Saturday, November 26, 2005

Retail Adventures, or Autumn to Winter

The season here is in the process of shifting from autumn to winter. Much to my surprise, the Friday after US Thanksgiving, infamous as a shopping day for those Americans who aren’t enjoying a peaceful day at home (in my better organized days, this was when I once wrote Christmas cards), also seems to be the day when Czechs begin their Christmas shopping in earnest. As the archive closes at 2:30 on Fridays, I decided to run some errands instead of going over to the library, and thus I discovered that vendor stalls were being installed and starting to open all over Staroměstské náměstí and Václavské náměstí. Stopping in at Bonton to look at CDs and DVDs for the first time since arriving, I not only discovered that the DVD section has vastly increased in the past year (I had suspected this, as manufacturers are starting to dump videos at bargain prices) but that most Czech DVDs have gone down to 300-700Kč instead of the 1000Kč that was once standard (and had prevented me from buying any).
When I took my choices to the counter, and even at the relatively low price of Czech CDs and DVDs compared to imports, I felt that I was making a significant purchase… until I noticed the total for the customer ahead of me. His stack of DVDs (mostly Hitchcock boxed sets) ran to 6250Kč, which is more than a lot of people (even in Prague) pay for rent! In fact, I know that one of my Czech friends regards her daughter’s 5000Kč apartment as insanely extravagant, although admittedly that apartment is not in Prague. Anyhow, I am wondering whether this customer’s job pays abnormally well, or whether he is simply running up a large bill to be paid off later. There have been quite a few signs up lately advertising that if you want a richer Christmas, you can borrow the money for it. One hopes that not too many people are doing that.
On Wednesday Dawn and I investigated the new mall that has opened at the Chodov metro station, on the grounds that we needed shoes more suitable to winter and could use additional pairs of socks. It was a mistake not to take my camera, as the mall is a gigantic retail extravaganza with lots of Christmas lights. (We did find what we were looking for.)

Today I ventured forth to Nový Smíchov on the grounds that I needed groceries and other necessities. There proved to be quite a few vendor stalls nearby (some with items I considered buying but decided to wait on as the groceries would crush them). These were quite pleasant. The crowds in the Nový Smíchov mall, however, were claustrophobia-inducing. I really did want to get more socks, and the Czech reluctance to have more than a few pairs in any one store necessitated a search. I had seen a pair of tights I really liked at the Humanic store where Dawn and I found our shoes, but Dawn assured me they were way too big for me, and when I asked the clerk if they had some in a smaller size, her response was to paw through all the other tights until she found a different size in a completely different color and pattern. She seemed surprised when I indicated that I was only interested in the pattern I had pointed to. This (the tights, not the moronic clerk) led me to take a look at the Nový Smíchov Humanic store, which had none of the tights I wanted but had some relatively similar socks. Other shoe and clothing stores at Nový Smíchov either had no socks at all or a remarkably limited selection, which was also the case in the store specializing in tights. I gave up on socks and tights and proceeded to buy groceries.

Beginning to lose all interest in Christmas or other shopping, I recalled that I had to buy more phone credit. Ah well, I knew there was a T-Mobile store handy, so I went there. There were some clerks busily explaining cell phones to customers, and one guy who seemed to have nothing to do. After a moment of indecision, I told him I wanted to buy phone credit. He replied, “You can speak English to me.”
I have had no problem at all buying phone credit in Prague in the Czech language at kiosks and Trafiky over the past year and a half, and in fact this was the first time since my arrival in September that anyone anywhere has suggested I switch to English. I felt mildly insulted but repeated my request in English. He then informed me that one of his colleagues would help me, and resumed sitting indolently. After a time, when it appeared that his colleagues would never finish dealing with their customers, I departed. Almost next door was a rather busy newsstand where I was able to buy my phone credit much more rapidly and easily.
Since my photos of fall color will rapidly be absurdly out of season rather than just slightly inaccurate, I will attempt to post some photo essays this weekend.

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Anonymous Jesse said...

Yes, Lidove noviny had a special section on "Christmas loans" on Monday (28.11.). The cover shows a woman gleefully pulling 1000-crown notes from a wallet. The "special insert" claims to "compare the offers you've seen on television."

November 29, 2005 9:26 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

That's revolting. But I should get a photo of the ads one sees on the street here.

November 29, 2005 12:43 PM  

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