Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Here in the UK - and I'm sure in the USA and, say, Holland - there's constant innovation in the supermarkets. In Waitrose, for example, you can go round with a palm thingy and tot up your bill as you go along. And in all the major supermarkets there's a self-checkout option. These have just come to prominence with the news that one of the country's numerous celebrity chefs has been arrested for failing to check out several items on a number of occasions. Amusingly, the term given to this crime is "five finger discount" and it's said to account for 7% of sales. So, the Sainsburys' staff I (naively) thought were standing close to the self-checkout machines so they could help confused customers were probably there to keep an eye on customers.

The urge to innovate is not so great in Spain. To be honest, I can't recall anything new in the Carrefour place I use during ten years or so. And, given the scope for theft, I rather doubt we'll be getting self-checkouts. The lack of trust between shop and customers is amply demonstrated by the obligation to put any bags you arrive with into a locker before you enter the shop.

Because I've been rather negative about Spain with my (longish) list of things I don't like, here's something very positive about Spain with which I'm in complete agreement. It's called Spain - The Place to Live.

I should also stress that Spain has maintained its number one position in the are of organ transplants. And also in the registration of donors. Ironically, I've recently registered as a donor here in the UK. Essentially because I was asked to.

Back here in Headingley, I'm lucky enough to have a good (non-chain) café only five minutes from my daughter's flat. They have wi-fi, of course, as well as a couple of national newspapers. But there's a major problem, arising purely from the fact I'm English. Back home in Spain, I'd have to concentrate to listen to and understand a conversation within my hearing. As I don't do this, I'm just surrounded by ambient noise. But here in England, it's like reading - you can't not read and you can't not understand the conversation at the next table. Which is annoying. Especially when it's the sort of self-centred drivel I was subjected to yesterday. The solution, of course, is either decent ear-plugs or the iPod Shuffle which my elder daughter bought me for Christmas.

Finally . . . I've remembered something else I don't like in Spain - and which you don't get in the UK. It's the obligation to use an expensive premium number if you want to get in touch with a company by phone. This is pretty standard in Spain, in contrast with the local or free numbers that are available as part of customer service in the UK. And, I'm sure, in the USA and, say, Holland.


Ferrolano said...

Colin, the linked article, SPAIN – THE PLACE TO LIVE by John Carlin is a great read that yes, does describe some of the positive aspects of Spain and once understood probably far outweighs the list of negative items previously published – if not, neither you nor I, or for that matter many others, would choose to live there. Notwithstanding, the exception proves the rule..

Azra said...

If we had self-checkout services here the country would go bankrupt. Seriously. In fact, most stores have a section where you can leave your "parcels" or excess baggage - as well as a guard at the entrance that checks who enters and leaves and with what.

I reckon I'd do well in Spain. It would have all the "amenities" of home LOL!

Stories said...

the Carrefour we go to in Barcelona recently added self-checkout (so did the Decathlon, FNAC, and some other big box stores. Actually there is a self checkout to go through passport security at the Barcelona airport--that never works).

The Carrefour does not allow you to go through with a cart (neither their shopping cart or your own smaller shopping cart). We learned of this after waiting in line for about 15 mins to use one.

They are slow (both machines and people using them), there is always a line of confused people, there is a "cashier helper" who is always helping somebody or resetting a machine, but overall I think the self-checkout is here to stay :)

Victor said...

Gotta smile at the caution given to Tony. Why is it with celebs that when they caught with their fingers in the cookie jar they start whining about their wrong doing came about as a result of being abused as a child some 50 or 60 years earlier.
In Derby you can read in the local paper about people being given free B&B for nicking a lot less then what Tony took.

CafeMark said...

This smartphone app for shoppers in Spain may be worth investigating http://en.supertruper.com/ As for self-checkout tills - I hate them. Always something doesn't quite work, or needs authenticating (booze perhaps) and so you end up waiting for an assistant to appear anyway.

Anthea said...

Toys'r'Us in Manchester won't let you take bags into the store. Like in Spanish supermarkets, you have to check in your shopping and collect it on your way out. Obviously they think that the vast array of toys will be too tempting and shoppers will busily stuff their bags with stolen items. Another reason NOT to go in that horrible shop! I only do so when requested to find a particular item. And when I went just before Christmas they didn't even have what I was looking for!!

Eugenia said...

I also love the article 'Spain - the place to live'. At the moment I suspect there is less than "tremendous optimism and energy in the air" - compared with some time ago when the piece was written, but Spanish people have bounced back before; I hope they can again.

Colin said...

Yes, I do too. Eugenia.

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