Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are you sure you want that?

Moscow has obviously changed quite a bit since I last lived here in 1987. Back then, there wasn't a place in the city that you could mistake for the United States. Today the lines are a bit blurrier. Many of the local pharmacies looking on the inside just like a CVS, complete with an ATM by the door. There are McDonalds', maybe not on every corner, but certainly enough that you need never fear lacking for a Big Mac. So it's occasionally jarring when you do run into a bit of local flavor.

Like at the grocery store. In the United States, when you end up with an un-barcoded item at checkout, a price check is no big deal. Saturday morning during my weekly Auchan run, I found myself in the check-out line with two unmarked items: a badminton set and a play tambourine (it's birthday party season here). The cashier sighed and asked whether I wanted the items. I nodded. She signaled a stock girl who looked at me, sighed heavily, and said "Are you sure? Are you going to buy them?"

I confirmed my intention to, in fact, pay for the items that I had put in my cart. She stared me down with that look of mingled boredom and disgust that Russians are so good at. How dare I force her to do her job?

I should emphasize that this was not an isolated incident. It has happened before to me, and it happened to my friend who was in the next checkout line over with a barcode-less bag of frozen tilapia fillets. Every time, they ask whether you are really really sure you are going to buy the item.

A few minutes later, though, the price-check had been completed, I paid and was very politely thanked for my purchase. (Something, by the way, that I find Stateside cashiers don't very often do.)

1 comment:

  1. I like the way you put it "look of mingled boredom and disgust." It's a very accurate description of the attitude of some sales clerks not just in Russia but in most of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It's a remnant from the communist times and so yanks my chain but oh well...


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