Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shop Til You Drop

I've always been quite proud of my shopping abilities.  Spent years perfecting the practice.  From full on retail purchases at those "boutiques that shall not be named", to penny purchases with a double coupon at a discount dive, to elbows flying at "the biggest sale of the season" at Macy's, I've done it all.  In fact, one of the activities I looked forward to in Vienna was the shopping.  Never mind the fact that I am unemployed at the moment, I saved some cash and I'm ready to spend.  Except for grocery shopping.  Fact is, I've lost what little mojo I had.

Let me explain.

What should be easier than buying some groceries?  Strolling the aisles, comparing prices, discovering recipe ingredients and how best to cheat on the diet.  Well, I've come to discover grocery shopping in Vienna is a full on contact sport and it drains the life out of me. every. single. time.

Navigating the postage stamp of our grocery store, InterSpar, is like an episode of Wipe Out.  Have you ever seen Wipe Out?  Contestants run an obstacle course, which is intent on kicking their ass.  Literally.  That is what buying groceries is like in my neighborhood.

There are ground rules.  For the record:  I have broken these rules and have been adequately shamed into correcting my behavior.  In fact, nowadays, the checkers at the registers all duck and look away when they see me coming.  Perhaps they have tired of "educating" me.


1.  You will pay to use a shopping cart.  If you are lucky, someone will take pity on you and show you how to do this, instead of letting you stand there like a dork while pulling on a bunch of locked carts.  The money is returned when you return the cart.

Locked Up For Your Shopping Convenience.

2.  Produce is not weighed and priced at the cash register.  ALL shoppers (yes, YOU) will be sent back to the produce section to properly weigh and print your pricing sticker at the ONE "convenient" weigh station.  Good luck if you don't know the German names for produce.  Pray that there are no other shoppers giving you death stares as you try to figure out onion is zwiebel.

3.  You will not be forgiven for taking too much time at check out.  By anyone.  The checkers at the grocery are actually former members of the Austrian Olympic Fast Pitch Softball team.  Their ability to throw your groceries down the conveyor and demand payment before you have finished putting the last yogurt on the belt is truly astounding.  In fact, once your last food item is pitched at you, the next shopper occupies your space.  Even if you are still in it.

4.  You are the grocery bagger.  After having food items fast pitched through the check out, you are solely responsible for paying and getting the hell out of the way.  One item or 50, you have exactly 3.6 seconds to move into the bagging station before the next shopper's groceries are tossed at you.  Oh, forgot to mention, grocery bags are not provided.  Unless you pay for them. 

Obviously an American Taking Up Bagging Space.

I briefly considered looking into grocery shopping psychotherapy, until I chatted up other expats and discovered I am not alone.  These kind souls shared their coping strategies with me and I've developed a couple of my own.


1.  Have a plan.  Gone are the days of pondering grocery items.  Someone will surely step into your line of sight at the shelf.  I have my list and google translate ready to go.

2.  Stand your ground.  I strategically place my grocery cart to keep others from pushing me out before I am ready to move on.  Now, I won't be leaving food items behind simply because the checker and next shopper have decided I've over stayed my welcome.  I also buy more time by using large bills to pay.  The checker needs more time to count the change.

3.  Drink wine and eat chocolate.  Before and after grocery shopping.

4.  Smile.  Following Rule 3 makes this possible.

Two brief highlights.

I bent over at the bagging station (another broken rule) and knocked over a tall stack of carts.  The loud crash resulted in the store grinding to a halt while checkers and shoppers stared, frowned, and shook their heads with disapproval.  Laughing, I snapped a photo and picked up the carts, except for the ones that crossed the "No Entry" zone.  Alarms sound if you do that.  Don't ask how I know this.

"Baby Got Back"  and Knocked Over the Carts.
A woman ahead of me completed her check out and accidentally left an item behind.  After much consternation, the checker lady was going to make her head back to the end of the line to pay for it.  When I added it to my haul, yet another rule was broken and both women were truly surprised.  Random acts of kindness are possible at the grocery.

Made it Home.  It is 10am.  Now What?  Wine and Chocolate.

Perhaps alternating grocery shopping with a dip into "those boutiques that shall not be named",....what the zwiebel, I'm naming names......Prada, Hermes or Louis Vuitton, will help me get my groove back.  It is certainly worth a try.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Antiques Diva and Me

It has been a while since my last post, sorry dear readers, we've been on a steep learning curve when it comes to life in Vienna PLUS we've been enjoying a visit from dear friends from Arizona.

As I've mentioned here before, a long time interest in other people's treasures resulted in great days spent with Arizona Family Estate Sales & Appraisals, LLC and my thrift shop booth, Retro Ranch Resale at Copper Country Antiques in Tucson.  The birth of "Retro" for you below, I truly miss it.

Add earning an International Society of Appraisers antique/personal property appraisal certification to the weekend estate sale and thrift shop action and you have a full blown HOBBY.  Even before the move to Vienna, I looked for information on antiques shopping in my new city and found The Antiques Diva on the internet.  What an interesting story of how a trailing spouse found her calling organizing antique shopping tours and started a business empire across Europe.  I started following her on both Facebook and through her blog and before long reached out to see if there was some way my appraisal certification and experience might fit with her business model.

Lucky for me, she extended an invitation I could not refuse, a guest blog opportunity on vintage and thrift shopping in Vienna.  Feeling like a cub investigative reporter on her first assignment, I set out to do my research while loving every minute of it.  The final product linked below.

My "pie in the sky" dream is to launch an appraisal service for expats or shoppers who are shipping antiques and residential contents back to the United States.  Our personal experience with damaged items during our move and the utility of a professional appraisal during the insurance claim process tells me that this type of service is valuable.  The challenge will be turning the dream into a reality.  The Antiques Diva graciously provided both an opportunity and inspiration.  Thank You.