Odyssey in an Italian Supermarket

19 Mar

You know, the Italian supermarket post is one I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I wanted to tell you all about how you have to weigh your own fruits and veggies, how the cashiers sit on their butts and throw bags at you to bag your own damn groceries while making you PAY for the bags that are as thin as toilet paper.

And yet, this is not that post!

No, THIS post is about something in an Italian supermarket that I find inexplicably inexplicable. Help me out on this one, seriously.

I’ve shopped at the iper Coop in the EUROMA 2 shopping center a few times because it’s near my house. Every time I’ve entered and seen these weird scanners lining an entire wall, and I’ve thought: doubleyou.tee.eff?

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The scanners fit conveniently into a slot in the shopping cart.

Well, I finally figured it out. It’s like when you do those wedding registries in Macy’s or something. You pay €25 a year to get a membership into the “Salvatempo” (Timesaver) club, which entitles you to get your own scanner for grocery shopping. As you shop, you scan each item, so that by the time you’re ready to check out, all you have to do is scan a code at the self-check and then pay.

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Take a moment to ponder that.

You shop, without anyone watching you, you scan each item as you put it into your cart, then you scan a code without anyone watching you, the computer spits out a receipt based on what you’ve scanned, and you pay.

Is it just me, or is this scenario WAAAY too honor system for Rome? Honestly.

Can I give you my succinct example of the Roman mentality in a little anecdote that happened WITHOUT FAIL every single time a Roman came to visit me in the US?

See this here?

This here’s a newspaper dispenser. You know. The ones you put a coin in, open the door, take a paper, shut the door.

Now: here’s a test to see if you’re a true Roman or not.

When you see a newspaper dispenser like the one above for the first time in your life, how do you respond?

A) Convenient.
B) How much does the newspaper cost? Let’s see if I have enough change to get one.
C) What?!? WHAAT?!?! You mean you only take ONE? Why, why, but … you could take the whole stack if you wanted to!

What’s that, you say? You didn’t answer “C”? Well then, my friend, you must not be Roman.

For those of you who DID answer C, my question to you is this:

Why on God’s earth would you have any desire to take an entire stack of 20 Seattle Times while you’re on the Washington State Ferry System?

And your response, if you were a real Roman, would be this: “Because, Shelley: you can.”

So, back to the supermarket. It must have been someone up north who invented this system, because I just wonder how many of these “because you can” Romans are accidentally forgetting to scan an item or two? It truly boggles the mind. (I, on the other hand, am the shmuck that gives back 5 cents of change if a cashier makes a mistake, so don’t go asking me that question.)

Now that you’ve made it through that lengthy preamble, why not accompany me on a romp through the wild world of the Italian grocery store.

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First, make damn sure you have a one-euro coin, or else you’re screwed from the get go. We don’t mess around in Italian grocery stores. If you want a cart, you better cough it up. Stick that euro in to unlock your cart. That ensures that your cheap ass isn’t going to leave the cart carelessly strewn in the parking lot. Oh heeellll no. You’re going to want that $1.32 back, so you’re going to wheel that back to the rack and then, and only then, will you get your coin back.

And, being that we’re in a grocery store, ie, food, let’s proudly discover the culinary heritage that Americans have managed to export to the world:

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No, I will not be commenting on the Indian Native American motif that appears on most anything deemed “American.” Just won’t go there.

My thumb is covering it, but the exciting starburst on the lower left corner proclaims that inside this very box, you’ll find a special packet of flavored salt MADE IN THE US OF A! That’s it, folks. Popcorn, and flavored salt. Clearly, we rock.

Wash it down with a massive JUG O’ WINE. Truly. I dare you.

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5 liters of … something.

And might I just add, may God sincerely bless a country where entire hamhocks hang from strings. More than one.

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And just in case you need a primer as to where the heck that prosciutto comes from, try this:

Folks, can I just tell you how incredibly humiliating it is to have to then push my overloaded cart through an entire shopping mall in order to reach the parking garage?

Literally. I mean, imagine yourself in an Italian shopping mall, trying to manuever a big old orange shopping cart with the faulty wheel, through crowds and crowds of people, desperately searching for that damn elevator to the right parking garage.

It is, in a word: mortifying.

I have three little kids. I have to buy big ol’ boxes of diapers, which fill the entire bottom half of my shopping cart like some kind of crazy gift basket, thus making it look like I’m trying to complete a game show shopping spree. Hence:

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I told you it was embarrassing.

And nextly (yes, nextly is, in fact, a word), a big F you to the parking garage people. I hate you. I hate you. I hate hate hate you all, you evil bastards. I did exactly as you told me to:

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“Remember the color of your parking lot.”

I did. It was orange. I also duly noted in my cell phone the following: 61b, level -2.

One would think this should more than suffice. However, they didn’t tell me that there are THREE different parking garages, A, B, and C, and that there are apparently no elevators that go to the mysterious -2 level. So I had to wheel my cart on the road between parking garages to find my way back.

And you thought I was kidding. Shame on you!

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By the way, evil parking garage people? Mocking me like this IS NOT HELPFUL:

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All in all though, just another successful shopping trip. Next time, I *might* buy an entire hamhock. But only if I can then savagely take a bite out of it like some person from medieval times, one of those King Arthur banquet type things. And then only if I can swig—yes, swig—directly from the jug o’ wine.

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12 Responses to “Odyssey in an Italian Supermarket”

  1. Beth March 20, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    Oh, Shelly, you really nailed it. I always shopped at the SMA (the minature Auchon) at 2:00 pm and now at the Leon outside of Tivoli, never at the giant supermercati of the shopping centers but have had many of the same experiences!

  2. D'Amore March 20, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    We’ve been doing the “grocery shopping registry” here in the States for almost 8 years… Peppe nearly had a heart attack the first time we saw it… say what you want about Romani, but NO ONE beats a true Napoletano when it comes to being furbo!! Trying to keep him from stealing everything but the kitchen sink was not easy… Thankfully, we are stopped by the grocery police every few shops, so he has learned quickly that it is not as easy to steal as it seems… though, to this day, I’ll often find small “discrepancies” in our receipt… 😛

  3. Beth March 20, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    I shared your post on Facebook–thank you for capturing everything I thought, though admittedly, I could add a few more “obstacles” to enjoyable supermarket shopping-lol!

  4. Un'americana a Roma March 20, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    HA! That’s great Beth. I’m glad someone else “gets” it. Sometimes I feel like my rants are one-woman shows. 😉

  5. Un'americana a Roma March 20, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    OMG serious? I didn’t know that this system was in the States too! Should have known. I mean, it’s just so odd to me to have it here, in the land where people put bus tickets in their wallet “just in case” but never validate them. Ha! Love it. Peppe is the best.

  6. Un'americana a Roma March 20, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    What obstacles? Do share!! And thanks for posting on FB. Yes, share the grocery shopping love. Good stuff.

  7. Hidden London March 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    That’s a great description of shopping hell! And I thought our local supermarket carpark was bad because the spaces are so small. At least I can get back to the car with my trolley!

  8. Un'americana a Roma March 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Seriously, that’s Italy for you! And Rome, more specifically. All roads lead to us, but none lead back to the damn car, apparently.

  9. LC March 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Loved the post – What on earth do you mean One Woman Rant ?- Sister you speak the truth for all of us who try to avoid but ultimately have to to endure these Hell Zones infrequently. Having one’s toenails pulled out is infinitely preferable!!

  10. Un'americana a Roma March 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Wow. Can I get an AMEN? AAAAMMMENN!!!

  11. ktheologus March 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Here in California I’ve never seen portable scanners but the self check out lanes have become common. There is always an employee monitoring them and can assist if you get stuck. In the regular check out lanes there is usually a bag person and they always ask “would you like help out with that?” I’m going to Italy soon for a month and, having read a few Italian supermarket blog posts, was thinking the other day I’m sure I won’t hear those words in an Italian supermarket! Now I’m really dreading ANY grocery store experience while there.

  12. joe March 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I figured that the appropriate response for the newspaper machine would be to get out your coin purse and then figure out that you don’t have exact change after counting out 149 1 cent coins.

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