When I first arrived in Switzerland four years ago this fall, I had *just* missed the troc season by a few weeks. By then, the signage was taken down and the word was gone from the Swiss landscape. About 5-6 months later, when I had mostly settled in, had my car (and so had started investigating the area — especially at times when my son *needed* a nap but was too wired to stay in bed), signs started cropping up on the routes I often travelled. There was the sign on the road to Signy-Centre “Troc de Cheserex”, another on the road to Chavannes Centre “Troc de Chavannes de Bogis”, and yet another on the Lake Road between Geneva and Nyon “Troc de Jouets de Crans-pres-Celigny”. WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A TROC?! I wondered.
Google didn’t provide any answers (there is now a French entry in Wikipedia though!), neither did numerous French-English dictionaries, and none of the trocs had their own websites at the time. Gosh… I read and speak French, why can’t I figure this out? I guess I’ve lost more of my bilingualism than I thought (and OMG what do families do who move here without knowing A WORD OF FRENCH?!)
Somehow, I figured out what a troc was and have been attending trocs every Spring and every Fall ever since. And here’s why: a troc is like a large indoor jumble sale or boot sale organized by communes, women’s or parents associations, or others. Families from the immediate area sell on their gently used items allowing other families to stock up their kids’ wardrobes and toy chests for the upcoming season. I could spend 100s of francs at a troc and come out with bags FULL of clothes and toys. I had been a huge garage sale goer when stocking up on baby things in Canada, and LOVE Winners/TJ Maxx/Marshalls/TK Maxx for me, so trocs were going to become MY thing. A trip to Migros/Coop for new clothes, even during an “action”, could on a good day get me 10 items (more commonly fewer than 5!) and at a troc… well, lets just say 100CHF can go pretty far.
So, how does it work? In the weeks and months before the troc, families register with the troc as a seller and in the day or two before the troc, they sort their gently used clothes and toys, add price tags (with their seller number or name, item description and size, and finally the price), and then bring in these items to the “réception des articles” where volunteers (often in shirts that are all the same colour) go through and approve or decline the items (no stains, no plush toys, etc.), give a receipt with information on when to come back for “la restitution”. The accepted items are sorted onto different tables. The following day, the doors open and the search for great second-hand items begins.
How can you take advantage? You don’t have to sell to go to a troc. On the day of the sale, you head over (babies in slings/wraps there’s no space for strollers/pushchairs) with a trusty big bags for collecting items (the big blue IKEA ones are great), and some cash. Once inside, you go from table to table and pick what you like and put it in your bag (troc veterans KNOW what they are looking for and head straight for the table with those items). The volunteers re-fold and re-organize as people go through the tables, but the nicely folded and stacked piles quickly become mounds! Once you are done and have decided what in your bag you’re going to buy, you go stand in line for the cashier (caisse) where more volunteers welcome you (remember to say Bonjour!), cut the tags off the items, enter the amount into their calculators, add a commission (usually 10-20%) and then you pay the total.
Now WHEN to HEAD OVER is a bit more tricky. If you get there before the troc opens, you’ll get a parking spot nearby, but you’ll end up waiting in line with a bunch of other eager shoppers. On the other hand, you’ll “get right in there” at the beginning so will have first dibs at the items.
If, on the other hand you arrive shortly after it starts, you might have to park further away, but there’s no line and no waiting to get in (there might be a long line when you are waiting to pay though!). If you do this, the “great” items are usually already snatched up (so it’s not a ‘strategy’ to necessarily take if you are looking for something specific and/or something popular). And remember, the pickings are dependent on the sellers. If there are a lot of organised sellers with a lot of good stuff, it’ll be a good troc year. If, on the other hand, families have been too busy to sort and tag, price things too high, or have not much to sell, it’ll be mediocre. But you should leave with at least one or two items.
A note to parents of boys: slim pickings for boys clothes after the age of 4. The knees and cuffs just get too banged up so keep this in mind and don’t be too disappointed. Remember that the troc only accepts items in good nick/condition. Those stained and holed clothes and other unaccepted items don’t make it onto the tables, but they do often go into the donation bin at the front of the troc, clothes & toys which are then given to families in desperate need, in Switzerland and abroad.
Got the TROC bug yet? Here’s some of the line-up for the fall:
- Troc de St. Prex (19 September)
- Troc de Prangins (21-22 September)
- Troc d’Echallens (26 September)
- Troc de Founex (26 September)
- Troc de l’Association des Jumeaux de Geneve (30 September)
- Troc d’habits de Gland (2-3 October)
- Troc de Echichens (3 October)
- Troc de Preverenges (3 October)
- Troc du Chateau d’Oex (6 October)
- Troc d’Aubonne/Gimel/Etoy (6 October)
- Troc de Morges (10 October)
- Troc de Chavannes-pres-Renens (23-25 October)
- Troc de Rolle (3 November)
- Troc de Jouets de Crans (3 November)
- Troc de Chavannes-de-Bogis (3 November)
- The International Children’s Clothing and Toys Sale – Plainpalais (GE) (4 November)
- IWCN Charity Bazaar, Place de Perdtemps, Nyon (10 November)
- Troc de Cheserex (10 November)
- Troc du Ski Club la Gamelle Bassins (17 November)