Flip Flop Flying


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Unless it involves music or films or books or magazines or cigarettes or coffee, shopping’s not something I enjoy doing. I don’t like buying clothes, I don’t like buying presents, but most of all, I don’t like shopping for groceries in supermarkets in Berlin. There are exceptions to the rule cos occasionally I’ll find a nice supermarket. This is a topic I’ve moaned about before; many times in my personal life, and quite possibly several times on FFF. All my moaning blurs into one supermarket-hating lump.

But the moaning makes me feel better. In fact, there was a time when I (anonymously) did a site that I whacked up on one of those free Geocities domains called “Mmm..Kaiser’s, I love you” (archived here). At that point the whole Kaiser’s supermarket thing was bugging me so much, I decided that keeping the diary would help get over it. And it did. It made me a lot more tolerant of the people in Kaiser’s cos it was all good fodder for the site. So by the time two months of doing it had passed, I found my hate had gone, and stopped doing it. That was a good thing.

But now I see it’s like taking Prozac or something: you can’t just choose when you wanna do it, you gotta do it as consistently to keep the calm. So today, I’m gonna moan moan moan about motherfucking Kaiser’s. You see, I dislike going to Kaiser’s so much that I once told Hanni that I’d never go there again. This, of course, is a bit unfair, cos it’d mean she’d have to go there all the time on her own. But now we’ve got a car, we tend to do a fortnightly big trip to Extra – a far nicer supermarket, but a bit further away – and get enough of the basics so we don’t have to go to our local Kaiser’s. Aaaanyway, today I had to go to Kaiser’s. Here’s my hate list:

1. Where do they keep the salt? It’s a basic human need. If we don’t have salt, we die! But in Kaiser’s it seems to be hidden, like it was some sort of freaky oddity, like pipe cleaners or something. Up and down the aisles. Up and down. Up and down. Nowhere. (When she got home, The Knowledgable One said they keep it next to the sugar, not the pepper as I’d logically imagined. That’d be fine if they were colour-coding the whole supermarket, though…)

2. No baskets, only trolleys. So, unless I have a one euro coin in my pocket, or am willing to interrupt one of the cashiers to change a 50 euro note just to get a coin, I have to hold my shopping in my arms, and it becomes a bit like being on Crackerjack (a reference you won’t get if you’re not British and of a certain age). Carrots, a bag of onions clutched in one hand; toothpaste, mouthwash, spaghetti all balanced on the forearm; Persil box in the other hand. After that, the shopping got difficult, I have to put down the Persil every time I want to pick up something else.

3. Customers. This is not a German-bashing thing, but since I’ve been in Germany, I have never ever experienced what seemed quite common in the UK: letting someone with a few items in front of you in the queue if you’ve got a trolley-full that could feed half of Ethiopia. I was behind a guy with only three items. In front of him was a young mother with the aforementioned food mountain. They even made eye contact at one point, and still she didn’t get it. This is probably not just a German thing, but God, do some people have no heart?

I feel a bit better now I’ve got that off my chest.

Written by Craig

June 21st, 2005 at 9:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

21 Responses to 'Shopping'

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  1. i place my items on the conveyor belt, then put the little divider stick down so that the next punter can start placing their shopping down – please, acknowledge me! i helped you (in an admittedly very small way). let’s have some manners people!
    ooh, this riles me. way more than 1-wonky-wheel-on-the-trolley, or walking through the remnants of a broken bottle of beetroot

    dom marsh

    21 Jun 05 at 11:36

  2. Oh boy do i have a lot to say on this subject. I think keeping a Kaiser’s journal to work through your anger is a great idea. Oh boy do I have a lot to say on this subject! I think its a great idea to have a Kaiser’s journal to work through your Berlin supermarket anger. Maybe I should start that. Apart from feeling like you are being timed when you take your stuff out of your basket then put it back in, one is often rudely man-handled at the cash register. To fight back, I learned the following phrase: Sie koennen den ganzen scheiss behalten!!! Just leave the shit on the conveyor belt and go somewhere else. There are a couple of things in life worth paying a little extra for – saran wrap, for example. Another thing worth paying a little extra for is good mental balance. This is not found in a normal Berlin supermarket. When I just don’t feel like getting all enraged, I go to the Bioladen – aaahhhhh – were the people are nice and calm, there is actually music playing, and the food is high quality. Yes, its more expensive, but it is like getting a little massage while doing your grocery shopping, as opposed to the effect a place like Netto has on me – a general nausea coupled with the only barely controllable desire to punch people.

    mama jens

    21 Jun 05 at 12:09

  3. Yeah, that’s another thing, the not-putting-the-divider-down-after-you’ve-loaded-the-conveyor-belt-with-your-stuff. Why do people not do that? How hard is it?
    Jens, this is one of those moments where you pull up a chair and break out the biscuits to have a good ol’ moan, huh? The speeding thing is so bad, huh? Gimme money! Get out of here NOW, bitch! And another big moan I have is the general state of the fruit and veg on sale in Kaiser’s. It’s the stuff that would get chucked into the trash compactor in most civilised countries, but, from what they serve up in Kaiser’s, you’d think that people actually enjoy tomatoes that look like they’ve been in the bath a bit too long.


    21 Jun 05 at 12:24

  4. I think letting someone with a few items in front of you in the queue is quite common in germany, too – but it works differently than in england, apparently: people with, like, three items or whatever usually [i]ask[/i] if they it’s possible to get in front of you in the queue, and, of course, most people fulfil this wish.


    21 Jun 05 at 13:05

  5. I love my local supermarket. It’s lovely and so are the staff. I have a gun-scanner doo-dah so you scan your own shopping and the go to a ‘quick check-in’ and avoid the queues. It’s great. I’m tempted to run around the shop indiscriminately firing the scanner off in all directions and whatever registers I have to have. Man I’m bored today.


    21 Jun 05 at 15:59

  6. I hate to say it, but: Having moved to lovely lovely lovely Schoeneberg from grim East Berlin (yeah, I know, Prenzlauer Berg can be quite nice, but I am strictly referring to supermarket personnel here), the problems described here have improved a lot for me.

    This still is Berlin, so one still tends to run into the odd unfriendly cashier, but you will just have to face it: East Berlin can be nice – but it’s still the east.


    21 Jun 05 at 16:12

  7. I learned a trick in Aldi a looong time ago: snag an empty box to use as a basket when none is available. Looks a little tacky but it’s easier than getting change for a cart. Sometimes in a place like Kaiser’s it can be hard to find a box, but I’m not above emptying a half a pallet of gherkins onto a shelf to get one.


    21 Jun 05 at 16:26

  8. Adrian – I’ll try that next time it happens. But I’ll blame you if I get turned down and cry all the way home.
    Ben – I want your supermarket, please.
    Patrick – I would love to move out in your direction. I want a nice balcony or terrace. Hell, I want a bloody garden! Is it ├╝ber-expensive to live over there?
    Heather – I do that, too, when I can find one. I like your emptying a card tray of gherkins trick. I’m doing that one next time.


    21 Jun 05 at 16:45

  9. Wow, I definitely feel for you guys. I must say I can relate to everything everyone has described though. It’s happened at least once to me. And yes the letting someone go in front of you that only has a couple items is common sense and it pisses me off to see people ignore that rule. But, I live in California and of course we all know that the world revolves around every individual here. It was interesting reading the names of the supper markets out there. Some of the ones we have here, Ralph’s, Vons, Albertsons, Slater Brothers, and my personal favorite, Trader Joes. Craig, this would be your heaven and you could even bring Billy to enjoy the fun. Everyone that works there are all the nice people that got rejected from Kaisers, and the food is mostly organic and healthy and so cheap.

    Been enjoying your websites for a year now, Sincerely.


    Thoroughly Amused

    21 Jun 05 at 17:56

  10. Craig, East Berlin’s (especially PB’s) rents being cheaper than the ones in the west is a myth. 110 square meters, 660 EUR, Stuck-Altbau & sunny balcony included – that’s my flat in Schoeneberg /Akazienkiez for you (no, this is not an offer ;). Yet I guess we were extremely lucky with ours.

    You should have a little chat with Nina (Kock) who is currently looking for a flat in both the east and the west; she should be able to give you an overview of the situation. What about Bowling, btw.? ;))


    21 Jun 05 at 17:59

  11. Oh, @Thoroughly Amused: Believe it or not, but “Trader Joe’s” is actually owned by the cheapest of the cheap German supermarket chain “Aldi” – and apparently the complete opposite of Aldi as well.


    21 Jun 05 at 18:03

  12. aaaah, you are THAT Patrick! Hey, how’s it going? How’s the kid? Bowling, yeh, we should go soon. I bought my own ball, y’know… I was high on the success of getting 222, so I figured it was time to splash out. We should go out with Nina and bowl at that nice place at Hasenheide. And, yes, I’m jealous of yr new flat already!

    Seth – all your supermarkets sound so cuddly! Like they’re staffed by people who are like surrogate grandparents! Do you really have people filling your brown paper bags in shops in America? do people really “double bag” like we see in the films?


    21 Jun 05 at 18:24

  13. Surrogate Grandparents would be a pretty good way to put it. I have yet to meet an employee I didn’t like at Trader Joe’s. The employees are pretty decent all around but at some of the larger chains they can get down right nasty sometimes, although they are easly avoidable. Patrick, thanks for the Trader Joe’s tip.

    American Supermarkets – 101
    For starters, we have baskets and carts to hold our groceries. Yes boring names, I actually like Trolly better. I think I’ll start using that from now on and see if it’ll catch. The shopping experience is pretty much the same (with the exception of the SCABBY RODENT WOMAN). Some of the larger markets you have the option of self check out, if not you get in line with everybody else. There are usually two attendants at each station, one to scan groceries and take your money, and one to bag your groceries. You have the option of brown paper bags, or plastic bags. Although lots of times they just start stuffing your food in plastics ones unless you ask for paper, which will sometimes get you a nasty look. We do have the option to, “double bag” like in the movies. They usually only do it when you get plastic bags and they stick two or three cartons of milk in one bag. The bags are cheap so they don’t hold much. Trader Joe’s tends to use mostly brown paper bags and there’s are strong enough to hold 10-15 items and it actually says it right on the side of the bag. If you’re really lucky, or a grandparent, they will actually bring the groceries out to your car for you.

    Hope that helps

    Thoroughly Amused

    21 Jun 05 at 19:47

  14. Trader Joe’s sounds wonderful.
    I like the idea of the brown paper bags. I like the idea of double bagging. I like the idea of having someone to pack stuff for you. Aaah, it’s my American dream. All you need to tell me know is you eat Chinese food out of those white paper cartons like in the movies and I’m totally won over, Bush or not!


    21 Jun 05 at 20:47

  15. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, it all comes in those white paper cartoons and it’s all right down the street. But yes, it does come at a price with this horrible president that we have.

    Thoroughly Amused

    21 Jun 05 at 21:13

  16. i can remember a time when you (we) liked shopping for food. at tulse hill when the check out girl looked like a council estate version of kate moss. she was lovely and as her highlighted hair grew out so the dye was only half way down her head. i thought i couldn’t be anymore in love with her until she served me whilst crewing gum. i miss her…

    James William Kendall Formerly Of Lincoln City

    21 Jun 05 at 21:29

  17. Oh yeh, she was a dream in a Somerfield uniform.
    And, talking of attractive women and supermarkets, when I worked at Asda, there was a girl there who later went on to appear on Page 3. She wore a stripey black and white back-to-front swimsuit and mirrored Aviator shades. Can’t remember what she wore on Page 3! Ba-boom! Uhh, you saw that joke coming a mile off, didn’t you?


    21 Jun 05 at 21:41

  18. The upside of not shopping with a trolley is that you spend less.

    Next time that you are in France go to any supermarket and ask for a ‘jeton’- a token. They are the same size as a Euro coin and so fit the trolleys. Because they have no pecuniary value, you won’t spend them. You could even start a collection.

    Then again I could just send you a couple couldn’t I?

    George in Grasse

    22 Jun 05 at 17:15

  19. A friend, having read my stuff about shopping the other day, recommended a fairly close-by place that he said was nice and friendly. I went there this evening. They had baskets, a nice layout, and the cashier even asked if I wanted a little bag to put my punnet of strawberries in: “they’ll fall out otherwise, it’s a lot better this way.”
    I’m in Heaven.

    and, George, I have a jeton. It’s in my coat pocket. Damn me for putting it somewhere that I’ll never remember in hot weather.


    22 Jun 05 at 19:11

  20. I like the German language version. Ahahahaha.

    Dom, I like the divider etiquette. I Know it’s annoying when people don’t say thankyou, but when they do, what a simple way of making everyone be nice to each other. I reckon they should introduce it in the UN when diplomatic routes have all failed.


    24 Jun 05 at 10:35

  21. I always allow people with some few items to get in front of the line when I’m shopping for Ethiopia.
    Maybe it’s a Berlin thing? People from Berlin are generally said to be more rude and impolite than people from other parts of Germany (inter-german bashing is a popular german passtime). Like most prejudices, it’s probably nonsense.
    I absolutely hate shopping at Karstadt. No matter where you go, shop assistents are rude (when you can find them), they usually are no help at all and I always feel like intruding someone privacy (or secret meditation) when I just want to pay for something.


    24 Jun 05 at 13:20

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