Auriez vous une pièce pour le caddie?*

I tend to grocery shop once a week, sometimes twice a week. That might be excessive to some, but we have a really small fridge for a family of four (only slightly larger than what most college students have in their dorm, no freezer!) and very little cupboard space. Shopping in France for groceries in supermarkets (or supplies in hardware stores) is not unlike what you find anywhere else in the world, except for two aspects.

The French have a very efficient method for assuring that shopping carts remain in front of the stores and parking lots and avoid banging into cars when the wind blows. Each cart has a lock mechanism into which you insert a euro coin. Once inserted, the coin releases a chain connecting it to another cart. When you return the cart and reconnect the chain, your euro coin is returned. Often jetons (tokens) are used in the place of a euro coin…

I don’t believe the French, left on their own would have the courtesy to return the shopping cart to its place if it weren’t for retrieving that one euro after shopping… they’d most likely think it not their job to return the cart…

The other difference that exists while shopping has been in practice for a very very long time – long before America ever picked up the habit, long before any talk of the environment was being spoken. Here, you bring your own reusable heavy duty plastic bags, or basket to the store, and you bag your own groceries…

When I first returned to France 15 years ago I would panic that I counldn’t bag quickly enough, and the next customers groceries would get mixed up with mine. Now, I’ve had several years practice – I have a plan, a method. The key is placing your items on the conveyor belt in the order in which you want to place them in the bag, i.e. heavy items first! – this also means organizing your groceries as you place them in the shopping cart so that you can easily access bigger items first. In the town where I currently live, people are a bit more laid back – rushing less, and not getting so upset. It makes for packing your groceries so much easier when you don’t hear people sighing with annoyance.

Did you remember your reusable bag?

Here’s our trunk filled with groceries, heavy items in the bottom, lettuce, eggs and flowers on the top. Diapers, milk, beer, and other bulk items just placed in the car as is… Most aggravating is when you just run into the store for a quick something, end up remember you need several items and don’t have your bags with you because originally you were just running in for one thing. Even more aggravating is when you don’t have a euro coin on you, or a token for a cart. Then you have to go into the store, to the service desk and ask them, *Do you have change for the shopping cart? But eventually you learn to have extra bags in your purse and car, and tokens or euro coins reserved just for the cart!


About Alexandra

wife, lover, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, blogger, scrap-booker, cross-stitcher, photographer, designer, multi-lingual speaker, dual-citizenship holder, world traveler, dreamer... hopeful, happy, blessed
This entry was posted in adapting, day-to-day, France. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Auriez vous une pièce pour le caddie?*

  1. Caity says:

    That is SUCH a good idea for returning your cart and getting your euro back. Oh my gosh why don’t they do that here? You get carts all over the parking lot and hitting cars and such because people are too lazy to return them. It’s so ridiculous.

    I use reusable bags, too! Awesome!

  2. Alissa says:

    I remember the stress of packing my own bags at the grocery store in Italy! I never had to shop for anyone aside from myself so I usually only packed my one re-suable bag (and wine went in the purse) and I’d still feel that panic setting in as I got closer to the front of the line. Good tips for next time I live in Europe! 🙂

  3. Catherine says:

    Really liked this article…it was so interesting! I think you should send it along to all the grocery stores in the US!!

  4. Hi there. Do you not pack your own bags at the checkout in the US? That’s amazing! We have to in the UK although sometimes they’d be a boy scout who’d help out! At least now I’ll understand if I am behind an American why they are either slow or look very worried. What a cultural difference which I would never even have imagined!

    As for having to take your own bags in France, well it took me ages to remember! Aside from my heavy duty plastic bags which I bought in the supermarket, I also bought a small material type bag from Monoprix which rolls up and fits inside a small pouch. I now keep this in my handbag at all times!

    ps. I like your photos of shopping trolleys, did you get some strange looks when taking them?

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