Menu Close

Weekend notes, 08/24/09

Our weekends have gotten back to what we consider “normal” for us very quickly upon repatriation. A dinner outing with parents. An idle get-together with friends by the pool. A mixed kids-and-adults party in celebration of some occasion. We have not had a single Saturday or Sunday in the last month where we were not occupied with one of such pleasantries.

I suppose I’ll be repeating myself if I point out that this was one of the key reasons for our return from faraway lands.

No long-distance travel (although 40 miles to North Jersey may be construed as a fair amount of travel) or sightseeing is involved, though. I’m wondering how soon I’ll start missing international travel.

There’s always Canada, a friend reminded me today.

Anyhow, we had a mishap with our dinner reservation on Saturday. We decided to go to a place that we knew well and loved, and Natasha called ahead to reserve a table. When we arrived in time for our meal, we realized that the restaurant has changed its name and type of cuisine (while obviously keeping the same phone number), and was no longer a place where we desired to have a meal at. Things do not stay the same, it turns out. From this point on, I guess, our first question when making a reservation should be “Are you still the same place that we knew 3 years ago?”

The latest pool get-together was enabled by my favorite Hacker-Pschorr Weisse. It always surprised me to no end that I could not find that particular brand of Bavarian beer anywhere in Europe (except Bavaria, of course), but can quite easily find it in most NJ liquor stores.

Natasha made another observation of the “they do it differently in Europe” kind.

Drive into a supermarket parking lot on an average busy day and there is a good chance that you’ll find abandoned shopping carts all over the place, often blocking the few available parking spots. People rarely worry about putting the carts into designated bays after they transfer their purchases into the car trunks. A new arrival would often have to get out of the car and clear up the space before being able to pull in. Not mentioning the possibility of returning to your car and finding a fresh ding courtesy of someone pushing away a no-longer-wanted cart with enviable velocity.

At a European supermarket, you most likely need to insert a coin, one pound sterling or one euro, into a slot in the cart handle to disengage it from a row of carts that are locked together. You get your coin back when you return the cart to that same holding area to lock it again. At first, I thought that it was a deterrent from rampant cart-jacking, but we later came to realize that the corollary effect was that of people making an effort to bring the carts where they belonged once they were no longer in use.

Never gonna work in America… First of all, American public will never accept such an infringement on its freedom to abandon carts wherever they please. Second, lots of people would work up a lather over a prospect of having access to a shopping cart dependent on carrying a specific denomination of coin in their pockets. Furthermore, there is no coin of high enough denomination in wide circulation in the US to make this scheme workable – would many people care to get their quarter back, anyway? And finally, there are a few minimum-wage positions of “cart gatherer” at any given large parking lot; probably, unionized, too.

What’s a few dings and scratches when you can reduce unemployment.


  1. Nathan

    1. The cart-gatherer guy is just a bag boy who got yelled at to “get yer ass out to the parking lot and gather up some-o-them loose carts”. The odds that he’s unionized are vanishingly small.

    2. If they did follow your suggestion (re: paying a “deposit” for using a cart), two things would happen. First, they’d install a change machine next to the cart dispenser that would charge you a dime to change a dollar. Second, people would still leave carts all over the place but kids (or homeless) would hang around and return them to collect the quarters.

  2. Tom

    They do this in some airports. The result is as Nathan suggests. I don’t mind taking a cart back to a nearby collection point after use, but I draw the line at changing rows, or going more than 6-8 spaces to do so.

    There are a number of $1 coins available, but their use isn’t common. Cash subway (or trolley) fares on the Green Line in Boston in one place I’ve seen them in regular use, but even a lot of soft drink vending machines don’t take them. Dollar bills, yes, dollar coins, no. Strange.

  3. Timeshare Relief

    Different countries have different customs in their supermarkets. In a European supermarket, you would not lose your dime if you’ll get a cart. This is just a strategy for the people to make an effort to bring the carts where they belonged once they were no longer in use.

Comments are closed.