The law of the supermarket

16 years ago, on a Tuesday
The 11th of September 2007, to be precise

On Saturday morning, around 11 o’clock, I was off to a local supermarket on a mission assigned by my wife Crenguţa: to get a list of prices for some 2 dozen products.

OK, let’s back up a bit.

My cousins want to start a business in catering. They are pretty determined (or so they seem) and have recruited my wife too. Since she is supposedly the one with the most spare time on her hands (OK, with marketing experience too), she was asked to try and make up some sort of business plan.

I have only a very fuzzy clue what that means, but it’s common sense that you need to make some kind of calculations, some kind of projections, to have at least some idea about the amount of money and time and effort you’ll need to put into such a thing, and what kind of return you can expect (if any, obviously).

So you guessed it, she needed some reference prices for food items and also for some other things needed in a kitchen: dish washing liquid, towels, stuff like that.

So it was noonish on Saturday, I had my notebook with the item list 4 pages long, and I was entering the closest supermarket, not very enthusiastic, but determined to get it over with as quickly as possible.

About 5 items down my list I got the attention of a saleswoman at the dairy department. She asked me who I am, who do I work for, and if I’m aware I’m not allowed to take notes of the prices.


I respectfully replied that since they DISPLAY their prices, they can’t possibly be a secret. So since they are not a secret, why shouldn’t I have the right to put them down, if that’s what floats my boat? Anyway, she was sticking to her version, so I decided I don’t have time to argue with her. I told her to get real and moved on to another category of products on my list.

Another 5 minutes and lots of cross-eyed glances from various employees later, a dude from security approaches me and asks me what am I doing. I asked what seems to be the problem, so he gave his speech about how it is forbidden to take notes in their supermarket!

No I was starting to get pissed! I asked to see the source of that regulation, I demanded to see with my own eyes that interdiction! He replied that it’s part of their internal rules, and that he’s not allowed to show that to me. Now that was great! My next question was haw am I supposed to observe some rule since I’m not allowed to see it? He replied: “Because I said so!”

I believe that this was the point where my blood started boiling. Of course, I asked to see some ID, besides the plasticized badge he was waving beneath my eyes (I forgot to mention that I was totally dominating the guy, who was at least 15-20 cm shorter — some security guard, heh?). I told him I can come back in half an hour with a hand bag full of the cheap badges he was waving, so I demanded to see proper official identification. He declined. So I told him that as far as I’m concerned our little chat was over, and that no random jerk is going to tell me what I can and can’t do, so that he can just bug off.

His next move was to threat me with the police. Oh, I was scared! I tried to get on with my business, but he kept getting in front of me, trying to block my view of the price tags. I was now completely surrounded with supermarket employees, most of them talking at the same time, but basically telling me the same thing over and over: I’m not allowed to take notes of their prices.

I was already way too pissed off, and since I was getting the urge to smear the little security shit all over his precious price tags, with a last drop of reason I decided to back off and left in a hurry.

In hindsight, I could have been smarter about it and dictate the prices to Crenguţa over the phone. Or simply get a shopping cart, put some stuff inside in order to look less suspicious, and then try to get the prices list. But I wasn’t.

I don’t think what happened was right, to be mild about it. And I certainly don’t think this is the way to handle customers or public relations. Even if I was from some competitor, I still fail to see what was the problem with getting their prices on paper.

And I will probably never will. Because this is Romania, The Country where Nothing Ever Changes™!

Jesus, how I hate this fucking country…

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