The things that occur in an Israeli supermarket...

miniature shopping cart in a supermarket

After nearly everyone at the office had been sick, it appeared it was my turn. I was sick for one week, and proceeded to make a glacier-slow recovery. The sickness not only weakened my body, but my mind, as well.

On my way home from work one day, brain still enveloped by the fog of sickness, I popped into my lucky supermarket. "Lucky", because it's the only place I still occasionally manage to find the fabric softener I love and have used faithfully for 27 years (it seems to have been discontinued). It's also one of the only places I've found antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken on sale.

Speaking of sales... is there anything more transiently joyful than finding one of your routine purchases unexpectedly on sale, at the very moment you need it?

That day, my soul was permeated with an ephemeral burst of joy caused by the sales tags on the chicken, and I filled a couple of bags. (Sadly, no fabric softener.) I made my way to the cash, and noticed that my favorite gum was also on sale. My fleeting elation knew no bounds! I laid my bags of chicken on the broken* conveyor belt and then added 6 little plastic bottles of gum to my soon-to-be property (the special on the gum being for 2 bottles, logic intimated that I should acquire an even number).

Waiting for the cashier to check out the customer before me, I noticed the woman behind me fondling one of my bottles of gum. It is considered normal behavior in Israel for other customers to pick your items off the conveyor belt and examine them minutely. It's also considered normal for cashiers to ask you how you use certain products, and why you're buying them. The first I find oddly invasive; the second, oddly endearing. (Ask me anything, but get your paws off my stuff.) What is considered unorthodox behavior... even for Israel... is for other customers to pinch your items.

I paid for my groceries and slowly lumbered home with the heavy parcels. Upon arrival, I emptied the bags and put everything away. I set aside 5 little bottles of gum. I counted them again. Where was the sixth? My gratification at the gum deal was dulled somewhat (a shame to have paid for 6 items and only to have received 5), I looked around some more and then checked my bill.

It turns out I had only paid for 5 bottles of gum. My mind searched back to the supermarket line and I recalled the woman fondling my gum. Examining my items is one thing, but this is the first time someone's actually pinched one of them.** At least I hadn't paid for it.

And then I looked even more closely at the bill and noticed...

They'd charged me full price for the 5 bottles of gum.***

I had to laugh.


Update from a few weeks later...

I popped into my lucky supermarket again, just to see whether there was anything of interest on offer. There was nothing particularly exciting. But since there wasn't much of a line, I decided to pick up some more gum. (All the sales signs had disappeared, and I naturally assumed the sale was over.)

Of course, when the cashier informed me how much I owed, it amounted to the sale price from almost a month earlier. (I believe I already explained this one.***)

* The conveyor belt has been broken for a very long time. They have not fixed it yet. They might fix it in a year. Or they might not. It's an Israeli supermarket... I hope that clarifies things.

** If it were to happen anywhere, it would happen here. Because things like that happen in Israel... I hope that clarifies things.

*** Advertised sales prices do not necessarily coincide with the price that is registered in the computer of an Israeli supermarket... I hope that clarifies things.