Friday, 29 January 2010

Negotiating the weekly shop and other impossibilities...

Boy #2 and I did the weekly shop in The Hypermarket from Hell today and survived, despite spending an hour and a half in traffic on the way home (Moscow's traffic jams are the stuff of nightmares). I'm viewing our expedition as a huge success however, as not only did we survive, but we left there with everything that I had put in the trolley. This may not seem like much of an Event to those of you who's weekly shop at Sainsbury, Tesco and the like achieves the same end each and every time, but let me tell you, here, it's a big deal.

Why? Well, customer service is never something you should take for granted in Moscow. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not.

'Not' includes the assault course that is negotiating the aisles full of enormous packing trolleys that, in Western supermarkets, usually only get wheeled out when the shop is empty in the small hours. The combination of reasonable prices, other customers hungry for bargains and not used to queuing (or not in the 'after you, Claude' cultural style that this English rose is more used to, anyway), and trying to handle a wonky trolley weighed down with a feisty 4 year-old hanging off the front does not make for a relaxing shopping trip.

Making it through that without needing to reapply your deoderant is enough of a challenge but then you need to run the gauntlet of putting your shopping through the till without then being faced by the blank look the cashier gives you when your fruit is not barcoded correctly or there is no label on the waste-bin you're trying to buy. There's no Checkout Captain here to rush off and find out what the price should be, oh no. Just a shrug of the shoulders and a tacit acknowledgement by both the customer and cashier that it would have nice to have some mandarins but, well, they've been barcoded by you, the stupid consumer as satsumas, so better luck next time...

Of course, the incorrect bar coding probably wouldn't happen if I had managed to get any kind of grip on learning the language before moving out here, but I have to admit that whilst it was a priority, it was clearly not high enough on my pre-departure list. I've written about this in Powder Room Graffiti if you want to see a perfect example of the best laid plans of mice and men not quite working out as intended...


  1. No, I don't envy you one little bit PM. Freezing weather and having to learn a whole new language - complete with its own alphabet! At least our big move didn't require language skills, although the usage is different sometimes ;-)

    The supermarket sounds like fun, not! Have you considered making it a family outing so that Husband (yes, he of the advanced language skills!) can help you out until you are a bit more acclimatised so to speak (no pun intended)? A little judiciously applied feminine helplessness can be useful occasionally if you think you can get away with it.

  2. We can't go to the supermarket any more after the incidentS when the boys turned over a fully laden trolley. And the incident when they accidentally smashed several large jars of honey. It's just all too fraught.

    But I can never get all our stuff bar coded right either.

  3. PM, hats off to you my dear! Makes me want to bow down and kiss the feet of the Ocado delivery man.

    Never thought I would say that.

    LCM x

    p.s. blog back in the public domain btw, paranoid former employer having been summarily dispatched to dole out misery on another poor ex-colleague

  4. It sounds hideous. A normal shop is bad enough. But at least there is no mention in your post of people shopping in their pjs, which apparently is the new thing to do in Tescos over here. Read about it here

    I'm gonna assume they don't do online shopping over there?

  5. Sounds appalling - all credit to you for getting through it WITH a child in tow. I can't take the boys shopping any more, for similar reasons to Brit in Bosnia -and the supermarkets here are a breeze, (even if they do ignore the fact you've brought your own bags and wrap everything in 3 layers of plastic...).

  6. Ah, makes me grateful for Walmart, and the employees who ask me if I'm finding everything ok, when I'm wandering around with a vacant look on my face (to which I reply "yes, thanks", although the truth of the matter is "well, perhaps, although I can't really remember exactly what I am looking for, and if indeed I do want it, now I've got distracted into half a dozen other things, and don't worry about the vacant look on my face - it's pretty permanent and has nothing to do with looking for a particular item in your lovely store".

  7. See, I didn't even remember to close the brackets).

  8. Trolley loads of sympathy coming your way. Poor customer service, blank looks, buggered up bar codes...are you sure you're in Moscow? You didn't accidently get off in Paris?Best of luck with settling in and getting to grips with the language. At least there's no shortgage of vodka - which is handy.
    Mya x

  9. It's just a chore we would rather do without isn't it! I remember the child hanging on to the trolley, not to mention the child in the trolley scrambling to get out. Well done for getting through it and being able to tell us at the end!!

    CJ xx

  10. Sharon, actually, I prefer to do it myself as if Husband comes along it has to be at the weekend and - having experienced it myself - you do NOT want to be there at the weekend...

    Brit, so glad it's not just me!

    LCM, so the Ocado man owes me, then?

    HOM, apparently there are few shops that deliver, but so pricey it's not just worth it. Or not until I find out if there's a Russian lottery, in any case!

    NVG, yes, they're not very environmentally-minded here, either...

    Iota, but don't we all do that?

    Mya, if only it were Paris - at least then I would have some hope of communicating!

    Thanks Crystal Jigsaw - and the child hanging of the front does tend to make the steering go a little wonky, doesn't it?

    Sparx - I'm trying to see it that way...


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