Right, let’s try this. There’s nothing more everyday than buying food, so I’m going to guide you through an Israeli supermarket. Obviously they’re not all the same and I haven’t been to all of them, so this is mostly about the one I usually go to. It’s medium-sized. I go there because it’s fairly cheap, convenient and only ten minutes’ drive from my house. There’s a supermarket just down the road, but it’s smaller and annoying. The most annoying thing about it is the loud advertisements over the loudspeaker for certain products at “x shekels, ninety-nine.” They make it hard to concentrate on deciding what I want to buy.
So you drive your car into the underground carpark, stopping to take a ticket, an action that opens the barrier. The guard will probably just watch while you do this, although presumably he checks inside some of the cars. Park the car, remembering to take the ticket with you. If there are trolleys down there, you can take one. (I hope you remembered to have a five-shekel coin ready for the purpose.) Otherwise, after going up in the lift, you have to exit the supermarket to take a trolley.
You don’t have a car? No problem. They do deliveries.
If you brought bottles back, put them in the trolley provided and tell the head cashier. They might give you cash; usually they’ll tell you to mention them at checkout.
Right, fill up the trolley. Fruit, vegetables and the rest, it’s all there – mostly. Sometimes the specific things the children ask for are missing. Too bad. There’s a counter for cheeses and salads, another for meat and another for borekas and other baked/fried goods. Hopefully, you won’t have to wait too long at each one.
Now the fun starts. There might be only two people in front of you in the queue, but each one takes an age. When it’s your turn, you’ll know why. Just hope no one pushes in front of you saying, “I’ve only got two things and the queue for the quick checkout is very long,” because that’s the one who will take the longest when it comes to paying.
Finally it’s your turn. You’re beginning to worry because if it goes over two hours, you’ll have to pay extra for parking.
The woman asks you if you have a club card. Usually, she does it in a Russian accent, so that moadon comes out as moadworn. If you’re unlucky, while she puts your card through the machine, she says, “Why don’t you have our credit card? You could save money. It’s worth it.” My answer to that has become, “My husband decided against it.” She continues to talk about the wonder card (because she gets commission on sales), but soon realises that I’m not going to give in against my husband’s wishes.
It takes you longer to put the food in bags than it takes her to check them through, so she has plenty of time to gossip with her neighbouring workers, read your newspaper, talk on the phone, etc. Sometimes, she talks to you. One of them, I discovered, used to be a piano teacher in Russia. Now she has to do this boring job. Sometimes, there are problems. An item is missing the price code, so the customer has to run round the shop looking for another, while those waiting behind get impatient. A cheque needs to be checked. When you tell her about your bottles, she has to get permission before taking the money off your bill.
She might ask you if you want any of the items on discount and if you want to donate money to the current charity. You pay with your credit card and then sign. Those machines on which you enter your PIN haven’t arrived here yet.
That’s about it. Don’t forget to have your parking ticket validated on the way out. If you hurry loading the car, you won’t have to pay for parking. B’tayavon (bon appetite)!