Stress at the Chilean Checkout Line

Who knew that plastic grocery bags could ignite so much discussion? If you don’t believe me, check out Emily’s post on the subject and see how many comments there are!

I was going to comment on Emily’s post but then I realized it was becoming way too long, so I thought I’d turn it into a post.

Grocery stores in Chile have their little peculiarities. You have to weigh your fruit and bread before going to the check-out. The baggers don’t receive a salary; they only make the tips you give them for bagging your groceries. A lot of supermarkets have a “Club” of some sort that gives you discounts, so if you belong to that club you will have to say your RUT (Chilean ID number) to the cashier, usually after they have scanned the first item. If you pay with a credit card and it’s foreign, they sometimes get a little confused and will ask you to enter a pin, but that is only for Chilean credit cards. Then they might ask you if you want “cuotas” or not because yes, you can pay off your groceries here in Chile in monthly payments if you’d like.

So my bone to pick with Chilean grocery stores mainly has to do with the fact that I use reusable grocery bags. Yes, I do need plastic bags for the garbage cans or for Charlie’s litter box, but I end up with enough even though I always try to bring my reusable bags.

So this is what ideally would happen. I would wait in line with my groceries, and be in the line that moves quickly. Then after little to no wait I would pass my reusable bag to the bagger as the cashier scans the first item, then say my RUT and the cashier would understand on the first try, and scan all my items which the bagger would put in my reusable bag. I would have enough coins to give the bagger a tip and I’d be on my way.

However, usually what happens is this.

1. There is a long line and multiple old ladies have some sort of problem with the price of an item or recharging their cell phone. Why do I always pick the slowest line?

2. I forget to pass my reusable bag to the bagger until they’ve already put my food in plastic bags.

3. Once in a blue moon I forget my reusable bag all together and the bagger puts each of my items in a separate bag. I then rearrange them into 1-2 bags before leaving and people behind me get pissed. I’m not sure why baggers think it’s necessary to put each food group in a separate bag, but this has happened to me a lot. Do they think they’ll get more tips for categorizing my food?

4. The cashier can’t understand my RUT because it’s full of threes and sixes which sound similar in Spanish (tres y seis) and while I’m distracted with this, I forget to give the bagger my reusable bag and she’s already bagged my groceries in plastic.

5. The bagger looks at my reusable bag and says “You want the groceries in this?” No, buddy, I just gave it to you because I think it’s pretty!

6. The bagger thinks it’s a good idea to put the groceries in plastic first, and then in the cloth bag. What, I may ask, is the purpose of that?

7. I look in my wallet to realize I only have 37 pesos to give the bagger. (I usually give 100-150, more if I have a lot of groceries, but I usually don’t have that many)

Anyway, you can see how a simple grocery check out can be stressful for me, and how I end up with lots of plastic bags even though I “always” bring my cloth bag.

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6 thoughts on “Stress at the Chilean Checkout Line

  1. I think you can test an explanation to #3: Put your detergent and bread/cookies in the same bag, near some heat, like in the car´s trunk, and see, rather smell the results on your bread/cookies.
    Marmotita and I had a great box of detergent in the same bag with a box of tea bags. We left them in the bag a few hours, and then took the tea. It was so terrible we had to throw away all the tea. I know this is an extreme example, but I think maybe this is the explanation for categorizing the groceries, specially when some of them can put their smell on other stuff.

    • Haha, yes Marmo, you’re right about putting non-food items with food items. It can be gross and even dangerous. But I think it’s okay to put yogurt and powdered juice in the same bag. I’m remembering one time when I went to Tottus and the guy double bagged EVERYTHING and put 1-2 items per bag. It was horrible! I should also note that in some grocery stores in the US they do this too…I’ve always just not really understood!

  2. I’ve been here for almost three months, and I still get somewhat anxious when I enter into a grocery store. It’s like there’s always some new and bizarre process that I haven’t learned. I spend about five minutes at a checkout trying to understand the “retournable” coke bottles last week. Gringa fail!

  3. Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. Haha. We don’t have baggers here at all. You just get on with it yourself. I think that’s because nowadays no-one uses the plastic bags anymore – they cost between 5-10pence each – so everyone brings their own reusable ones now.

  4. Gringa tip! say your Rut in groups of numbers so you never have to say seis or tres (so long as it’s the last number, do it in sesenta y dos y treinta y nueve, etc. I don’t have a problem with people understanding my 3s and 6s, but I think it’s because I overpronounce the S to badly! Still nobody tying ears on my grocery bags, and I even went to the shangri-la supermarket today. So it’s not an upper-class thing. Too many bags though.

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