Whenever I go on a trip, I am always interested in visiting grocery stores, especially in foreign countries. A grocery store tells a lot of stories. Depending on what they sell and how they place their products, I can learn a lot. For example, a lot of grocery stores put their milk and eggs in the back of the store where a shopper has to walk through the whole store to get to them, daily necessities. As the shopper hurries to the back of the store, he/she will be walking in an advertisement mine zone with products screaming for attention, “pick me, pick me”. More often than not, the shopper ends up with something other than the milk or eggs, succumbing to the lure of Zeon signs. Do they care that you are in a hurry and need to get the necessity items quickly? Probably not. It is business after all. Also stores typically put high profit margin items at the eye level or at the end of isles; good bargains are usually someplace else. Do they care about your back, bending over to pick up bargains, afraid not.
Of course, the main attraction is the food itself. I love to see what kinds of food they carry, what brands, what packages and anything new that we have never seen before. For example, when we were in Quebec driving toward La Maurice National Park, we stopped in Saint-Tite, middle of nowhere for grocery at a local supermarket, Metro A. Bordeleau. There were some interesting selections of meats and cheese that we usually ate for lunch but it was the package of vegetables that intrigued me. Chinese food is tasty but requires a little more preparation than other styles, mainly because it requires a lot of cutting of different ingredients. The recipe may call for a little bit of green onion, onion, garlic, etc. It posts a problem of buying food as any quantity of some ingredients would be too much, especially when traveling without the benefit of a refrigerator. This store had a solution. They sold pre-packaged vegetables with a little bit of everything intended for Chinese stir-fry dishes. I was surprised. I didn’t think there would be many Chinese live there and most likely there weren’t many if any; and the package itself was ingenious. I have heard of places near where I live had experienced with similar concept but it must not been successful as I haven’t seen it anymore. I think this concept would work better on non-Chinese as they don’t know what to do and wouldn’t mind paying more for it. But in a heavily Chinese populated area like my area, the selling point would only be to save time but not money.
There weren’t many local mom-and-pop grocery stores anymore. I remember when I was a kid, I could run down to a local grocery store and bought things on the family tab. The owner knew me and everyone, a typical small town kinship. But most of small towns have lost that charm and, in its place, they have big chain grocery stores. This was unfortunate but perhaps inevitable. Of the big superstores, we found the Walmart Super Store the best, clean and well-stocked, especially for travelers like us when we didn’t have a lot of time to look for many stores to buy what we needed. Walmart Super Store typically had everything we needed so we could make one stop shopping. Although we typically try to shop local independent stores as much as we can to support the local economy, the convenience of a superstore was too enticing on the trip. We sinned.