Friday, April 17, 2009

The Dummy's Guide to using a Shopping Cart in Europe

A trip to the supermarket here is like trying to figure out what they wrote on the pyramids. Row after row of colourfully packaged stuff, with things on it which I cannot fathom. It takes a real effort to figure out what is what, and I am pretty much clueless about what is there in 90% of the place. I struggle and find what I need - most of the time - and leave, without bothering about the rest. I guess one of these days I am gonna give the supermarket staff something to talk about by opening the german - english dictionary in the middle of the aisle.

Germans seem to want everything in big quantities. Nothing is small, and when you buy something, you wonder how many weeks or months this would last you. But there is no choice in most cases. Even the trolleys are huge, I would fit in one easily.

The first few visits to the supermarkets were hilarious, and we ended up behaving a bit like village idiots. We couldn't figure out how to unchain the trolleys, so we ended up making a circus of the visit, with each of us carrying around a dozen items on us, and trying our best to prevent the jam jar from hitting terra firma. The shop attendant gave us a curious gaze when we reached the till, wondering what the hell was wrong with us. Enquiries with one fella resulted in the knowledge that we had to insert a 1 Euro coin in the trolley to pull it out. Now, we were in no mood to put in 1 Euro in trolleys, especially after seeing the prices of stuff, and hence proceeded to ignore the looks that we got when people saw us lugging ridiculous amounts of stuff. It reached a point where it was not possible to carry all of it around. So we thought of what seemed to be a rather brainy idea. We deposited all our stuff on a stool we found in an aisle. One of us guarded it, and the other went around looking for more stuff that we needed. Then, the other stood guard, and the, err, other went around. Needless to say, this also resulted in a fair number of funny looks from people.

In retrospect, I can't believe how dumb we were. I saw daylight on a visit yesterday, when I found myself lugging too many things again, and decided that enough was enough, and that I was getting a trolley, even if it was costing a Euro. After dumping the assortment of items that I had collected so far in an empty corner of the shop with the hope that some over-enthu shop attendant wouldn't find it and place it back, I went outside the shop, and watched a young girl put out a trolley. She got a bit freaked out I think, so I sauntered off and came back after she was safely inside the shop and did not need to fear me any more. A girl with scarlet hair was placing a trolley back, and I proceeded to ask her if she spoke English. A positive response encouraged me to ask her how I pulled a trolley out, a question which I believe rather surprised her. If she were Indian, I am sure she would have thought "Kahaan kahaan se aate hain yeh log..." (Translated as 'Where the hell do these people come from, not to know even this...'). Anyway, she kindly explained the system, and gave me a what-else look when I asked her if I got my Euro back when I put the trolley back. I then proceed to hand 2 50 cent coins to her and take the trolley before she put it back, and sauntered off inside the shop. Victory was mine!

I think there must have been some rather desperate folks who ran off with the trolleys and sold them for scrap or something. It made no sense to me, otherwise, to have such a system in a country where almost everybody abided with the law and people left bicycles on the streets without locking them at times.

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