I walked by my first automat-convenience store in Paris, or almost anywhere in the world. Parisians who live near this glass-walled convenience — refrigerated and selling milk along with batteries — must be particularly pleased on Sundays, that swath of time every week where most stores are required to respect le repos dominical.
This legislated day of rest was instituted by the French government in 1906 and any change to it excites passionate front-page debate about the value and relevance of the sacred Sunday. Unlike Blue Laws in the U.S., which were designed to enforce Sabbath observance, Sunday closures in France are usually defended in secular terms, to protect workers and promote social cohesion.
The Minister of Finance, Michel Sapin, recently argued that permitting more stores to open on Sunday would nibble away, bit by bit, at this vital element of French workers’ lives. Opponents of the law contend that it limits economic growth and the right to work.
Exceptions are permitted in tourist areas (in Paris there are seven), industries whose products need constant attention (food production, gas companies, etc), outdoor food and flea markets, and some others. Grocery stores can be open until 1pm so long as they don’t open again until 1pm on Monday. And recently, home-improvement stores were officially allowed to be open too. But other local stores, non.
So if you want a bottle of milk at 4pm on a Sunday, an automat comes in handy. And the logo would make a great Spongebob character.