Saturday, 10 January 2009

Back from the supermarket

The list of positives about Italy is long and the list of negatives surprisingly short. The downside can best be summed up in the unholy trinity of the driving techniques, dealing with the bureaucracy, and the retail experience. It is the cultural differences surrounding the retail experience that I have experienced today,At the best of times I find that going to the supermarket is hardly the most edifying of activities but here in Italy it is positively nightmarish. Why are Italian consumers happy to stand in long lines waiting twenty minutes for the one open checkout when there are three or four staff standing at empty information desks doing nothing? In other countries there would be a revolution if the supermarket check-out lines took half an hour to inch forward. The concept of the consumer coming first is absolutely unknown in supermarkets here. Add to the inefficiency with which they are run the dull 1960's layouts and narrow aisles, which would breech health and safety standards in the US or UK , and the process of the weekly shopping excursion becomes positively torturous. For a country with a global reputation for retailing and style the domestic retail infrastructure leaves much to be desired.The shops in Milan and Rome are of course a different world. People criticise Tesco and Walmart but they would clean up if they came and opened up here. I guess though it's a small price to pay for the food, the weather and the lifestyle. A director of a large bank once summed it up for me - ' in Italy there is no understanding of time is money - time is to be spent talking to your neighbours and the person ahead of you in the queue. Why would you wish to rush around getting an ulcer ?'.

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