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March 1999

50 ways to peeve a shopper: being a consumer here can be a miserable experience

Both the customers' and workers' sides of shopping in Germany.

Us vs. us – how to be an obnoxious shopper< 1. Stop in the middle of a moving crowd in the pedestrian zone and strike up a conversation with your buddies. 2. While conversing, gesture with the hand holding the cigarette. 3. Hold up the grocery line by searching for that one-pfennig coin you’re sure you’ll find in your coat lining or shoe. 4. Wait until you’ve finally dug out your wallet and paid before packing up your mound of groceries. 5. Ram the person in front of you with your cart – it’ll make the line move faster. 6. Tell the next person in line that you only have a few things. When they allow you to go first, pull out that bag of grapes you forgot to weigh. 7. Ask the butcher, at 11 a.m. on a Saturday, for exact instructions on making roulades. 8. Sip your pocket-sized bottle of Chantré brandy at the kiosk, before realizing you only have the DM 5 in one-pfennig coins. 9. Tell the pharmacist the reason you’ve been prescribed your various medications, how you were treated in the hospital and what causes you to be irregular. 10. Take the last available cart to roll your six eggs to the register in comfort. 11. Leave your cart in line to get one last item, shop ten minutes, then return and curse at the people who went ahead of your abandoned cart. 12. Greedily grab the tags of all the videos you’ve ever wanted to see, then put all but one back after everyone has left the video shop. 13. Scatter fifty moldy juice bottles all over the drink-market counter rather than in the handy cases provided. 14. Argue about the bottle deposit while the next shopper in line stands with a white-knuckled grip on a case of beer. Then realize you forgot to factor in the bottles you are taking with you. 15. Park your baby carriage directly in front of the entrance. 16. Park your stroller in the only aisle in a small shop. Let your child bite and drool on every apple it can get its hands on, then toss them all back into the bin. 17. Be asked several times by the cashier if that’ll be all. Say “Yes” each time, pay, leave, then come back and jump in front of the line because you forgot something. 18. Ask to be shown every beer mug in the bursting-at-the-seams mug store. Decide an hour later that nothing is as nice as your uncle’s – he got his at Epcot. 19. Make your bulging shopping bags comfortable – give them the only free seat on the bus while you stand. 20. Leash your dog to the bicycle stand in front of the bakery in a residential neighborhood at 7 a.m., leaving your pet to howl until you emerge an hour later. 21. Choose 3:55 p.m. on a Saturday to indulge your child’s desire to “pay the lady,” using the opportunity to teach your three-year old how to count out DM 28.50. 22. Explain to the lone cheese-counter lady that plastic wrap is carcinogenic and you would prefer your seven pre-wrapped wedges be re-wrapped in paper. 23. Group your groceries into three piles, asking the cashier for three separate receipts for your neighbors. 24. Ask for a hand-written receipt as you are sure you can write oranges off your taxes as a medical expense. 25. Realize you forgot your wallet and put everything back – don’t forget to shove the rump roast in with the canned peaches. Them vs. us – a page from the employee handbook 1. Hear a foreign accent and pretend not to understand perfect German. 2. When asked if an item is in stock reply, “Do you think I have time to help you?” 3. If a customer asks where the noodle aisle is, answer “I’m on my break.” 4. Look greatly annoyed when a customer presents anything bigger than a twenty. 5. Make it clear, at all times, that your being there is a favor to the customer. 6. Give the customer a deal on the last three cartons of raspberries. Don’t mention that aside from the ten nice ones on top, the rest are a moldy clump. 7. If a customer points out a stuck zipper on a marked-down dress, prove her wrong by angrily yanking at it until the dress rips. 8. Always greet a customer when she enters – even if it’s through gritted teeth. 9. If you don’t feel like talking – don’t. 10. If something runs out, excitedly yell at the customer that it isn’t your fault. 11. When stocking shelves, if the cart of goods is obviously blocking a shoppers’ view, continue to stock - you have the right to work without customers bugging you. 12. If, in serving a customer, you get the order wrong, talk him into buying his mistake anyway. 13. If the soft pretzels come out of the oven too dark, mix them in with the good ones. 14. Ask customers what they want before they have a chance to see what is offered. 15. If they don’t know, look impatient to force a decision. 16. If the customer is over 18, refer to him or her as Mr. or Mrs. 17. Special restaurant clause: never let a diner pay, even if they ask several times, until you are good and ready to take the money. 18. As a shopkeeper it is obligatory to give every child an unhealthy goody – don’t ask mom first. 19. Use friendliness sparingly. 20. The cleaning staff may begin waxing the floor one hour before the store closes. 21. Make a tourist’s life difficult. Pretend not to speak English, respond in English even if the tourist asks the question in German, or speak in ridiculous “foreigner German.” (Du! Zahlen!) 22. Mix up freshness dates so the customer gets a bit of each. 23. Don’t interrupt a discussion with a neighbor if a customer is waiting. 24. Special orders do upset us. 25. Go forth and be grumpy!

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