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Store Wars

I have never liked grocery shopping, viewing it as one of life's necessary evils. Sometimes, though, I have found myself fondly imagining pushing a trolley round a great big Tesco.

Tirana only has one real supermarket, the Euromax at the QTU on the Tirana-Durres Autostrada. In the city itself the choices were quite limited until recently. When we first arrived there were a number of small markets across the city trading under the 'Xhea' name. Unfortunately, not many months later, they were closed down by the tax police. In the last few weeks, though, a number of these locations have reopened.

Better yet, the first of the Italian Conad supermarkets has opened at the Galeria mall in the ETC. It is, unfortunately, a fairly small store with a limited range of goods, but I believe that Conad intend to develop their presence in Albania so we hope that a full scale supermarket might appear in the not too distant future.

The locally owned Euromax group also has plans to expand. This includes opening a number of 'Euromax Express' stores, slimmed down versions of the bigger store. The first of these recently opened in Rr. Komuna e Parisit.

Euromax are Conad are much more like 'Western' stores than anything else here, but there is one local peculiarity that stands out. The management don't trust their customers.

At the fruit and veg section, there are electronic scales that weigh the produce and print a price label. If I were in a Sainsbury's or an Asda in the UK I would weigh my own bags, attach the price label and move on.

Here, one member of staff hangs around the scales waiting for the customers to bring their selections. It is this staff member who weighs the bags, attaches the label and then seals it closed with one of those gadgets that dispense stick tape.

Why? What do they think I am going to do? Keep my hand on the bag so that it does not register the full weight and save myself a few pennies? Sneak off after I have weighed the bag and throw a few more apples in? I suppose I could, but why on earth would I bother?

I came across the same lack of trust yesterday when I visited the Euromax Express. On my way home I realised I had forgotten something, so I went back, still carrying the Euromax bag from my first visit.

At the entrance the security guard - a spotty youth in a too big uniform - invited me to leave this bag in his care before proceeding any further. Why? Did they think I was going to surreptitiously slip a bottle of Head & Shoulders into this bag?

Maybe the local shoppers have not yet realised that they are all being treated like potential shoplifters, or maybe they have realised but put up with because of a lack of other shopping options. Perhaps Conad won't let you in with a Conad bag. Perhaps Conad and Euromax won't let you in carrying any bag.

It's very different from what I am used to, and it's very blatant. I could take offence, but it's really quite funny. It was especially amusing because as I looked round the store I noticed a number of products on sale that had passed the sell-by date.

So the store is going to lose more money through having to dump old produce than it ever is from opportunistic customers swiping an extra apple or a bottle of shampoo. That suggests the management should concentrate on getting their supply chain right rather than worrying about their customers' propensity for shoplifting.

On the other hand, I have noticed that very few people here seem to check the sell by date, so maybe it's the customers who need to be keeping a closer eye on the management.


WARchild said…
In the US weighing works in the same way: an employee does it for you. Albania is not as rich as where you come from and beyond that it's simple economics: shrinkage costs more than the labor costs of the weigher.
Anonymous said…
Basically it is the same in France; at least in Paris. I thought the same as you when I went there from Germany. Here you weigh everything by yourself.
Anonymous said…
Yep, i noticed it too when i visited QTU earlier in the summer.
As you enter the store (Euromax) you had to put the bag in one of the shelf compartments in the left.
And even when you purchase something you have to people standing there, the cashier and the person putting the stuff in your bag hehehe
It was a bit confusing at first but the store and the mall itself was pretty cool.
Digital said…
The thing about not letting you back in the store with a bag from that store is pretty standard policy in North America too. Try doing that at Walmart for example... they will jump you in a minute.

Shoplifting in the Western World is a huge problem, and yes indeed "every customer is a suspect"... Albania is about 100 years behind the Western World in some aspects so no wonder the security is going to be extra tight...
Anonymous said…
I worked at a bookshop in Manchester, England about twenty years ago and because of shoplifting then, bag carriers were asked to leave their shopping bags at the till (not handbags).Some customers protested, but most didn't - I think most welcomed the chance to not have the hassle of carrying laden bags around with them as they browsed.
Yes, shoplifting is a huge problem and can very easily wipe out the profits made by smaller retailers in England, and I would expect anywhre else in the world.I think the Albanians have the right policy!
Anonymous said…
Next time you come back to Euromax Express,try to talk with the manager and he will answer any questions you have.( but first leave your bags at entrance :)

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Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.

Petrela Castle

This is Petrela Castle near Tirana. The site has been fortified since the 4th century, but the oldest surviving parts are from the 13th century. Today the castle is a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch while taking in the views.