Fucking Sephora, man. It can’t just be content with the fact that people all over the world yearn for its outrageously expensive (and tiny) cosmetics — now, thanks in part to the opportunity provided by a stagnant French economy and a busy location on the Champs-Élysées, Sephora is leading the charge to dismantle some of France’s labor laws just so it can sell makeup on Sunday. Because workers want to work, you guys, and it’s definitely not exploitative of Big Makeup to let workers do what they do naturally — serve their corporate overlords. When you think about it, workers should really be paying Sephora, but let’s deal with one thing at a time.
According to a thorough report from USA Today, Sephora has emerged as one of the leaders in a struggle to dismantle French labor laws that it and its supporters say are harming the French economy. For the record, the French economy is in pretty shitty shape — unemployment is at about 10.5 percent, and the country hasn’t really emerged from the 2008 recession. Some observers point to France’s persnickety labor laws and powerful labor unions as the source of at least some of the economy’s stagnation. If only the government would get out of the way of growth — so that line of thought goes — the economy would be much stronger.
Shops in France, on the whole, have been barred from opening on Sundays and staying open past 9:00 pm since 1906. With the exception of people employed in essential state functions, i.e. hospital workers, police officers, etc., Sundays have been preserved as a day of rest for French workers. Until about a month ago when a French court forced Sephora to conform to the country’s labor restrictions, customers would linger in the Champs-Èlysées store until 1:00 or 2:00 am. The company, part of the luxury French conglomerate LVMH, sees an opportunity to haul in a lot more revenue by staying open later and opening on Sunday, when a lot of customers with disposable income (and little time during the regular work week) might be more willing to do their makeup shopping.
Critics of Sephora’s efforts to ease labor restrictions say that more casual observers of this ongoing labor debate might not be familiar with the cookie-mouse argument: Sephora is a mouse, and staying open on Sundays is the cookie. Maybe extra shifts at a retail job in the Champs-Èlysées Sephora will help workers willing to work earn more money and, ultimately, inject a little extra vigor into the economy, but big corporations are never just trying to give more people a chance to make an honest living — Sunday is such a potentially lucrative day for the store that it’s willing to eat a $162,000 government fine just to keep its doors open.
Sephora hungers for profit, just like any other company. Economic freedom arguments are just smokescreens corporations use to loosen labor laws and operate at an even higher advantage over the overmatched, individual worker. Besides, it’s not like France can’t be like Germany and have its cake and eat it, too — thanks to the efforts of church officials and unions, Germany has managed to restrict retailers to staying open on only a few Sundays every year, and right now, Germany is the engine driving the European economy.
Sephora takes on Paris for Sunday shoppers [USA Today]
Image via Getty, Rebecca Sapp