Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unnecessary tension

The everyday crap that's part of living in Greece is finally starting to wear on my nerves. I usually like to keep my blog light and fun but I just have to whine or rant-whatever it turns out to be for this post.

I'm only going to write about one thing that's been irritating me lately and it's the grocery store -aka- supermarket. I hate going. I never thought that going to buy groceries was the greatest but then again, I've never dreaded it as much as I do now. First, most of the supermarkets are small. The aisles are small, everything is small. If there's someone restocking shelves and blocking an aisle just be prepared to go around the other way because hell will freeze over before they'll move to accommodate a customer.

Next-the produce section. If you want to buy produce you're supposed to put your food in plastic bags and give them to the person working in produce so that they can weigh your food and put the price tag on it. The problem here arises from the fact that half of the time you have to hunt down the person assigned to produce so that this can happen. I don't believe in putting all of my produce in plastic bags. For example, when I buy bananas I prefer the price sticker to go directly onto the bananas, without a bag. Well, the last two times that I wanted to go bagless with the bananas I've suffered verbal attacks from the idiots that work in produce. The first time I refused a bag it ended up in a 3 minute battle of words...the employee saying that he HAD to give me a plastic bag because that's what they're told to do. It leaded to him asking where I'm from -as if it matters-and said, "oh, well you Americans have all of the answers don't you?" Yep, whatever dude, just give me my friggn' bananas. He wasn't Greek, he was Italian...FYI. This isn't about Greeks vs. anyone-it's just about me vs. idiots that work in the supermarkets that I shop in.

The second banana scuffle occurred yesterday. Again, no one was in the produce section except for the arrogant store manager. After having me stand there for a few minutes I finally had to ask him to weigh my bananas. He sauntered over to the scale. This man is visibly annoyed by me. Guess what supermarket manager...I'm not on vacation, I'm not going away-deal with it. Anyway, so I hand him the bananas and he started to put them in a plastic bag. I politely asked him not to do that and he said, " well where will I put the price sticker then?!"-in a very aggressive tone. I said, " directly on the bananas". He rolled his eyes and said, " no, I'll put them in a plastic bag! That's what we have them for." I said, "I would prefer to not have one, it's just more plastic and more garbage for me -it's not necessary." Now, he's really angry. (idiot) So he yells at me and says, " I'll give you the plastic bag because that's how we do it...that's why we have recycling here in Greece-put your bag in the recycling!" I just took my bananas and walked away, it makes no sense to argue with a rock. Besides, my little Alexandra doesn't need to listen to this BS.

Some other issues I have had at the supermarket include being asked for identification to use my stupid store issued discount card. What? " I need to see your identification"....the cashier scowls. I refused as I thought it ridiculous. She let me use the card anyway.

Recently, with the discount cards customers were able to accumulate coupons that could be counted as cash toward a future purchase. I obviously accumulated a lot of those coupons shopping for a family of five. As I handed my coupons over to the cashier she asked me for all of the receipts from the purchases that awarded me the coupons. What? OK, so I had one receipt in my purse and then she refused to take the coupon that it matched because it wasn't from the same location that I was shopping. Luckily, an employee with a brain intervened and informed her that I don't need a receipt and I don't have to redeem the coupons at the exact location that they were issued.

There's one more issue that I have. There's one cashier at one particular store that dreads to have me in her line. It's obvious. Why? Because more than once she's remarked about the size of my purchase. She's said, " every time that you shop here, you buy so much. You back up my line." Excuse me, but I thought that I was shopping for my family in a there a limit as to how much I can buy?

So, there that's off my chest. I do want to acknowledge that there are a several employees that are very kind and seem almost happy to see me. A lot of times it's those employees that intervene and rise to my defense. I'm not conditioned to walk through life looking for the next argument and I refuse to adjust my personality just because some people can't be civil. Yes, the same type of crap does happen where I'm from-just not as intensely and definitely not as frequent. Going to buy groceries shouldn't have to be such a burden.

***all of these interactions took place in Greek***


  1. Oh Cheryl. Although some of the minor details aren't the same, my experience with the "supermarket" is pretty much exactly the same.

    On the having too much stuff when you go through the line issue, a checker said the same thing to me. I responded, "doesn't everyone" at one time or another. No, she told me carefully, what everyone else does is go shopping every day. Which is part of why the shopping carts are too tiny (another part of that is getting down the aisles and around impossible corners). For a family of five, you must need two carts!

    I could have written this piece. To be honest, it kind of made my skin crawl to read it. I love Greece, I really do, but 6 months is about how long I can stay patient with the types of things you describe.

    Here's what I do on the plastic bag issue: I bring back a couple bags that I brought home groceries in, and use those to put the fruit and vegetables in. I've had funny looks about it, but I don't care one whit. You can't fight every battle every day, it's just not worth it in the long one.

    As for ranting, it's the best way to be able to tolerate the intolerable. It's the best thing you can do!! And I really like your candor.

  2. C,

    One reason I like going to the manavis is they don't fight me about weighing stuff as is and putting it into my reusable bag. When the arrogant banana dude insists on giving me a bag at the store, I take out one of my own that I've ripped the tag off of. (They do come off, but not all of them).

    You're right, it's not necessary to redeem coupons at the store that issued them. You can use them everywhere.

    Some checkers are angry and bitter. They don't realize that your purchases pay their wages and keep them employed. What's it to her if other customers wait? Maybe she ain't gettin' any at home. I've even gone so far as to ask what problem they have.

    You don't need ID to sign up or use a supermarket card. That's BS. No one even asks if I have a supermarket card because I'm foreign, and when I present it, they look at me like I stole it. Had the same problem with the reusable bag my MIL bought us to us. We were accused of stealing that too.

    You're not looking for fights. You're entitled to stand up for yourself if someone is hassling you, and there's a lot of that here.

    I liked going to the store in my own neighborhood and in the northern suburbs, but since moving south, it's just a snootfest.

  3. *sigh*
    I finally figured out how to weigh my own produce after waiting and waiting for the "attendant" to come over. Sure, they gave me some fine words and usually rushed over to 'help' me once I'd started punching buttons on their machine. Sometimes they even were nervy enough to check that I had punched the right buttons and not given myself a good deal. Eventually, they just let me do my own thing but it did take some months.

    LOL - they really don't move if they're stocking the shelves! It's like they're annoyed that the customers are interfering with their job! The irony seems to go over their heads.

    My biggest beef was the cashier who wouldn't even turn around once I'd paid - she literally threw my receipt over her shoulder in my general direction. I wanted to clobber her.

    No words of wisdom, just commiseration.

  4. Laurie, I know-I'm probably speaking for a lot of people.
    I have also considered bringing my own bags for produce as you and Kat have suggested.
    The size of my purchase-I prefer to shop for major things once a week. I go to the laiki for most of my fresh produce, but bananas go quickly in this house! I'm sure you can imagine...
    We've decided skip the local supermarket altogether and just go to Carrefour to stock up every few weeks and stick to our local manavis & laiki for our fresh food, since they're always happy to see me. Heck, in a few months I won't need to go anywhere as my garden will hopefully fill most of our fresh needs.
    Oh, and yes-ranting is necessary. It's not all butterflies & flowers over here! :)

    Kat-LOL! The checker probably isn't getting any at home. I think that I bother people because I'm always smiling.
    As for the discount cards-I know, an ID isn't needed. They're just on a power trip. It's happened to me more than once at different stores. The coupon thing irritated me. I asked the cashier how she thought I got them if I didn't buy groceries. Besides, what's it to anyone where I got them?
    Hopefully the people that work in your snooty neighborhood will realize that you're there to stay and maybe, just maybe, someone will warm up to you. Karma.

    Syd- I have also started to punch buttons on the scale before. I simply stated that if they don't want people to weigh their own produce, then someone should be there to help us.
    About the cashier that threw the receipt over her shoulder-I probably would have clobbered her! I personally like when they toss the receipt on the top of the groceries that I'm bagging.

  5. Ok, I have to know which store you are going to. We have no problems whatsoever at AlphaVita and the aisles are wide and the store is big - there are closer supermarkets to us, but we choose to go the extra distance because we only go once a week and it is a much more pleasant experience than the village store (which doesn't have much stuff anyway) or the bigger stores one village over. Now, I don't know how they'd deal with the produce issue because I, sadly, put stuff in the paper bags they offer (I do recycle them though, but after reading your post and these comments I feel really guilty now!). But usually once someone goes up to the produce weigh station an employee will come out right away (if there isn't one already there). This behavior is dramatically different from any other store I have been to here.

    Thanos and I have TONS of groceries every time and noone has ever said a word!

  6. Mel, you are so lucky! Like I said-not everyone in the store(s) is bitter, but 9 times out of 10-someone, somehow gives me slack.
    I have friends that have told me to go to AlphaVita because she says that everyone is so nice there. And, so far, everyone at Carrefour has been professional. It's the small towns that have the issues-or shall I say suburbs?
    And, the reason that I have a beef with the produce guys is because it's happened more than once -with different people. I think that it's ridiculous.
    As I mentioned before, I love shopping at the manavi & laiki-everyone is always very nice there. Plus, my car doesn't get broken into when I'm at the center of the village! :)

  7. My god, very ugly issues, there! Your life is miserable! it kind of made my skin crawl to read it, too, as someone said!

    (i wll came here often, to relax with your problems... )
    Just joking. Nice blog. Relax


  8. Peter-Welcome...yes, very ugly issues indeed. Unnecessary agression is exhausting-I think. I can let it go once or twice-but the third time...I'm going to rant :)
    Thanks for visiting & I'm glad you like the blog.

  9. When I was in Puerto Rico I remember feeling frustrated with the cashiers there, they work in one mode...turtle slow.. but they were all always very pleasant, here they mostly give attitude and are super lazy. Don't get frustrated with the banana man, just be glad you are able to be at the store and can buy food for your family :)

  10. This is just one of the thousand of reasons that make you ( or will make you) frustrated living in Greece. Yes, there are some great people too, and once in a while you meet Greeks that lived in the States, but for the most part it will only get worse and worse. So, you compromise and occasionally become like them too. I wish so bad that people there were polite like back here in the States, I was so tired of fighting every day so when the opportunity came, we came back. I have posted previously on your excellent site.

  11. Pumpkin- I know, it's different in PR too. I guess it's just that I'm not comfortable yet and it's hard to adjust to what I think is unreasonable animosity
    I know, the bananas...I am grateful that I can buy them because I do see a lot of less fortunate people every day. Got your message late last night...will try to call you later today! xxoo

    Anonymous-Thank you for your compliment, I'm glad that you like my blog. Like you, I feel as if I'm fighting every day and if it were for me, I'd go back to the States in a heartbeat. I agreed to try living here so I'm giving it my best shot. Obviously, there's so much more going on here but I prefer to keep that off my blog because most people that live or have lived here can only imagine. I also keep in perspective that it could be worse and I'm lucky that it's not.
    I really try to look at everything objectively but that gets tiring, so from time to time, I'll let it out here. Thanks for visiting. :)

  12. That is unfortunate.

    I know this is a bit off topic. I've been reading your blog for a while and find it fascinating. I married a Greek man (born in the US) and we will be traveling to Greece every few years.

    I've got so many questions about life over there. But, how did you learn Greek?

  13. Hi Peachy! Nice to see you again. How did I learn Greek? Well, I'll first admit that I still need a lot of kids are speaking more fluently than I am. But, I really believe that immersion was what helped me the most. Back in the States, when we were 1st married, I was highly motivated to learn the language. I bought several books at the university to help me with everyday conversations. I would ask what certain words meant, that I had heard repeated throughout the Greek conversations...but that got tiring. So, I attribute most of my success to actually being here. We moved here for a year -from 1995-to 1996. That's when I really started learning. After moving back to the U.S., I enrolled in a Greek class at a local church, so that I could work on my grammar. That was also very helpful. So, that's basically it...and I'm still learning. :)

  14. Thanks for the info. I've gotten a few books and taken a few non-credit classes. You're right though, nothing like immersion. However, I doubt that we'll be relocating to Greece.

  15. Sigh. Unfortunately what you write doesn't surprise me AT ALL. In fact, it's the kind of behaviour that is depressingly common in Greece. I am Greek, but I'm now living in London (for quite a few years). However, I did live in Greece until I was 30, so I've had many experiences such as yours. In one word, Greeks are generally impolite. Or even rude. And sometimes very rude. Sure, it's good not to generalize, and of course there are fantastic exceptions, but that's been my general experience, and nothing I've seen since, in my many trips to Greece, has changed it. I think part of it, unfortunately, has to do with the fact that you have an american accent. I know for a fact- as you probably know too- that many greeks are quite suspicious when it comes to 'xenoi' (as they 'charmingly' call them) having a different opinion from them. If I were you, I'd just take no notice, because it's really not worth getting frustrated & angry about such things which are so common... but I do understand that there are moments when we lose it.

    Well, I had my own little rant there :-))
    Just wanted to say I really like your blog, which I've only recently discovered, and will be returning to it.

    Best wishes,

  16. Thanks Cassandra, your empathy is appreciated! :) I'm getting better at letting things go. I think what makes it difficult for me is that I'm not comfortable here, yet.
    I'm glad that you like my blog, thanks for the compliment.
    BTW-great little rant.
    Take care!

  17. Hi again Cheryl,

    It does take time to feel comfortable in a new city/country doesn't it... Can I ask, how long have you been in greece for? I've been living in London (having moved from greece) for more than 5 years now, and it still feels strange somewhat. As for letting things go, I completely agree, that's the goal, but that too is not always easy.

    Best wishes.

  18. Hi Cassandra,
    We've been here since July of last just under a year. We moved into our home in Sept. and we've been very sick all winter so on top of normal adjustment worries, we were basically immobile because of our illnesses. We've all been much better and are starting to feel a more comfortable with some things. Plus, we lived in the city back home. So we're adjusting to a life in a new country with complete with a new way of life. It's getting better but I guess if it's not "home" then it's hard to ever become completely comfortable.
    Take care!

  19. hi cheryl - i'd just like to add my supermarket rant to your most interesting post:
    i ws with my children and i was buying a heck of a lot, including vulnerable strawberries and half a dozen big chocolate easter eggs for friends' children. i asked the cashier to be careful with the sensitive stuff. she was a young cow who prided herself on passing everything very quickly through the checkout. of course i couldnt bag everything very quickly, of course my children had just staged a riot in the supermarket, i was running after them at the same time. the cashier had finished scanning everything, but didnt show any sign of helping me to bag it. &$@# her, I thought. She asked me to pay (one of the few times I paid over 100 euro). I knew she would just start passing the next person's groceries through the checkout, so i told her I'd bag it first and then pay for it. the cow could not believe that i was making a fool of her in front of other customers (and that queue was really long). well, of course, she had to start bagging my stuff, because i was purposely bagging it very very slowly. i noticed that she disappeared from the supermarket a little while after that, and i haven t seen her since. she must have found another job where she could humiliate customers to her heart's content, because i can't imagine her working at another checkout.

  20. Thanks for sharing that! It's such a pain in the butt. I was actually running in our local supermarket at 8:55 pm tonight (they close at 9:00pm) because I realized that I'd run out of coffee and needed to get some. While running in with 3 kids, the guy that mangages the place looks up at me and "informs" me that they're closing in 5 minutes. I said, "ksero"...and kept moving. Then the cashier was whining that if she didn't start to count her drawer that she'd be there until 10pm. I just said, "etsi ine an dulevis mesa to supermarket"... as I smiled and said..."kalinixta!" So of course when I came home...I said to my husband, "when you walk in a store late in the States you get sneered at but when you walk in late in Greece you get bitched at!" Ay!
    It's a good thing that that cashier left because if you're like me...I'd be in her line as much as I could and I'd break her down so that she'd have to be nice to me...and she'd probably really hate that.

  21. I've lived in Greece for over 10 years. Unfortunately, what you have described is the norm, not the exception.

    The only way to deal with them is to get rude. That's what they understand. If you watch the other Greeks, that's what they do. Don't go for the passive aggression. Aim right for their jugular and they'll shut up quick.

    You have to remember that Greece is largely a country of peasants. Most of these peasants are now living in Athens and just because they're in a big metropolitan city doesn't mean that they're in any way sophisticated.

    Imagine the lowest forms of white trash in the US...and now imagine a city teeming with them. That's Athens. One simply cannot expect too much from such people. If you do, you'll be disappointed every time.

  22. Anonymous,
    Thanks for your input. I have gotten rude and I'm not afraid to stand up for myself. I agree that, unfortunately, it's the only way that some people understand. But, I really, truly believe that not everyone is incapable of being a decent human being. I shop in the same stores and live in a smaller community outside of Thessaloniki so things are starting to turn around. Even the manager that was mentioned in this story has since started to smile at me...and as an added bonus...he even tries to speak English to me. How's that for breaking him down?
    But, I do know how frustrating it is for people to act so aggressively without being accountable. My husband is tired of listening to me complain.:)

  23. Another angle on this supermarket shit: there was a smallish supermarket opposite my new home, when I moved into it 6 years ago. It was a delight to shop there, with polite assistants and an interesting range of products. In particular, since it is near the French Institute, it had some rare and very good French products. That supermarket was privately owned, and more recently was acquired by Marinopoulous. They changed the staff, redecorated (at great cost) the premises twice, and it is sheer HELL to shop there. The lack of staff, the lack of choice (only common things), the sheer indifference to shoppers' needs....

    Thanks, Marinopoulos, for ****ing up what used to be a really good place to shop.

  24. I realize this blog post is really old, and I realize that probably no one will ever read this comment... But I have to post it anyway.

    My father, a native Cypriot who lived in Canada for many years (where I was born and raised) does a really funny thing sometimes at supermarkets. When they're really rude to him, or give him a hard time about random stupid things, he just leaves his things on the belt, usually half processed, and walks away.

    Fortunately, there are enough of them and the ones he goes to are big enough that if he avoids that particular one for awhile, he gets away with it. Male management thinking the way it is, it's likely that the female cashiers don't have much recourse. Besides, at the end of the day, they do want your business, they just don't feel the need to show it. So, you might not want to do it (especially if the shops you go to are really small, they might actually ban you) but you can always dream...

    1. Hi Sevi! Yes, this is a very old post and I'm glad that you took the time to read it and comment as well. I have done what your father does, it makes sense. In fact, I have done it at a small shop in my community. The owner was very rude to me- he even yelled at me after I had asked him... for the 5th time...about something he supposedly ordered just for me. After he screamed at me I never returned for the special order- or ever again. He sees me walk by several times per week and has never, ever addressed it. He sort of stares at me blankly. Now, about the supermarkets and most other shops in my community: I'm happy to say that I've come to know almost everyone here and I am treated very well. Even in the store that was mentioned in this post. I enjoy shopping in my town and most other places. I think that part of my problem was myself, and my fear of the unknown. Given that I speak the language much better, it's easier for me to cope and express myself. I've come a long way since this post. But again, if someone is rude, I just stop patronizing the business. Because- again- even if I can handle myself now, there still are some very frustrating incidents. I think your father is a pretty smart man. Thank you for sharing with me. Have a Happy New Year! :)