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Grocery Stores around the world-quirks?

This post http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820746 inspired me. Have you ever been to a supermarket in another country? Did they have a quirky way of doing things?

In England, I put my hand basket on the conveyor belt and let it slide to forward to the cashier. I do it all the time here in the US. The cashier yelled at me! She told me to remove the things from the basket and place them on the belt. WTF? Her hand wasn't broken.

In Italy, the cashiers SIT DOWN on the job. And in both countries don't hold your breath waiting for someone to bag your groceries for you. Nope, you have to do it yourself. They have a different concept of customer service.

What else have you encountered?

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  1. In Mexico, the kids who bag your groceries are working for TIPS.

    1. I've experienced almost everything you mention in almost every grocery store I've been in in Europe. Customer self loads and self bags. Cashier sits. Bags are not free.

      Things are just different. When in Rome ...

      1. We live in Dubai and the two biggest differences in how the supermarkets are organised are:

        1. Fruits and vegs are weighed and bagged in the produce section. The bags will be sealed and the price tag slapped on it. The cashiers do not weigh/price the produce at the checkout line.

        2. Unless you protest otherwise, cashiers will automatically bag even just one item, such as a can of coke or a small bag of chips. I've even seen a stick of gum go into a plastic bag. It's a sheer waste of bags and it drives me crazy whenever I see this happen.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Roland Parker

          Plastic bags are a petroleum product.... no?

        2. The basket on/off the conveyor varies from store to store in the US. I shop at some that ask you to unload and leave the baskets at the start of the line because they don't have space at the end to collect them. Most want me to put the basket on the conveyor, or there isn't a conveyor and I hand the basket to the cashier.

          Are you saying you have to bag your own in Italy and England, or Italy and the US? I'm sure this also varies across the US, but all the stores in my area bag groceries for you. In fact, most have the check stands arranged so customers can't easily bag their own. The nicer stores in my area will even send someone out to help you load the car, no tips expected/accepted.

          20 Replies
          1. re: mpjmph

            I have never been to a grocery store anywhere in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, or Luxembourg where they bag the groceries for you. It is strictly bag your own.

            In Europe there are no baggers, and you're on your own for getting it into your car. If it's raining, snowing, windy, or cold, hurry up, or you'll be wet/cold.

            1. re: sunshine842

              That's what I thought based on my (limited) experiences in the UK and France. Just re-read the OP and realized I misread it the first time around, and thought his/her home was the UK, not the US.

              1. re: mpjmph

                There is a store called WinCo in CA/OR/WA/ID/UT. The bagging area of the cash register is long and is divided in half with a piece of wood that acts like a railroad switch. When the cashier is done with your purchases she/he check out the next customer but moves the switch so that the next customer's groceries go to the opposite side of the bagging area. You have to bag your things quickly. You get to put into practice all those years of watching pros do it.

                1. re: pdxgastro

                  I was going to mention WinCo, the checker has two cash registers also (or at least the ability to switch between two orders), so if there is some kind of hold-up, with price checks or something, they can switch and ring up the next person.

                  1. re: pdxgastro

                    Costco's self-checkout lines could use something like that.

                    At our local Costcos you have to move quickly once you're checked out because the person behind you usually starts putting their purchases through to the conveyor while you're still hunting for a box for yours. Kindof like the people who drive into the drive-thru car wash behind you and start the water spraying while you're still in the blow-dry end. Pressure... pressure!! ;o)

                2. re: sunshine842

                  That is my experience here in New England as well. Some stores have baggers at some registers some of the time, but I'm never surprised, nor do I mind, when I have to bag my own. And there's only one chain (Roche Bros) that actually brings your stuff out to the car for you. They don't accept tips either, unless it's dark and the managers can't see you slip it to them!

                  1. re: Isolda

                    I used to work at a CostCo (i.e. The Price Club) and we would routinely bring things for the customer out to their car. It was company policy to never accept tips. The managers never went into detail but I think the idea was that they did not want the customers to fumble about for tips. If you know that they can never receive them, no matter how graciously you may offer, you know that the service is being done in simple good faith...or something like that.

                3. re: mpjmph

                  Sunshine's right. Certainly in the UK, we bag our own stuff and I can't recall ever seeing staff bagging for customers in other European countries. It seemed odd to see them recently in South Africa. Meant we just had to stand around twiddling our thumbs until it was time to pay.

                  1. re: Harters

                    I never understood the bagging thing here in the US. What's wrong with bagging your own damn groceries, anyway? Too much work?

                    Please.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Americans don't bag primarily because that's how it's always been done. It's possibly the last "service" we still expect and take for granted.

                      I used to prefer to self-bag because generally found it quicker, but many cashiers now automatically bag as they scan the items and it can be a very efficient process.

                      Besides. don't necessarily assume that self-bagging is always going to be quicker. Plenty of people are slow at bagging, just as they are slow at counting out the payment. I've been stuck behind people who took forever to self-bag because they kept moving items from bag to bag.

                      1. re: Roland Parker

                        I usually try to bag my own unless I have a large number of heavy items. Essentially, the people bagging don't care if they put my salad greens underneath the canned goods, or it the tomatoes go in between the soda bottles. I'm paying to much to have my groceries ruined before I even get home. My pet peeve - I have one heavy-weight grocery bag and a few lighter ones. Not one bagger seems to get that heavy items should go in the stronger bag. And yes, it is apparent just by looking which is the heavyweight bag.

                        1. re: rockycat

                          I'm the same way - I bike to the grocery store with panniers and a backpack, so I'm very particular about weight distribution in each bag. (The panniers need to be roughly the same weight, but the backpack needs to be lighter, since the return trip is up a steep hill.) Luckily, self-bagging is common enough in US cities that I just tell the cashier I have my own, and they hand me each item as they scan it. If I'm not packing fast enough to keep from holding up the line, I just put everything back in the cart and then pack the bags at the exit, as I'm taking the cart back.

                          In DC, plastic bags cost 5 cents each, I have to put all my stuff on the conveyor belt, and cashiers stand up.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            <My pet peeve - I have one heavy-weight grocery bag and a few lighter ones. Not one bagger seems to get that heavy items should go in the stronger bag. And yes, it is apparent just by looking which is the heavyweight bag.>

                            For me it's filling the cooler bag w/random stuff and putting the cold storage food in the regular cloth bags.

                            1. re: viperlush

                              You would do well to put everything back in the cart and put them in your bags yourself. (as Kathleen does)

                              1. re: pdxgastro

                                I usually just switch things up when I leave the store. I don't want to hurt the baggers feelings or hold up the people behind me.

                          2. re: Roland Parker

                            Roland, I usually bag my own if I can but I hear you about the last service. I went to a big box home repair and lumber store last week (Home Depot) and even though there were plenty of employees standing around chatting my friend and I had to check out our own paints and supplies. There were no cashiers. And one item had an old upc code so the self check out attendant had to go through a big deal anyway. That was aggravating and I'm usually pretty mellow. I kept muttering about only going to Lowe's from now on.

                            1. re: Roland Parker

                              Be careful with the generalizations. We've been mostly self-bagging in the major Twin Cities grocery stores for about 25 years now.

                            2. re: linguafood

                              Lingua, I bag my own gorceries here all the time. I mean, the cashier would certainly do it for me, but I bag the already "rung-up" items as the cashier is ringing up the next items. But, their bagging is available if I so choose.

                              And, of course, we bag our own in the self checkout line as well.

                              Personally, i think it is a pretty good system.

                            3. re: Harters

                              At the check out In England now, you are routinely asked 'Do you need assistance

                              with packing Sir?'

                              Mind you, I have never seen anyone affirming that they need assistance.

                          3. I've lived in or visited most Western European countries, some middle eastern countries, and a few Eastern European countries. They all have their quirks, which I find to be nice because I'd hate to travel all that way and things to just end up being just like in the U.S. In fact, I EXPECT it to be different and would be disappointed if it weren't. I love grocery shopping abroad. It's usually the first place I hit when in a new place.