Supermarket Woes

31 05 2011

As a foreigner in China, it can be difficult to fulfil the food needs we have. Many westerners regularly eat cheese, milk, butter, burgers and steaks, and many more types of food. Unfortunately many of these foods are somewhat difficult to obtain in China. It’s entirely possible to buy most of the foods you want, just you may need to take trips to several supermarkets, not exactly very convenient. The other problem is that supermarkets don’t seem to have an effective inventory control procedure.

When the newest Carrefour opened, it seemed like it would turn into my go to supermarket; they had real cheese, butter, and a well stocked imported food aisle. Now, they haven’t had real cheese for months, and the imported food aisle, whilst still well stocked, is hit-and-miss as to whether they’ll have what you want in stock, since it changes every time I’m there. It looks like I’m going to have to keep making the long trips out to Metro to get my cheese fix for now. Another example of the lack of stock control is in the supermarket near the university. They sell a Chinese brand of corn flakes which always seem to be a good seller, since they don’t cost a fortune like the imported brands. Unfortunately the supermarket often goes out of stock for a while.

The other issue I find in supermarkets is that there never seem to be enough people manning the checkouts. This seems strange because if you go to almost any other shop, like a clothes shop, or a restaurant, they have staff standing around not doing a lot, but supermarkets seem to be lacking. Yesterday evening I was in Carrefour, where there were queues of about 8 or 9 people at each checkout. To add insult to injury, each checkout has an “If there are more than 4 people waiting in front of you press here” button, which produces an annoying high pitched beep every time it’s pressed. Needless to say people kept pressing the button, to no effect. Common sense should tell you if they had extra staff to put on the checkouts with queues that long, they would be put to work, but it seems some people are lacking in the common sense department…