Friday, February 23, 2007

Grocery Shopping Italian-Style

There's nothing like visiting a grocery store in a foreign country to demystify the local people. When I first came to Italy, I imagined Italians as coffee-sipping, scooter/gondola-riding, Armani-clad people with beautiful shoes.
And then I went grocery shopping.
Once I saw Italians strolling down the aisles with their shopping carts, waiting in check-out lines with fussy babies in tow, and loading bags into the trunks of their little cars, they didn't seem so different after all (except maybe for the shoes--which really are beautiful).
But their shopping carts...that's another story.
Can you guess what's in the photo above? It's part of the handle of an Italian grocery cart. When you go grocery shopping in Italy (at the bigger stores), the shopping carts are chained together. In order to get a cart, you insert a one-Euro coin into the slot, slide it into the box, and the chain will release. When you've finished your shopping, you return the cart to the corral, plug the end of another cart's chain into the box, and out pops your one-Euro coin.
The reason for all of this, of course, is to prevent people from leaving the carts scattered all over the parking lot. As of today, one Euro is worth $1.33 (in U.S. currency). I don't know about you, but that's just enough to make me schlep back and return my cart to its proper place. If we were talking 50 cents, I might be tempted to leave the cart in the parking lot, especially when I'm shopping with my 3 kids and I have to backtrack 100 yards to return the cart. But $1.33? I just can't justify walking away from $1.33.
After all, I need those Euros to buy Italian shoes...


cynjay said...

Hiya Nat!
We actually had these gizmos on carts in big stores in San Francisco about a decade ago. They mysteriously disappeared after a little while and now we're left with those annoying yellow brakes on the cart that lock when you take them past a certain point in the parking lot. Only problem is that they also like to lock when you roll by the bananas in the produce isle and occaisionally in front of the sourdough bread.

Natalie said...

Hi Cyn!

I never knew about the gizmos in the U.S., and I've never seen the brakes...could this be a west coast thing? Although I haven't been back to the states in almost 3 years...I'll keep my eyes open when we go this summer. :-)

Dor said...

Hi Natalie!
Had those gizmos around our town for a while (North Jersey)and they still exist down South NJ near Long Beach Island.
PS--Love visiting your blog. It sorta makes up for our too-long postponed plans for a trip to Italy. But once we get there, we'll be really informed people thanks to your blog, and that's a good thing. LOL!

Natalie said...

Hi Doris,

So those contraptions are more widespread than I thought! You're right...when you come to Italy, people will think you're natives!:-)