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Most guys like the old in-and-out.
When we go shopping, we have a mental list of the four essential needs and want to get in and away as soon as possible. Some of us will even time ourselves with the goal of bettering our last time. This is what a good friend of mine calls “Ninja Shopping”. The ninja shopper stays focused on the goal; he is not distracted by the promoter-girls; he does not linger over new laundry powder.
Yet even the most practiced ninja shopper may be stymied by the notion of “convenience” in Serbia.
The other day, my friend, the ninja shopping master, was sitting in front of me in a state of shock. His hand trembled over his coffee as he recounted his latest foray into the consumer experience. I listened carefully to his tale (also secretly gratified to know that these things do not happen ONLY to me) and took cautious heed.
The Master had entered the field of battle (Super Vero) in the sure knowledge that he could engage, pick up his three items and check out within six minutes, in time to meet me and gloat over his prowess.
Without slowing, he glided through the sliding doors, extending an arm and aiming his shopping basket at the yoghurt section. Deftly avoiding the crowd milling about in fresh goods, he met his first obstacle in the biscuit aisle: the Jaffa Girl. With one strategic step, Jaffa Girl stopped his fluid motion and began to tell him about biscuits. Undaunted, he smiled, thanked her and took her free sample – but a minute and a half had been lost.
Yogurt obtained, he scanned the path ahead. On the left, a stand with smoked ham; on the right, a suited figure from Alpha Bank; in the middle distance the soup aisle beckoned and he cut through the straits directly toward it. He avoided both (although he heard them launch into their spiels as he passed), basketed the soup and moved to the last item – the toothpaste.
On the way to the toothpaste, he flanked towards frozen goods to approach the shelf unawares. In frozen goods, however, Pizza Girl awaited, alongside the Nespresso demonstrator. Unprepared, Scylla and Charybdis each robbed him of precious minutes as he sampled and took in their siren’s banter.
The ticking clock, however, shook him free and he grabbed the last item and pushed through to the check out. Paid, bagged, ready, and at one step from freedom, he turned and found himself in utter defeat: Trolley Boy.
A row of empty trolleys blocked his egress, as Trolley Boy stood complacently chatting with Ivana from Check Out 3. The Master steamed. He cried out. He was fully stuck. Finally, in desperation, he shoved Trolley Boy with a shoulder and a look of unbridled rage. As Trolley Boy unhurriedly moved aside and the Master was free, he noted the time – 47 minutes.
Retail, once again, had triumphed over the consumer.
Christen Bradley Farmer, founder and president of MACH IV Consulting and co-founder of Farmer & Spaic, Business and Media Consulting, has been involved in numerous writing and publication projects since arriving in Serbia. Farmer regularly shares his observations on life in Belgrade in Politika and in his B92 English blog.
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