Supermarket fun

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.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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7 comments on “Supermarket fun
  1. Steph says:

    All so familiar! The blue line is a total laugh. At the big Carrefour I go to, there are always queues stretching way beyond it and none of the staff does anything about opening new tills. Wishful thinking on the managers’ parts. But I’m impressed by the staff on rollerblades. We don’t get those in Creuse!

  2. Ron says:

    Hmmm…loved the Super U in Chinon. Supermarkets in Australia are now pushing toward self check-out. And in Aus we don’t have dedicated fish, meat and bread areas. The supermarkets in France are heaven for foodies compared to what you get in Aus. We may as well not have supermarkets, because you still have to go to the butcher, deli, etc. And, with the supermarkets quickly becoming a duoply, we have less choice. Would much rather live in France, and not just for the Supermarché.

  3. Jacqui says:

    Here in Deux-Sèvres we don’t have the blue line or the rollerblades, but we don’t have to weigh our own fruit and veg and so long as you avoid Fridays and Saturdays the queues aren’t too bad. None of the local shops deliver to our village, but I have seen the deliveries about 20 km away, so it is getting ever closer. There are few enterprising Brit companies who do the UK shopping deliveries fairly close to here, but I’ve never used them!

  4. Wendy says:

    Steph, the rollerblades are the only redeeming thing! Some entertainment from the drudgery.
    Jacqui, if it’s a Carrefour, you must at least have the annoying Happy Days intro played every five minutes or less. If it’s not a Carrefour, you’re so lucky to not have that music.
    Ron, where in Australia do you live? When I was home in Melbourne just a few years ago, it seemed every supermarket still had all those dedicated areas. I really miss the fresh fruit and veg, as shops around here (apart from the fantastic Grand Frais chain) stock limp broccoli, mouldy beans and tiny pineapples. Beanshoots? What are they! This may be because I don’t live in a big city…

  5. Ron says:

    Hi Wendy, it wasn’t until I’d read more of your blog that I realised you were Australian.
    I live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and yes, the supermarkets do have dedicated areas but the choice and quality are not there. We are continually travelling to the inner suburbs where the food culture is more pronounced. I have not lived in France for more than a few months at a time, but did not find quality a problem. This may be because we shopped more at the “Hypermarchés” and the weekly street markets. Perhaps I am blinded by the wonderful markets (do you not have a market where you live?), but we are always saying to ourselves “The French wouldn’t put up with this!”
    We will be back in France next year, so I will make a point of studying the food choices more closely. (Hardship, I know)

  6. Ron says:

    Sorry Wendy, me again. Do you still have the market in La Clusaz every Monday? And, of course, there is the delightful “8 a Huit” supérette for all your culinary needs (!)

  7. Wendy says:

    Hi Ron – I’m also from the Eastern suburbs – born and bread in Lower Templestowe. They do still have the market in La Clusaz on Mondays, although it’s very much reduced outside of peak tourist weeks. One of my favourite things when travelling to a new country is checking out their supermarkets and trying some of their local offerings. I think here in the Alps the supermarkets get the less fresh deliveries or so few customers that the stuff is just left out even though it’s gone limp!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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