Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Trip to Albert

One of the larger Polish supermarket chains, Albert is known for it's uncommon variety, it's bad produce, and it's infamously bad customer service. Claire, one of our friends from work, has been repeatedly refused tea, tuna and bread upon checking out. The shop lady would scan and reject, scan and reject, matter-of-factly saying something uncomprehendable and shaking her head no. We never could figure out why Claire can't buy these basic items when we've been able to buy them with no problems at the same location. It's just another Polish mystery.

Today we stopped into Albert (bottom floor of the local mall) before work to grab some cherry tomatoes, olive oil, soymilk, and wine. We had to make it to school for an 11am teachers meeting, so we were in a bit of a rush. Got to the checkout line. Five people ahead of us. After 3 minutes we were right at the helm, about to lay our goods on the small counterspace, when the man finishing his purchase immediately in front of us busted his bag of flour. The lady scuffled off to get him a new one, but when she got back we realized she also needed to give him a tax refund (he was a chef in one of the food court restaurants in the mall) or something very paper-worky. Clicking away on her adding machine or whatever it was down the counter towards the vodka sector, she came back 5 minutes later with a long roll of paper for him. Finished, good we can check out. But an old lady in her burgundy beret and matching burgundy wool coat steps up to the counter from the opposite direction, butting in front of us. Ugh, a return! She had three packages of store brand twarog cheese. She had been gipped, ripped off, and she wanted her money back. Another 10 minutes later (not kidding), she gets what she came for. One zloty and 32 cents (that's about 40 American cents, folks) refund. Our shop lady scoots off again to get the man in front of us, who was still waiting at the vodka end of the long counter well after he had received his tax paper, some cigarettes. What addiction will do! Finally, our shop lady, ready to serve her patient customers who had been waiting now for over 15 minutes to check their 4 items out, now presents herself at her register, and not looking up, not raising her eyes, grabs and swipes each item with the utmost boredom iminating from her being, points to the digital total and says "32 zloty." By this time everything was funny. The long wait, the old lady cut-in-line, the cigarettes, but the lack of acknowledgement devoid of the common and expected apology.

It was so perfect, so Poland. Communism died over 18 years ago, but the mentality still remains--even in the most capitalist of places. At least we were able to buy the things we wanted, we checked out and were in the clear--there was no tea-tuna-bread mystery this trip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The shop lady wanted to serve you as quickly as possible, rather than start apologizing. That is indeed part of the Polish way of doing things, but to go as far as calling it 'Communistic mentality', only an American would...

Oh, wait. ( :p )

Well, glad to see you're alive and kicking. Say hi to Booster for me.

~ R.G. Former student.