Monday, January 4, 2010

Grocery Shopping

For months now I've been meaning to write a post about what it's like to grocery shop in Israel.  Much like big cities in the United States, a lot of people here don't own cars, so small regular trips to the local grocery store are a part of daily life.  Here I will list some unique things about my experiences shopping at Israeli stores....

  • Most store entrances are guarded by a security guard.  You have to allow him to rummage through your bag before entering.
  • Bigger grocery stores have shopping carts, but you usually have to put a 5 shekel piece in them.  The worst part about them is they roll very easily to the side.  So if you try to take it outside, it will start rolling away sideways.  So you either have to use every muscle in your body to keep your heavy cart from rolling away, or you have to run.  Or both, depending on the incline.
  • Some grocery stores do not allow you to take your cart to your car.  Think about that one for a minute. 
  • Having children with you can work to your advantage at checkout.  Once the cashiers get to know you and your children, they'll actually smile at you.  It's awesome.
  • Often a store's sale items will be there at the checkout next to the cashier.  They will ALWAYS ask you if you want the items that are displayed.  A couple of times the cashier has literally refused to take no for an answer.  Either in broken English, or 100% Hebrew that I don't understand, they will do everything they can to convince me that I must buy that item.  One time when I was buying a small treat for something, it turned out that if you bought four of them it was a slamming deal.  So naturally the cashier kept trying to talk me into buying the other three.  But I didn't want that many, even if it was a better deal.  Towards the end of her ringing out my items, she finally just grabbed three more treats and rang them through.  I was so annoyed, and Tom heard about it the rest of the day.
  • This idea can also be a good thing.  I often miss sales because I can't read the signs, and if the sale item isn't one of the ones near checkout, the cashier will tell me to go back into the store and get them.  She will wait as long as she needs to, and will not show an ounce of annoyance (which is unusual in and of itself).  She'll actually be glad that you're doing it so you get the best deal... or maybe she's just happy to sit and do nothing for a couple of minutes.
  • But a HUGE drawback to that, is that it is extremely common for people to get in line, or even start to check out, and then they will leave to finish their shopping!  They may even come back two or three times with their hands full of things.  You can easily stand there for a good ten minutes while the person in the middle of checkout is casually walking around the store collecting more items.  There's an awesome story of my friend hunting down a person doing just that, just to give him a piece of her mind.  But that's for another day. 
  • People in front of you like to put their carts in the middle of the walkway so you can't get by.  You can yell, "Slicha!" (excuse me) over and over before they'll move.  But if you are even slightly in someone else's way, they'll physically shove you out of the way with their grocery cart.  I can't quite bring myself to do the same thing.  Maybe one of these days.
  • In the Jerusalem area, virtually all Israeli stores close on Fridays sometime between noon and 2:30 in preparation for the Sabbath.  They also stay closed all day Saturday.
  • Most things come in much smaller containers.  Take powdered sugar, for instance.  It comes in little envelopes that hold not quite one cup, verses the US where you can buy them in 4 pound bags.
  • If you see an item that you love and it's something that's not usually there, stock up!  You may never see it again.
  • You usually have to bag your own stuff, and you'll probably run out of sacks.  When you ask for more, don't be surprised if they show outright annoyance at your request.
  • Grocery stores are called a "Super", pronounced soo-pair.  
  • Their produce is FAN-TASTIC when it's in season.  It's also cheaper than most other foods.
  • There are two types of food that are still a mystery to me after all this time: canned tomatoes and dairy/cheese products.  I feel like there is some secret code I need to crack that nobody is telling me about.  They just don't make sense!  I can't tell you how many times I *think* I'm coming home with tomato sauce, only to find out when I get home that I have purchased diced tomatoes with huge chunks of garlic.  Or I'll buy what I think is cream cheese, only to find out when I get home that it's sour cream.
  • In the states, the "customer is always right."  But here that is not the case.  The clerk/owner/manager is the boss, and they can be as rude to you as they like.
  • If you're brave enough to go shopping on a Friday, they will often offer you free items at checkout - typically bread, cake, newspaper, or alcohol.  If they're out of bread, I'll take cake.  If they're out of both, they reeeeally want me to take the newspaper or alcohol.  I don't read Hebrew, so the paper is no good to me.  And as much as I'd like to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of cheap wine, I'm about as Mormon as they come and I've never had a drink in my life.  But it's hard to convey all that to a persistent cashier who doesn't understand a word I'm saying.


Anonymous said...

I will never forget my grocery shopping experiences in Israel :)

Shane and Geana said...

I suppose I should be more greatful for the rude cashiers at Walmart, it is NOTHING like that!!

Kristin Aiello said...

Well, I guess there are somethings you won't miss so much when you get back to the states.

Kristine said...

Now THAT is an experience at the grocery store. What but great experiences to have with the kids. How is Joni liking school?

Megan G said...

Dang you've gotta have patience to shop!

Erin said...

Wow, you are brave. I guess you have to go grocery shopping but I would be scared to death. I guess you are just learning a lot of patients. Next time I go grocery shopping I will complain a little less.