I mentioned in my first grocery store post back in December that I would probably never use the shopping carts here because I can only buy what I can carry home. That’s not always true, though- I have friends and co-workers with cars, and I’ve had the opportunity to push one of these four wheeled chaos engines through the grocery store. The verdict: I have no idea how anyone can keep these things going straight. I usually wind up pushing it vaguely sideways.
There’s much more to them than I realized at first, though. Since I wasn’t planning on using them, I didn’t look very closely. I did notice that there was never a stray cart in a random place in the parking lot though, and now I know why: They’re chained together. In order to release a cart, you have to either use a one Euro coin or a plastic disk that you’ve paid for. This is a pretty ingenious way to make sure that carts find their way back to the right place.
There will probably be a post some time in the near future about how Germans deal with waste, trash, and recycling. The garbage sorting is pretty impressive, and I don’t think I can remember a time in my life that I have been more aware of how much (or how little) trash I produce. One of the coolest examples of this is the bottle return system.
I also have a tremendous fascination for the bottle return. I was not aware of this process when I did the first grocery post back in December, but many plastic drink bottles (and some glass bottles) have a pfandflasche, or bottle deposit. When they do, you’ll see a little decal on them with a curved arrow to suggest returning the bottles. At the Kaufland, my usual grocery stop, there’s a guy who takes the bottles. In the Globus and Aldi locations, however, there’s a machine that will take the bottle in, spin it to see the label, scan it, and crunch it up. (This has led to an astounding number of “crunch crunch crunch” jokes.) I love feeding these machines. When you’re finished, they’ll give you a receipt for the amount of credit you get back, which you then have to take to a cash register to get back.
So far, I’ve managed to lose at least two of these receipts before reaching the cash out register.