Dos and Don'ts: Shopping
Expats prepares you for a trip to the supermarket
These tips apply to the supermarket.
Shopping carts and Baskets
Shopping carts are found chained up outside the supermarket and in the parking lot. They are freed by placing 10 CZK coin (or 5 CZK coin, or a similarly-shaped disc) in the slot at the top. No deposit is required for baskets. However, these are not supplied by every supermarket chain. Whether it's a cart or a basket, some conveyance for groceries seems culturally prescribed. Don't be surprised to see (mostly older) Czechs transporting a lone bag of rolls and a tub of yogurt to the check out in an otherwise empty shopping cart.
Beer, Wine and Spirits
The other receptacle you will pay a deposit for is the glass bottle - typically beer bottles (not wine), and some other glass bottles (mineral water). However, you get the deposit back when you return the bottle. The usual price is 3 CZK. This is not included in the price of the beverage. It is added at checkout. You also have to pay a deposit for the plastic crates. The 4x5 plastic ones are usually about 100 CZK.
Buying spirits depends on the store and the spirit. In some stores cheaper spirits will be available on the shelf, while expensive or stronger ones will be behind the counter.
Don't touch the food
When taking a loaf of unpackaged bread, it is customary to place the plastic bag over your hand while choosing. Also, whatever baked goods you handle you are expected to take. This does not apply to fruit.
Weigh fruit before hand
You usually weigh your own fruit and vegetables. There are pictures on most machines in case you're not yet up to the Czech vocabulary. If you forget, you'll be sent back to the machine with the order “Musíte to z vážit”.
Cheese and cold meats, if bought form the deli section, will be weighed for you. Many supermarkets still measure by decagrams (units of 10 grams), usually referred to as a 'deka'.
Given the ubiquity of queues in other institutions, is it any wonder that the queue is also found in the supermarket? Except for the bigger supermarkets, express lanes are not widespread. However, if you have a few items try asking the person in front if you can go ahead by saying “Můžu přeskočit, prosím.”
While the money for the trolley is merely a deposit, you pay for the bags. The price is around 2 CZK for the thin plastic bags, 5 CZK for the thicker plastic and 2 CZK for paper, if the latter are provided. Most people bring a tote bag from home. You are not charged for the smaller bags which rolls, fruit, vegetables and frozen goods are put in.
Whether you bring or buy your bag, you are expected to bag your goods away from the check out from your trolley. Sometime there will be a table near the exit to do this. This is especially true if you have many groceries.
Paying: where to put money/taking the receipt
It is customary when paying to place money in the tray provided. Almost all stores, large and small, will have one. Even if you hand the money over to the cashier he or she will almost certainly place your change in this dish.
It is considered polite to take your receipt, though a lot of people do leave them.
It is also possible to pay with lunch vouchers. Strictly, only food can be bought with these, not alcohol, cigarettes or personal health care products. Most stores will only give change up to 5 CZK on the vouchers.
In most stores, you will not be given the opportunity to sample the products. This is not often the case in more specialty delicatessens.
While the approach toward shoppers has improved, people working in supermarkets tend to be fairly unfriendly and unhelpful compared to the US, UK, and other nations.
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