Thursday, October 10, 2013

Scavenging for state secrets, aka grocery shopping in the FSU

Georgia has spent the last decade or so trying to shrug off the vestiges of its Soviet past, with significant  success.  Little bits of it remain, however, and you run into them when you least expect it.  Like at the grocery store.  There are two quite large stores near the Embassy.  One, Goodwill, specializes in German imports.  The other is Carrefour, a French store.  Both stores employ an army of security guards, whose main job is to prevent people from walking in with reusable grocery bags or cameras.  Taking photos in the grocery store is strictly prohibited.  That is perhaps a vestige from the days when the Soviet government didn't want anyone in the outside world to know the the store shelves were empty and people waited in line all day for a loaf of bread.

This is not, however, a problem in Georgia today.  Carrefour has half an aisle dedicated to crap chocolate ball cereal.
Illicit photo captured surreptitiously with my phone.
Reusable bags are dangerous, too, because you know, you might put stuff in them and then walk out without paying.

Except Carrefour actually sells reusable bags.  There is a big display of them within 15 feet of the security guard stand where you walk in.  It tells you to buy these bags because they will save the environment and also Carrefour offers a lifetime guarantee!  I would take a picture with my cellphone, but it is too close to the guard stand and I would certainly get caught.  Yesterday, however, when I walked in with a large Carrefour bag filled with several smaller, empty reusable bags, the guard stopped me and asked me to leave my bags in one of the lockers designated for that purpose.  I pointed to the reusable bag display.  He explained that one can only bring empty bags into the store.  I pointed out that while my bag was not empty, it only contained more reusable bags, all of which were empty.  He was staunch in his point that the bag was not empty.  "It is forbidden," he said.  I took all the bags out of the Carrefour bag so that I was carrying four bag handles in one hand.  That, apparently, was not forbidden, and I was allowed in.

Until next time.


  1. Almost like in Moscow :) Don't miss that. Here, in Bulgaria, we are allowed to bring reusable bags with us, but if we enter with a backpack or a bag bigger than a purse, then you have to put it into a locker... :) people outside of the US have issues with trust.

  2. Awesome! I love the illicit photos, we've been trying to figure out what Carrefour is like :) That is crazy about the shopping bags....I will likely have to deal with that too. :)


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