On spices, vacuums and customer service

Grocery shopping here was a challenge at first. I figured a grocery store is a grocery store. This is not true. We tend to eat fairly simply and seasonally- lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products. I don’t really miss a lot of American foods because we did not eat a lot of them. I do miss bagels. They do not make bagels here. But, otherwise, we can find most things. The major differences are the size of products and various sections of the store. For example, the Swiss store’s cheese section would put Central Market’s to shame. They have more varieties of yogurt here than I ever dreamed could exist. They love vinegar and oils of all kind: sunflower, grapeseed, olive, etc. Thus the condiment aisle is a long one but lacks very important items like ketchup or plain white vinegar. They love their mayonnaise here, stocking easily as many containers of mayo as an American Walmart but the size and shape differs dramatically. In Geneva, you buy civilized tubes of mayo, maybe four to five inches long, like a toothpaste tube. In America, you cannot buy mayonnaise in anything smaller than a two gallon jar. The Swiss must trust their grocery stores implicitly because on the spice aisle, there are loads of jars labeled “poisson (fish)” or “poulet (chicken)” but you cannot find specific spices like cumin or bay leaves. I for one like to do my own spice mixing. The Swiss seem to prefer it done by their grocers.

The bakery is to die for- chocolate croissants for everyone! It’s always best to go in the morning when the bread is fresh so you leave with several baguettes that eventually go stale but at least they smelled SO good that morning. The wine section is also fantastic. It took me awhile but I now know most of the vocabulary for wine tasting because I read all the labels and suggestions using google translate. Viandes? Meats. Poisson blanc? White fish. I am grateful that they know we are not all natural wine connoisseurs so we need a little guidance on our wine selection, even if said guidance is in French.

A few weeks ago we went to my favorite grocery store, Manor, which is really more of a Macy’s but with a grocery store attached. This was my third visit for the same issue. I purchased a dust buster there six months ago and last week, it stopped working. With a dog that sheds more fur than a Yeti and a toddler who likes to pour his Cheerios himself, I need a working dust buster. In the course of moving into our house, moving stuff around, cleaning up and general organization, I misplaced my receipt. This error was incredibly ignorant of me because dust busters have a FIVE year warranty, at least that is what I was told upon explaining my predicament. I tried to explain to the clerk that I had registered on the manufacturer’s website. They did not understand why this would matter. Neither did I but I felt it was important.

Now, not to pull out the Target card again, but this is what I miss. If you buy something at Target and need to return it and you’ve lost your receipt, you can present the credit card you purchased said item with and they will look up your purchase. Their computer system was made in the 21st century and can do things like this. Apparently Swiss systems are not quite as up-to-date as Target. They could not find my purchase with my card. This was not the first time I heard this. I had emailed them earlier about needing to repair this dust buster and they told me to call my bank, get a copy of the credit card statement with the purchase on it and bring that back. When I asked, “What if I can’t get that?” which is a valid question because you rarely even get a person on the phone at a bank let alone one that can print things for you, I was told that I would have to pay fifty francs to get it repaired. “Which would be stupid,” the cashier explained, “since you have a warranty.” Finally, I said I would pay the fee, yes, I know it is stupid, but I was out of options. They began to put my information into the repair system. I was very proud because I had just learned to spell my name in French. It’s very different- it’s “jzhe” instead of “gee” and “air” instead of “arr.” Then she asked if I had registered it on the manufacturer’s website. “Yes,” I said, rather annoyed that they had disregarded this again. “Oh, no money needed then,” she said. And that was that. I should have been frustrated that it took three trips to do what should have been done in one. But I was so excited that I could spell my name that I did not care at all.

Two weeks later, it was fixed. I went to the counter, armed with my new French vocabulary and asked for my aspirateur repare. A few minutes later, I signed a form and was handed an unlabeled cardboard box. No one checked my ID or asked me for a receipt. I spent the afternoon vacuuming up dog hair and crushed cheerios. I am a woman with simple tastes- clean rugs, less dog hair and easy customer service. More on that later.