea markets. Gary, I guess you may be right. Interestingly, that the same term is used in different countries. It is also the same (translation) in Russian.

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 11 years ago

It is a wide ranging economic slow down when it affects Fleas.

Posted by Terry & Bonnie Westbrook, Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re (Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner) over 11 years ago

Patricia: WOW! This is so much fun following you on our trip,. Loved the photos and the history of feal markets.

Posted by Janice Roosevelt, OICP ABR, ePRO,Ecobroker ( Keller Williams Brandywine Valley ) over 11 years ago


When I talk the economics of fleas I mean something else -- like flea bombs and vacating the house for a couple hours.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 11 years ago

So you're over in Paris rounding up some international Clients? LOL Good for you! Our international Clients come to see us. I just signed a Chinese couple from an Open Houston three weeks ago.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) over 11 years ago