We start requests incorrectly in other countries!!! In France, we should start with si vous plait madam/msr. (probably misspelled) but means "please" At this point, they will smile and be very happy to help. Always say bon jour when entering a shop, and merci when leaving, even if you don't buy anything. Americans are accustomed to "touching/feeling" the fabric, and they (as well as all of Italy and Spain) consider this damaging to their merchandise -- and they don't have the giant Wallmarts/Macy's there with giant stock that they expect to lose some of. The shopkeepers get very upset with this touching, and do not have inventory to lose. Also, consider that you are a foreigner speaking a foreign language in their country -- probably louder than they speak. They get sick of hearing it. I was in a shopping mall in a resort area in the US and got sick of hearing all the foreign languages myself -- so speak quietly!
"and they don't have the giant Wallmarts/Macy's there with giant stock that they expect to lose some of." They do, in fact, but they call it Carrefour.
As tourists we go to the quaint areas with small shops, as do some of the locals. However, just like in the States, most people need to buy where it's cheapest, so in addition to Carrefour, as Tom pointed out, French shoppers go to Franprix, Uniprix, Marche U, Casino, Auchan, LeClerc, Monoprix, and wherever else they can save a centime. All of France, Spain, and Italy are not frozen in time. However, right you are about addressing people, even in these large chain stores.
We have only been to Paris twice (but definitely want to go again!) The first time we were unprepared in many ways. We were in a children's clothing store, and I wanted to buy a nice dress for my little granddaughter. I reached forward to feel the type of material and have never heard someone so angry in my life - I couldn't figure out why. Then I learned some of rules for France and other countries. On our next trip to Paris, we were prepared - could speak a bit of French and also understood how to interact. The French people in Paris and the countryside were very friendly and nice to us. It sure made a difference.
hi, on my trip to Paris last year, all i did was to say "hello, do you speak english, please" in french and they either said, "yes, no, or little". No one got mad or was unhappy. i know how to use numbers and "kilo" so i can buy goodies w/o issue. the only rude people i saw were Americans! happy trails.