Saturday, October 25, 2008

Differences in Store

My main reason for creating this blog was to describe my experiences of the differing ways of life between North Carolina and England. I will later probably compare our life on the Costa del Sol, but that's another story. I have already deviated from my main theme in the previous post and I'm sure I will deviate more later, but for now, let me keep to the plot.

A great American pastime is shopping. I know it's fun(?) for many in England, but here it's more than fun, it's a passion. It is also a different experience believe me. I shall translate the terminology of shopping into British English in parenthesis. It was made very noticeable on our last visit to England (in 2005). English sales associates (assistants), although in general polite and helpful, cannot compete with their American counterparts who immediately greet you as you walk into any store (shop), frequently ask if you need help in finding things ("Please don't hesitate to ask - it's no trouble") and upon leaving wish you such a pleasant day, evening or weekend, that you wonder why you even came shopping. They truly are wonderful although it can be overpowering at first, but like a dripping faucet (tap), you get used to it! Politeness is still evident - doors are almost always held open for you - if you return the compliment you are thanked. If someone accidentally clips you with a shopping cart (trolley) an immediate "excuse me, I'm so sorry" is said (and more importantly,meant). Even when a fellow shopper walks between you and the display you are viewing at the grocery store (supermarket) he/she will say "excuse me". Of course, there are exceptions, there are rude, inconsiderate people in all parts of the world. A neighbor told us, "This is The South, don't expect the same courtesy in New York or the Mid-West".

Then there are "the sales". I'm sure there are many more now in England, although not too many years ago they seemed to only occur following the Christmas holiday and perhaps an "End of Season Sale" at the conclusion of the winter and/or summer seasons. Here, there's hardly a weekend when there isn't one - any excuse for a sale (President's Day, Valentines, Labor Day, etc., etc.). The real big one is "Black Friday", that's the day after Thanksgiving (for which there's already been a sale of course), when all that turkey and pumpkin pie is worked off by chasing around the sales. Let's face it, when it's busy like this, you may have to park the car at least twenty yards from the store entrance, and for many this is great exercise! To summarize, no one pays the ticket price for anything - just wait a couple of days for the next sale!

Coupons and store loyalty cards are big here. Most Americans (us included) have a key-ring full of loyalty fobs. They are freely given at the store (okay, you "pay" by letting the store know your shopping habits) and hardly anyone would go shopping without them. If you realize you've left yours at home when reaching the register, some kind soul in the line (queue) will lend you theirs - heaven forbid that you should miss out on the discounts. We, as seniors, even do our grocery shopping on a Tuesday so as to gain a "senior discount" of 5% on top of all the other discounts gained by the card and the multitude of coupons. Every penny (yes, the 1 cent coin is called a penny here, not that dreadful "pee") counts.

Another shock to the European shopping here for the first time is that the price you see is not the price you pay! There is no V.A.T. in the US, but on reaching the register (till or check-out) you will be required, in most but not all States, to pay a sales tax. In North Carolina it's an add-on of 6¾% (2% on food).

You may have noticed I used earlier, the linear measurement of yards. Measurements here are not metric and that's something I am grateful for. Call me old-fashioned by all means but I can actually visualize what a piece of 2x4 looks like as opposed to a piece of 5.1x10.2cm before I visit the Home Depot to purchase my lumber (timber). Well . . . nearly. A 2x4 is in fact actually planed to 1¾x3¾. I can remember calling this a 4x2 in England, here it's called a 2x4. Confused? So you should be.

1 comment:

Lyn F. said...

You must be doing your shopping at Wal-Mart. As you know, they employ greeters, whose sole purpose is to welcome you to Wal-Mart with a smile and a shopping {cart/trolley}.

You've never shopped at the Navy Exchange during the sales. I still recall with a shudder how crowded and hectic those days can be, and have seen some sorry episodes of people literally fighting over this item or that "because I saw it first, it's mine".

Speaking of which - I promised {cookies/biscuits} for the Gloriæ Dei Cantores concert tomorrow, so I'd best get to a supermarket (I've always called it that in California) and buy ingredients to bake them.