Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Easily amused

I've talked about Spanish supermarkets before. Just as a quick recap. We have four decent sized supermarkets in Pinoso and I use them all. My choice is usually based on geography, wherever the car is parked. Sometimes on product - only two of the four for instance carry English Council House tea.

Whilst I'm not at work I've started to use Día more frequently than I used to. This is because it's on our side of town and the car parking is good. Now I'm going to fall into all sorts of problems with stereotyping here so please forgive me. Día is exactly the opposite of the UK's Waitrose or Spain's Corte Inglés supermarket operations in both its products and its customer profile. Día sells some quality products but it is typified by cheap and, sometimes, low quality in the sense of industrially processed food. Día does not, generally, attract well heeled clients in search of premium product. Now you can already see the stress lines in my argument because the one in Pinoso has plenty of British clients and, again generalising, we're not a hard up community. It's a touch of that Lidl/Aldi mentality - there are bargains to be had for the careful shopper and the other stuff can be bought elsewhere.

I'm beginning to really like Día. All of the supermarkets in Pinoso have their adherents and all of them will tell you how friendly the staff are. Personally I think the people in Consum and at Día are pleasant whilst the Más y Más and HiperBer people are neither pleasant nor unpleasant. But the women on the till in Día seem to go out of their way to say hello to people. The food varies in quality. With a bit of care you can save a fair amount of money and get perfectly reasonable product. It's not the easiest supermarket to shop in though. The aisles seem to block up easily, I still find the layout illogical and there seems to be a mentality amongst Día shoppers to take up the maximum space, to talk at maximum volume and to choose product at the minimum pace. Waiting for a family group to choose a flavour of yoghurt, a family group that is blocking access to the packet of butter that I can't quite get to, can be very frustrating. The shelf stacking staff can be nearly as bad - they seem quite oblivious to my attempts to slide between their palette cart loaded with pop to get to the diet Fanta as they chat about football. The till area is another weak spot. One of them seems to be used as the makeshift office. It is always piled high with paperwork and it is never open. There seems to be an unwillingness to open a second till until the queue has snaked well past the fresh fruit stand and is passing the pickled gherkins.

So far then not a glowing report. But the place is just bursting with life. There are always incidents. Often the incidents involve my compatriots. Confusions with language, confusions about the price, about the queuing structure, about the money off coupons. There are also the strange conversations I have with Spaniards - usually as they let me go before them because I only have a packet of peanuts and a bottle of brandy - conversations about my food habits.

Today, for instance, I did something very Spanish. I put my stuff on the cash desk belt and, whilst the man in front's stuff was going through the scanner, I rushed off to pick up the bread that I'd forgotten. When I came back the man in front of me still hadn't had all of his things go through the checkout but a couple of Britons were grumbling about bloody Spaniards leaving their stuff and then going off. They were standing over my things and they had already usurped the Spanish bloke behind me. After a little chat about who owned what they went to the other till. As they left I asked the Spanish bloke why he hadn't said anything - "It's what I expect," he said.

The other day a group of Britons had bought loads and loads of stuff. They'd brought lots of old carrier bags to load it into too and they hung each newly filled bag on the back of a pushchair that contained a toddler. There was a flurry of argument about who was going to pay. As everyone, including the pram pusher, proffered biggish banknotes and deluged the grinning checkout woman in a flood of English, the pram overbalanced and toddler and supermarket produce spilled everywhere. All the people, maybe six or seven of them, scrabbled for rolling oranges, cans of pop and bawling children as fifty euro notes drifted back and forth in the gentle breeze from the sliding door.

Another bottle of brandy and some onions. A Scottish pal let me queue jump. The woman in front of me was a Culebrón resident. Strange conversation in English to my left, in Spanish to my right and in Spanish again across the little perspex shield of the checkout.

I'm sure there's an advertising slogan in there somewhere for Día.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Dia had a slogan. It was something like "Si pagas más es porque quieres"
Día is just a discount supermarket. Minimal or no decoration, minimal everything. People who can't stand seeing no-brand products standing in cardboard boxes go to El Corte Ingles supermarket. You have to pay much more but you are not disturbed by the "ugliness".
I don't like Día. Nor Supercor. I prefer the local markets. It's one of the best things of being in the middle of nowhere in Spain, the local fresh vegetables and the sellers of fruit, etc, like actors on a stage. The other day I was talking to this guy in Jumilla's market, he sells chatos and melocotones and melon, etc, and suddenly he said, smiling, out of nothing: "I am an idiot, if I weren't I would be in the NASA, not here selling fruit".
Among all the supermarkets in Pinoso, I liked the old Consum. The new one is freezing cold inside and the design is not very clever I think. You have to walk like half an hour from the small garage through a corridor to get inside. The Mas y Mas used to be a family bussiness, Spar, many years ago. It hasn't change a lot, except I don't get candys any more as change. They would give you two sugus instead of two pesetas!