Although the new shopping carts in town don’t have a cupholder in which to place a cup of coffee made at the lavish coffee bar that also does not yet exist, shopping around here has become a much more pleasant and quick experience. You just have to know what you’re doing. Which I clearly do. Follow me.
I’m getting much better at sliding right past the supermarket-branded credit card promoters stationed a few feet from the entrance to the store. I used to let them engage me and tell me how perfect my life would be if only I were a card carrier of their superior, unsurpassed, never-ever-to-be-matched credit card. Not only would I be eligible for the most amazing specials on almost every item in the store, and even in the stores nearby and even all over the world - which are exclusive specials limited only to the lucky and elite card carriers - I would also get money for signing up for their card. Yes, you heard right! Not only will this card help me save money, it will actually increase my income. Tax free!! And not just that! I would also get airline miles for using the card. With this magical card I can save money and also make money and also use the saved and made money when I travel using tickets paid for by the saved and made money! Win! Win! Win! Just so you know, I have fallen for this shpiel in the past - emphasis on “past.” But those days are over. There wasn’t much saving and making money going on and I ended up with a wallet bulging with unwanted credit cards. I also realized that I had to spend 3,500 shekels in order to get one measly airline point. When I called to cancel my magic card, I mentioned that 1 point for 3500 shekels is not a particularly generous offer. The worker on the line told me that it was a low ratio of miles to shekels. Umm. Well, who do you think gave me that ratio exactly? Don’t worry. I’m much wiser now, and when I enter the supermarket, I walk right past the credit card promoters. Even when they chase me around the store, I remain resolute. You should see the shocked looks on their faces when I tell them that, no, I don’t want the fifty shekels that they are dangling in front of my eyes. Really, I don’t!
I’m also in and out of the supermarket much more quickly these days. Stick with me and you won’t have to wait on long lines any longer. I’ve become surprisingly adept at using the portable scanner which allows one to leave the store with a simple weighing of a wagon. Okay, I have yet to get through the weighing station without any problem - but I’ve come very close. I only have to reweigh my wagon one or two extra times. I’m not a boastful person but I really do feel quite proud of myself having mastered the portable scanner technique. I try not to hold my head too high as I walk past the long lines of customers waiting for regular checkout on the way out of the store.
There’s a new requirement that customers type in their passcode when using their credit card. So many people have trouble with this that the supermarkets hang up signs requesting that customers please prepare their codes before starting checkout. I saw one poor woman who had no idea what her code was and called a family member to assist her. When she repeated the code back to the person on the line in order to make sure she got it right, she screamed every digit loudly and clearly so that every customer in the store could hear. Hmmm. That may just defeat the purpose, I think. But at least she got to check out her groceries. Being the super shopper that I am, I’ve got my codes down pat and I zip right through. And now that I’ve streamlined my credit cards, I use a card that doesn’t even require a code. Not bad, huh?
When we first made aliyah, it took a while to learn the Israeli products. I recall shopping at a makolet owned by an American, and asked him if he carried duck sauce. He was a really nice guy and my hopes were high as he spent a few minutes looking for it. After a reasonable amount of effort, he presented me with a bottle of some red liquid. I’m not sure what it was, but duck sauce it wasn’t. But it was the best he could do. A for effort. We found out that a store on Rechovot carried American products and we actually went there once looking for a taste of home. But things are different now. American products can be found in many stores. No more stuffing suitcases with cans of tuna and aluminum foil.
Some things still have yet to change. My neighbors made aliyah from a city where grocery stores competed for best service customer awards. On her third day after they moved, the mother went to the supermarket and filled her cart to the top. She watched in horror as the cashier threw her food to the end of the checkout counter. The customer behind her started giving her dirty looks, saying, “nu, nu?!” She didn’t speak a word of Hebrew and had no idea what he wanted. She waited for the non-existent bagger to show up as people started to yell. She was the cause of a commotion but was clueless as to why. Finally, an Anglo who saw her distress came over and explained that she needs to bag her groceries by herself. This is something that never would have occurred to her in her wildest dreams! But these are not difficult adjustments. When I visit America, it actually feels a bit off when someone bags my groceries.
Israeli supermarkets have definitely come of age, and new modern markets are opening up all the time. Large shelves in wide aisles display every product one could need. Israeli workers often ask me what to do with the many American products sold in their stores. My memories of storeowners using pen and paper to write down and add up the prices of my purchases are all but forgotten. We’ve come a long way to reach this stage where shopping is a pleasure! And just maybe, we’ll even see grocery baggers here one day.