The eternal shopper in me enjoys exploring foreign supermarkets for local products and cultural differences, and supermarkets here in the French Alps have pleasantly wide aisles to accommodate most busy times. When I first moved here, I appreciated the extra space after years of cursing the often overcrowded, narrow-aisled supermarkets in England. However, returning to an English supermarket last weekend, I can now appreciate how much better it can be.
More than one supermarket in Annecy has some staff on rollerblades who can help customers quickly. Handy eh? Yeah, except customers also must weigh and price their own fruit and veg, and if you forget to weigh something, don’t expect a rollerblader to help. You must run back to weigh the offending item, much to the huffing of those in the queue behind you. And that’s not where the fruit and veg problems end. This summer, checkout staff have questioned me over (my correct) pricing of grapes, lettuces and a watermelon. The results were more sighs from the queue as the inevitable long and pointless discussion in French began about each item.
Speaking of queues, one French supermarket introduced “La ligne bleu” — a thin blue sticker that runs the length of the shop just a few metres from the checkouts. If a checkout queue ends up beyond the blue line, more checkouts will be opened — except they never are. The line is now cracked and disappearing and presumably abandoned from the start. But then, maybe the French aren’t so bothered about queuing — or at least that’s what one couple in front of me thought, when after bagging their items (because the staff merely throw things in your direction after scanning them, leaving you to bag as quickly as they throw or face smashed eggs as the next item is flung), they couldn’t pay, so one ran off to get money. After 20 minutes, the other one explained that her boyfriend had driven home to get some money and might be a while. Who does that? I was buying just a few items, but with no express checkouts, I had no choice but to pick up my items again and join the back of another queue — which extended beyond la ligne bleu of course.
Meanwhile back in England, the checkout boy apologised for keeping me waiting (just three minutes while he took payment from the only other customer). He scanned and priced my fruit correctly and bagged it up for me, adding points to my loyalty card for bringing my own bags. If only English supermarkets would deliver to where I am in France. God knows the French ones don’t.