Impressions of a new country

Tag Archives: Shopping

The Chip and Pin payment system is prevalent all over the UK, it has revolutionised the way we pay and become a staple for most retailers to provide.

From what I’ve seen in Romania, the same revolution is happening…just at a much slower pace; lots of shops still do not offer this service. It is mostly large supermarkets and other big retail outlets that have a Chip and Pin payment option…but even here, the speed of these card systems is extremely slow in comparison to the lightening fast “I didn’t even put my card in yet” machines across the UK.

I recently came across a strange sight at the checkout of a big electronics shop. A huge collection of Chip and Pin card machines, all with different card/bank names on them. It seemed that all were in use, and, depending on the type of card used by the customer, a specific machine was chosen for that transaction. I’m not sure about the reasons for doing this, or its productivity (if you know more…please let me know!) – nevertheless it was quite amusing to see so many at the same checkout.

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On a recent visit to the same large supermarket that brought us the intriguing practice of “bag wrapping” – yet another rather over the top security feature has been added to the store.

A security system has been installed on the small cosmetics aisle of the shop – and only on this aisle. It seems rather odd and I have personally not come across this type of ‘aisle specific’ security measure before. The main entrance to the shop is fitted with a security system just as most shops are around the world – so you would think that this main system alone would be enough to catch thieves. Obviously this aisle is a hot spot for theft and extra measures have had to be taken!

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In Oradea, a lot of shops are up a small flight of steps. During my first visit here I recall being very surprised by this; it isn’t very often that you see a shop with its own entrance steps in the UK. I’m not sure about other Romanian cities…but Oradea is absolutely brimming with shops like this. What really caught my eye regarding these steps was the fact that most retailers use this extra space to showcase their goods. It is a good idea to attract potential buyers, but in a country where theft is a primary concern to shop owners, it seems quite a daring advertising tactic. Concerns aside though, it does add a lot of colour and diversity to your average stroll down the high street.

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I mentioned in a very early blog post about having to store your shopping bags in lockers when you enter a different shop. This is very common in most grocery stores and some supermarkets. It is a way to deter thieves from being able to slip an item into their shopping bag which they might have from another store. This concept is rarely seen in the UK and you can take your shopping bags in all kinds of shops without it being a problem.

Recently, in Romania, I have experienced this idea on a much larger scale at a very large supermarket. On entering the shop, if you have shopping from another shop, you are asked by a member of security staff to join a queue to have your bags, and even larger personal bags (rucksacks/large bags), wrapped in plastic. Your bag is put onto a machine that encases your items in a brightly coloured plastic wrap and is then heat-sealed. You are allowed to carry small to medium sized handbags without having to wrap them up – but anything bigger must be wrapped. Once your items/bags have been wrapped, you can then go about your normal shopping routine. It seems strange that such large measures must be taken to prevent stealing. With CCTV and security tags/alarm systems, you would think that such an extreme measure of wrapping peoples’ bags wouldn’t be necessary.

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In supermarkets here, it is common to ‘snap apart’ 4 or 6 packs of yoghurts and just take how many you need.

When I first saw people doing this, I was amazed that staff members weren’t intervening to stop this sheer act of yoghurt vandalism (as it appeared to me). However, you’re perfectly allowed to do that here. The same goes for many products that are ‘attached’ in similar ways. You do not have to buy the whole packet, just take however many you want! The prices shown for yoghurts and ‘grouped’ items – are shown per 1 item, and not the price for an entire pack (I learnt that the hard way)

I’m not sure if other countries across Europe have this practise or not…but we definitely don’t in the UK! There, you buy the entire 6 pack of yoghurts or you choose individually packed ones. Heaven forbid you start ‘yoghurt snapping’ in the aisles of Sainsbury’s – all hell would probably break loose.

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When I first arrived here, it took me some time to get used to the small differences I observed during every day life…

For example – on trams you are expected to ‘punch’ your own ticket in a little machine. Ticket inspectors will randomly hop on board and ask to see a few peoples’ tickets (but this happens very infrequently, I have noticed!)

Another small thing is that you cannot take a bag of shopping from one shop into another shop. You have to put it inside a locker at one end of the shop before you can actually do your shopping. A good way to deter thieves, yes, but a little inconvenient sometimes when there are only so many lockers available…



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