Shock! What's going on in Germany? Are we finally waking up?


#1

You won’t believe what happened to me today. I went to the supermarket and couldn’t believe the sign that read “Opening hours from 8 am to 10 pm, Monday through Saturday”. As a matter of fact, I read the sign several times and I even asked the lady at the checkout to explain what’s happening. With a sad and tired smile she said yes, as of April 1 many stores in Germany open until 10 pm every day except Sunday.

At this point you might be asking why I’m so excited. Well, a couple of years ago stores in Germany used to open from 8 or 10 to 6 pm from Monday through Friday and from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturdays! Maybe we are not doomed after all? Maybe we still can create a market economy that is based on a free enterprise system and allows businesses to thrive? Who knows, Germany might even be able to keep up with other countries when it comes to providing customer service?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: Scheduling a staff meeting[YSaerTTEW443543]


#2

Torsten, you might still have a way to go. Once, when I told some Germans that my local supermarket was open 24 hours a day, one of them grimaced and replied, “But who wants to work 24 hours a day!” He appeared to think that if the store was open round the clock, then the employees had to work round the clock. It didn’t occur to him that 24 hours divides up into three 8-hour shifts.

And speaking of customer service, I was reminded of something last week when a student of mine told me how she thought Aldi was a terrible store and that she stays away from it. She complained that there is no customer service, things move around, so it’s hard to find them, you have to pay to use a shopping cart, and they don’t accept any credit cards. I hear a lot of Americans and non-German immigrants complain about Aldi in this way, but when I bring this up to German corporate employees who have been transferred here, I get an interesting response.

Their answer often seems to be that Americans’ expectation of customer service is “their problem” and not the problem of the German chain store that they flock away from. The Germans almost sound as if they think Americans don’t deserve the honor of shopping at a German store if they wanted something as silly as customer service. I’ve read that until VW started losing serious market share in the US, their management had a similar attitude. They had no interest in the differences between the way Germans use their cars and the way Americans need to. Americans need a lot of storage in their cars, cup holders, and other conveniences, because many of us half live in them. VW management protested that cars are supposed to be for driving, and they refused to adapt anything to US consumers’ needs. Their market share here began to sink lower and lower, until someone finally woke up and sent teams over to ride around with Americans in their cars all day.

These attitudes toward customer service are hilariously funny if you aren’t an employee of the business that is collapsing because of them.


#3

Well Jamie, the German society is still pretty “socialist” driven. As you know a large portion of our population (including myself) grew up in a country that was governed by a communist party that didn’t have any intentions to develop a free economy. So, you are absolutely right, we still have a long way to go and yet I’m so happy that I now live in a free world in which I openly can talk with people like you.

What’s more, I can even go to the US to live and work there! Back in the GDR the very thought of such an endeavour would have landed me either in prison or in the nuthouse…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: A man gives his co-worker directions to a conference center[YSaerTTEW443543]


#4

TD, that’s great news.

And it’s funny you mention German supermarkets – I recently saw a TV-news story on a German supermarket (one, or a chain?.. I’m not sure) that’s really going after the geriatric segment of the German population. They have old-folks frills like motorized carts and special “old folks only” sale prices on goods to suck them into the store(s).

Have you heard about this?


#5

Hi Tom,

That’s interesting an interesting story. Do you remember the name of that supermarket? It sounds like it’s just one store rather than a chain because normally it takes the German a lot of time to bring a new idea to fruition and if it were an entire chain of stores I might have heard of it. By the way, Jamie has mentioned the Aldi US a couple of times. What is your take on German supermarkets? How many do you know and how do you think they are different from American ones?

Thanks,
Torsten[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: Preparing for a test[YSaerTTEW443543]


#6

I haven’t ever been to a German supermarket, TD. As for the name of the geriatric-targeted store (or chain of stores), I’ll check and get back to you.


#7

Sounds great, Tom. Many thanks for keeping us up to date. By the way there seems to be no end to the horror – I’ve just found out that my local supermarket has started to accept credit cards (Visa and Mastercard). A German supermarket and you can pay by credit card. Incredible! (just another attempt at a pun :-)…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: Last-minute problem[YSaerTTEW443543]


#8

Are you kidding – many of them don’t accept credit cards?

If a person doesn’t have cash, then… you’re turning down business.


#9

Yes, Tom until very recently no German supermarket chain accepted credit cards and I bet that 99% of all German customers are aware of the fact that they might pay via credit cards at REWE (That’s the chain that has started accepting credit cards very recently.) Maybe this late change of heart was caused by Walmart which went into the German market a few years ago and offered credit card payments to their German customers.

The psychology in Germany works a bit different than in the States: If a customer doesn’t have cash here, they either have to use their debit card (in Europe it’s called “Eurocheque Card” or “EC card”) or they can’t buy anything. As a customer in Germany you often feel like you have to apologize for wanting something to buy.

TOEIC short conversations: Inter-office assistance


#10

I mean it’s responsible to use money you actually have (debit card/cash/check), but in a pinch credit cards come in handy. (preaching to the choir of course)


#11

Here is another shock. There is growing evidence that German supermarkets seem to have started accepting Google Pay and other smartphone payment systems. What has our country come to? First, we started using credit cards and now we are even allowing payments via the smartphone? Is Germany really breaking with centery old traditions?