Instagram



Booking.com

A rant about Dutch supermarket shopping

I’m sure there are plenty of rude supermarket shoppers the world over, but this is something that’s happened to me numerous times here in Holland:

I’m in line at the check-out. They’ve just opened up the line, so I’m the first one there. I start unloading the groceries from my cart (a week’s worth for my family of four) onto the conveyor belt. I’ve got the belt almost full, but the cashier has only just begun to scan the items, and my cart is still about half full. A woman comes up behind me in the line, places one of those divider sticks on the conveyor belt and starts unloading her groceries!

What is going on here? Does she expect me to stop unloading my stuff? Or start handing each item individually to the cashier? Doesn’t she see how much is left in my cart? I just don’t get it!

The cashier keeps scanning items, so my space on the conveyor belt gets smaller and smaller, while Rude Lady’s gets bigger. I decide to confront the Rude Lady, but politely. In my best Dutch, I tell her that I need more room. She doesn’t say she’s sorry, but does move the divider stick about a foot back. She continues to unload her things. I now have room for a few more things on the belt, but not everything. She notices this, and every now and then shoves the stick back a bit again, until eventually I’ve managed to unload my cart.

Why did she do this? It didn’t speed up her shopping at all. The cashier had to finish with mine before helping her, after all!

On top of that, having to stop and wait for Rude Lady to move the stick back has slowed me down. In Dutch supermarkets, there are no bag boys. Each shopper is expected to pack her own bags (which she brings with her). So my purchases are all on the counter beside the cashier, and still have to be packed up. If there hadn’t been a Rude Lady behind me, I would have been able to make a start on packing up my stuff, or at least been able to fish out my bank card to pay the bill.

Instead, Rude Lady has to wait while I pay, and the counter is nearly full of my things, which I haven’t been able to even begin to pack.

Which leads to another annoying thing about Dutch supermarkets. The counter next to the cashier has a conveyor belt too, and a long stick that divides the counter in two. It can be pivoted right or left so that, while shopper #1 is packing up her purchases, the cashier can already begin to scan shopper #2’s purchases and put them on the other side of the divider.

Cashiers must be told, as part of their training, to keep scanning no matter what. That’s fine if people are making small purchases, but what if it’s a whole week’s worth of shopping? I’ve bought so much that it takes up most of the counter. So what does Cashier do? She shoves the divider over anyway. Crunch goes the shopping. She keeps scanning Rude Lady’s items, while I frantically throw things into my grocery bags, trying, at the same time, to make sure that nothing too breakable or crushable ends up on the bottom. When Cashier runs out of space on the other side of the divider? No problem: shove the divider over harder to see if you can make a bit more room. Of course, all the breakable or crushable items are still on the counter, since I want to pack heavier, more solid items first. Crunch.

I finally get everything into the grocery bags and start pulling the cart out of the line. What does Rude Lady do? Rear-ends my cart with hers! No “sorry,” no nothing, just moves away.

7 Comments

      • Jessica de Korte

        February 18, 2016 at 9:54 pm

        Haha so true. Shopping in Holland can be a nightmare. I moved from Den Haag to Bergambacht, a small town, and people are much more patient over here. Just the Cashiers in Lidl keep scanning in that crazy speed. Well, it was my first job, at the age of 15, and all I learned was…. Scan as quickly as you can! In my dreams I could still here the beeping.

        Reply
        • Rachel

          February 19, 2016 at 7:26 am

          Lidl and Aldo are even worse than the Albert Heijn I wrote about because there’s no conveyer belt after the cashier. You have to pack as fast as they scan, which is literally impossible!

          Reply
  • Sylvia

    September 16, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Hallo Rachel.
    Na mijn ontdekking dat dit blog bestaat lees ik regelmatig wat je zoal plaats over Nederland. Ik ben het weliswaar niet altijd eens met wat je schrijft;
    Bv de stukjes over zwarte Piet. Maar overwegend bevalt jouw commentaar me goed. Na het lezen van de supermarkt perikelen waar inderdaad snelheid is geboden omdat anders je boodschappen in de kreukels belanden vind ik wel dat je ook mag vermelden dat Nederlandse cassieres zitten tijdens werktijd. Op comfortabele stoelen.
    Ga zo door.
    Groeten,Sylvia.

    Reply
    • Rachel Heller

      September 17, 2020 at 11:19 am

      A translation for my non-Dutch-speaking readers: Sylvia says that she reads this blog regularly when I post about the Netherlands. She doesn’t always agree with me, for example about Zwarte Piet. But generally she likes my commentary. After reading this about Dutch supermarket where speed is necessary or your purchases get crushed, she thinks that I should also mention that Dutch cashiers sit during their work. On comfortable seats.

      My response: Yes, I should have mentioned that. And I should also mention that this was my very first blog post more than 10 years ago!

      Reply
  • Sylvia

    September 17, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    Hallo Rachel.
    Dank voor je snelle respons. Dat dit een aantal jaar geleden is geplaats is geen beletsel alsnog te reageren. Ik lees soms iets uit het ene en dan uit het andere jaar. Zo vraag je ergens in 2019 of je niets iets vergeten bent te vermelden. Momenteel schiet me niets te binnen maar op het moment dat dit wel gebeurt krijg je dat te horen.
    Groeten, Sylvia.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.